Markey urged Biden to declare that the United States would not consider using nuclear weapons in response to non-nuclear attacks


Boston (March 25, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey, a co-chair of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, released the following statement following press reports that President Joe Biden has decided not to make significant changes to U.S. declaratory nuclear policy. Senator Markey had urged the Biden administration to adopt a no first use of nuclear weapons policy and to declare that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter attacks. The Defense Department-led Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), along with the National Defense Strategy, is due to be released publicly in the coming days.  


“If media reports are true, President Biden has missed an historic opportunity to reduce the role of existential nuclear weapons in U.S. military strategy,” said Senator Ed Markey. “Retaining a warfighting role for U.S. nuclear weapons is a triumph for the trillion-dollar defense industry, but it is a tragedy for everyone counting on the President to keep his campaign promise to make deterrence the sole purpose of nuclear weapons.


“President Biden and our allies have shown remarkable restraint in the face of Vladimir Putin’s saber rattling, to avoid escalating a conventional war into an unfathomable nuclear one. Russia’s stalled advance in Ukraine shows that the President was right in 2017 when he said he felt that the first use of nuclear weapons would not be ‘necessary’ or ‘make sense’ given our conventional capabilities. 


“Congress must now step up and lead by passing my Restricting the First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act. Our Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the exclusive power to declare war. And there is no war like a nuclear war. No President – especially under duress in the fog of war – should have the power to unilaterally and unconstitutionally order the end of millions of lives by firing the first shot in a nuclear war.”


In January, Senators Markey and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-03) and Donald S. Beyer (VA-08), co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, led 51 of their colleagues in a letter to President Joe Biden urging the United States to take bold steps to reduce its reliance on nuclear weapons.


In 2021, Senator Markey and Congressman Ted W. Lieu (CA-33) reintroduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act of 2021. First introduced in 2016, this legislation prohibits the President of the United States from launching a nuclear first strike absent a declaration of war by Congress