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Senator King Supports First Use Nuclear Strike - Whoa

Dear Ginny, As a member of the Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I study issues of nuclear strategy carefully and remain fully apprised of developments as they arise. Like you, I believe that the United States must work closely with its international partners to limit nuclear proliferation and we have a duty to promote stability across the globe. I recognize, however, that in order for the United States to ensure this stability and prevent the use of nuclear weapons, it is absolutely necessary to maintain a strong and credible nuclear deterrent—and that retaining the option of a first-use nuclear strike in certain scenarios is a necessary component of this deterrent and to our extended deterrent to critical treaty allies. This policy has effectively prevented the use of nuclear weapons for more than 70 years. Maintaining an element of ambiguity in our nuclear employment policy is an important element of deterrence. In some circumstances, if potential adversaries believed they had a full understanding of the conditions for our employment of nuclear weapons, they could feel emboldened to conduct catastrophic attacks just short of the threshold for triggering a US nuclear response. While the constitutionality of the executive power to launch a first-use nuclear strike has been subject to continued debate and there is no domestic jurisprudence to establish limitations, the combination of the 'Commander-and-Chief clause' of the Constitution, the War Powers Act of 1973, and past precedent have established that the President is able to engage in strategic deployment of military force when faced with an emergency threat to national security. While, fortunately, since World War II the United States has not been faced with a situation in which a nuclear first-use strike would be considered both proportional and necessary, eliminating the president's authority to initiate the use of nuclear weapons in this manner could endanger the United States and our allies by undermining the deterrent effect of current policy. Given that S. 200 could both weaken U.S. deterrence capabilities and restrict the President's ability to protect national security in a time of emergency, I do not support it at this time. As I mentioned, the policy of deterrence has prevented the use of nuclear weapons in war for over 70 years, and I believe maintaining a credible nuclear capability and deterrent policy is the best insurance we have that these weapons will continue to remain unused. This is the paradox of deterrence—in order to prevent the use of nuclear weapons, we must insure that other nuclear powers know that we are prepared to use them. While I do not support S. 200, I share your concerns regarding President Trump's sometimes unnecessarily bellicose rhetoric, and I strongly believe that the use of military force must be a last resort. I take U.S. nuclear capabilities with the utmost seriousness, and believe it is important and necessary for us, as a nation, to have a conversation about the role these weapons should play in the defense of our country. I was glad to see that the authority of the President to use military force, including nuclear weapons, has received renewed consideration in Congress, with a recent hearing having been conducted by my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For your interest, you can view the hearing in full on the Committee's website: https://go.usa.gov/xn8DF. I will keep your perspective on this issue in mind as I continue to consider this issue and work with my colleagues to shape policies that help keep the United States safe and promote peace across the globe. Best Regards, ANGUS S. KING, JR. United States Senator