Dear Putin: Hiroshima & Nagasaki nuclear bombings were illegal – not a precedent for a nuclear attack.

NoFirstUse Global sends a letter to President Putin and the Russian people countering Putin’s claim that the United States established a precedent for nuclear attack through their use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

On September 30, in his speech in the Kremlin announcing the annexation of four Ukrainian regions – Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – President Putin claimed that these territories are now part of Russia, that Russia has nuclear weapons to defend its territory, and that the United States created a precedent for others to launch a nuclear attack when the United States used nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II.

In a resolution adopted on October 12, the United Nations General Assembly condemned the illegal annexation of the territories, reaffirmed its previous resolutions concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine as being an ‘Act of Aggression’, and called on Russia to “reverse its decisions of 21 February and 29 September 2022 related to the status of certain areas of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, as they are a violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and inconsistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”

The President of the UN General Assembly, presiding over the debate and vote, also warned about the increased threats of nuclear weapons use and said that ‘Any threat to use nuclear weapons should be universally condemned’.

In follow-up, and to give further strength to the UNGA President’s comments, the NoFirstUse Global Steering Committee sent an Open Letter this week to President Putin and the people of Russia, countering President Putin’s claim that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings established a legal or political precedent for using nuclear weapons. The letter also opposes Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and threats to use nuclear weapons, and argues that the existence of Russia is not under threat (as alleged by Putin), but that it would be if Russia starts a nuclear war.

Below is the letter in full. Click here for the PDF version.


We want Russia to be great again

The Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings were illegal – not a precedent for launching a nuclear attack. The existence of Russia is not under threat – but will be if Russia starts a nuclear war.

Dear President Putin and the people of Russia,

We oppose Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, violations of international humanitarian law in the war, threats to use nuclear weapons and annexation of parts of Ukraine.

However, we warmly greet Russian citizens as friends. We do not support any threats to the nation, territorial integrity or culture of Russia. We are confident that our governments also have no intentions to undermine, occupy or destroy Russian territory, people, culture or social well-being, but wants to see Russia become again a respected, important and highly valued member of the international community.
Russia has a unique spiritual and civilisational heritage of which it is justly proud.

However, we are extremely concerned about Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. There is no justification for Russia, or any nation, to threaten a nuclear war or escalate to a nuclear war.

The USA nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not provide a precedent for the use of nuclear weapons – and especially not for the first use in any conflict. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were affirmed as illegal by the Tokyo District Court in 1963 (Shimoda Case).

In addition, the threat or use of nuclear weapons was affirmed as generally illegal by the International Court of Justice in 1996, with the only possibly exception being a case of self defence when the very survival of a state is at stake. The very survival of Russia is not threatened in this war. It would only be threatened if Russia launched a nuclear war and then might face nuclear retaliation for such an unwarranted, illegal and suicidal act.

If anything, the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrated the inhumanity of the use of nuclear weapons and helped establish the principle that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’

This principle was reaffirmed in the Russia/USA Summit in Geneva in June 2021 and by the five nuclear-weapon states party to the NPT in January 2022. It remains true.

We recall the message from former Mayor of Hiroshima Tadatoshi Akiba in March this year, endorsed by over 100,000 people, urging Russian and other world leaders ‘to immediately declare the disuse of nuclear weapons in this conflict!

Mayor Akiba reminded us all that the use of nuclear weapons in this, or any other, conflict “would mean that billions of people would have to continuously witness the living hell that was experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 77 years ago.”

Mayor Akiba asked: “If you [President Putin] have any imagination left, think about what the world will look like, what people will witness, and how people will be narrating the historical tragedy out of such action…”

Dear Mr President and people of Russia,

Russia has been a great and respected nation in the past. We want to join again in celebrating an end to the war in Ukraine and a renewed relationship of peace and friendship with Russia. This will not happen, indeed our countries and civilization itself might not remain, if Russia launches a nuclear war.

Thank you
NoFirstUse Global Steering Committee

Marc Finaud (Switzerland/France)
Vice President, Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire

John Hallam (Australia)
People for Nuclear Disarmament

Vanda Proskova (Czech Republic)
Vice-President, PragueVision Institute for Sustainable Security

Aaron Tovish (Philippines/USA)
Director, Zona Libre

Carlo Trezza (Italy)
Former Italian Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva

Alyn Ware (Czech Republic/New Zealand)
Program Director, World Future Council

Yosuke Watanabe (Japan)
Researcher, Peace Depot

Uta Zapf (Germany)
Council Member, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament