1945- The United States uses atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1949- On 29 August, the Soviet Union became the second state to detonate a nuclear device.
1949- According to its defense doctrine of November 1949, NATO defense plans call for insuring “the ability to carry out strategic bombing including the prompt delivery of the atomic bomb. This is primarily a US responsibility assisted as practicable by other nations.”
1954- On 12 January, United States Secretary of State John Dulles introduced the term “massive retaliation” in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, stating the United States would reserve the right to respond to Communist aggression with “massive retaliation” applied at places and with means of its own choosing—or in other words, nuclear weapons might be used directly against the Soviet Union or Communist China. The Eisenhower administration would adhere to this policy throughout its tenure. This posture was reflective of Eisenhower’s belief that conventional forces were too costly and nuclear weapons would have “more bang for the buck.”
1955- On 14 May, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact in response to the integration of the Federal Republic of Germany into NATO in October 1954. The eight member countries of the Warsaw Pact pledged the mutual defense of any member who would be attacked.
1960- The United States’ first Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP)—essentially the U.S. plan for nuclear war—was developed. The SIOP listed targets (the National Strategic Target List, or NSTL) and the assets to be used against each target. This first SIOP was extensively revised by a team at the RAND Corporation to become SIOP-62, describing a massive strike with the entire U.S. arsenal of 3,200 warheads against the USSR, China, and Soviet-aligned states.
1961- Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell L. Gilpatric stated that “if NATO forces were about the overwhelmed by non-nuclear attack from the (Communist) bloc countries NATO would makes use of nuclear arms.”
1961- UN General Assembly Resolution 1653 declared that the use of nuclear weapons would be “contrary to the spirit, letter and aims of the United Nations and, as such, a direct violation of the Charter”, and added that any such use would be “contrary to the rules of international law and to the laws of humanity.”
1962- The U.S. Flexible Response posture was implemented, moving away from the rigidity of Eisenhower’s massive retaliation doctrine. Flexible response to provided more options across the spectrum of arms (nuclear and conventional, strategic and tactical) rather than focusing on the nuclear-centric massive retaliation doctrine. In effect, Flexible Response called for the continued presence (in Europe) of sizable conventional forces. Conventional forces were to serve two functions, a deterrent function and the function to fight limited wars.
1964- On October 16, China successfully exploded its first atomic bomb. China was the first to propose and pledge a no-first-use policy, stating that China would “not to be the first to use nuclear weapons at any time or under any circumstances”
1967- The text of the Treaty of Tlatelolco states that: “nuclear weapons, whose terrible effects are suffered, indiscriminately and inexorably, by military forces and civilian population alike, constitute, through the persistence of the radioactivity they release, an attack on the integrity of the human species and ultimately may even render the whole earth uninhabitable…”
1968- In early 1968, the CIA issued a report concluding that Israel had successfully started production of nuclear weapons.
1970- Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force. The Treaty’s objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technologies and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament, as well as general and complete disarmament.
1974- In January, United States Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger announced a major re-alignment of the U.S. nuclear strike policy, outlining a broad selection of counterforce options against a variety of potential enemy actions, a major change from earlier SIOP policies. A key element of the new plans were a variety of limited strikes solely against enemy military targets while ensuring the survivability of the U.S. second-strike capability, which was intended to leave an opening for a negotiated settlement.
1974- Iran, supported by Egypt, proposed the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East.
1974- In December, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declared for the first time the basic principle of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons use policy. He stated: “Ultimately, if our backs are to the wall and we have absolutely no option, in that event, this decision about going nuclear will have to be taken.”
1981- UN General Assembly resolution 36/92I deemed “the use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the Charter of the UN and a crime against humanity. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons should therefore be prohibited, pending nuclear disarmament.”
1983- The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), also known as Star Wars, was first initiated on March 23, 1983, under President Ronald Reagan. The intent of this program was to develop a sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system in order to prevent missile attacks from other countries, specifically the Soviet Union.
1985- The UN Human Rights Committee strongly asserted the relevance of human rights law to the consequences of reliance on nuclear weapons, both in the context of war, traditionally the province of humanitarian law, and of international relations more generally. The Committee commented that: “It is evident that the designing, testing, manufacture, possession and deployment of nuclear weapons are among the greatest threats to the right to life which confront mankind today. This threat is compounded by the danger that the actual use of such weapons may be brought about, not only in the event of war, but even through human or mechanical error or failure. Furthermore, the very existence and gravity of this threat generate a climate of suspicion and fear between States, which is itself antagonistic to the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the International Covenants on Human Rights.”
1988- Prompted by Egypt in 1988, the UN Secretary General undertook a “Study on Effective and Verifiable Measures which Would Facilitate the Establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East” that looked at conditions surrounding the creation of NWFZ and made a number recommendations including a list confidence building measures.
1989- In 1989, the IAEA Director General prepared a Technical Study on Different Modalities of the Application of Safeguards in the Middle East. The study analyzed the current status of nuclear activities and safeguards in the Middle East, described the IAEA’s experience in applying safeguards under different types of safeguards agreements, and identified a number of modalities that could be used to enhance the application of safeguards in the Middle East.
1991- The Madrid Peace Conference is held, in which Israel, Palestine, and other Middle Eastern countries attended. Participants agree to a multilateral track towards regional arms control. The conference also established a working group entitled: Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East (ACRS)
1992- The first ACRS group meets from 28-29 of January 1992 in Moscow. Thirteen Arab countries were involved including Israel. Some confidence building measures were achieved, but no profound resolutions were implemented. There has been no formal ACRS meeting since 20-21 September of 1995.
1992- On 30 January 1992, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea signed an IAEA safeguards agreement, and the Supreme People’s Assembly ratified the agreement on 9 April 1992. Under the terms of the agreement, North Korea provided an “initial declaration” of its nuclear facilities and materials, and provided access for IAEA inspectors to verify the completeness and correctness of its initial declaration.
1993- The Basic Provisions of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation were examined at sessions of the Russian Federation Security Council held on 3 and 6 October. The document stated that the Russian Federation “will not employ its nuclear weapons against any state-party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, dated I July 1968, which does not possess nuclear weapons except in the cases of:
an armed attack against the Russian Federation, its territory, Armed Forces, other troops, or its allies by any state which is connected by an alliance agreement with a state that does possess nuclear weapons;
joint actions by such a state with a state possessing nuclear weapons in the carrying out or in support of any invasion or armed attack upon the Russian Federation, its territory, Armed Forces, other troops, or its allies”
1994- Non-nuclear weapons States secured a majority in the UN General Assembly for a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the following question: ‘Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstance permitted under international law?’ In written and oral argumentation by more than forty states, the focus was mostly on the UN Charter, the requirements of necessity and proportionality for the lawful exercise of self-defense, and humanitarian law governing the conduct of warfare. But human rights arguments also had their part, with many states referring to the right to life, and some advancing comprehensive and sophisticated analyses encompassing economic and social rights.
1995- The NPT is extended indefinitely through an agreement among state parties and calls for a WMD free zone for the Middle East, which Israel rejects. The 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference called upon all states in the Middle East to take practical steps aimed at making progress toward inter alia the establishment of an effectively verifiable Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical, and biological – and their delivery systems.
1996- The International Court of Justice handed down its advisory opinion on the request made by the General Assembly of the United Nations on the question concerning the Legality of the Threat Use of Nuclear Weapons. The International Court of Justice found that:
The threat or use of nuclear weapons “would generally be contrary” to humanitarian and other
international law regulating the conduct of warfare;
Under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and other international law, States are obligated to “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control;”
There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorization of the threat or use of nuclear weapons;
A threat of force by means of nuclear weapons that is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations and that fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51 is unlawful;
A threat or use of nuclear weapons should also be compatible with the requirements of the international law applicable in armed conflict;
The Court cannot conclude definitively whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme circumstance of self defense, in which the very survival of a state would be at stake.
1997- The General Assembly adopted resolution A/Res/52/38/0—Advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons—that:
highlights the “continuing existence of nuclear weapons poses a threat to all humanity and that their use would have catastrophic consequences for all life on Earth, and recognizing that the only defence against a nuclear catastrophe is the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the certainty that they will never be produced again”, and
underlines “the unanimous conclusion of the International Court of Justice that there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”
The General Assembly has subsequently adopted this resolution every year calling on States to fulfill their disarmament obligations as a follow-up to the 1996 ICJ decision.
1997-The UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities concluded that “the use of or threat of use of weapons of mass destruction, and in certain circumstances, the production and sale of such weapons are incompatible with international human rights and/or humanitarian law.”
1999- On 17 August, India released a Draft Report of National Security Advisory Board on Nuclear Doctrine. The document stated “India’s nuclear forces will be effective, enduring, diverse, flexible, and responsive to the requirements in accordance with the concept of credible minimum deterrence…The doctrine envisages assured capability to shift from peacetime deployment to fully employable forces in the shortest possible time, and the ability to retaliate effectively even in a case of significant degradation by hostile strikes.”
2000- UN General Assembly resolution 54/54G—Towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: The Need for a New Agenda—affirms “that a nuclear weapon-free world will ultimately require the underpinnings of a universal and multilaterally negotiated legally binding instrument or a framework encompassing a mutually reinforcing set of instruments.”
2001- In 2001 the Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities requested a study on the human rights impact of weapons of mass destruction and some other types of weapons. This study—Human Rights and Weapons of Mass Destruction, or with Indiscriminate Effect, or of a Nature to Cause Superfluous Injury or Unnecessary Suffering—was conducted by the Mauritian Supreme Court Judge Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen.
2002- In Supreme Court Justice Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen’s view, nuclear weapons and the other weapons he studied were likely to infringe a range of human rights, including not only the right to life, but also the right to freedom from torture, the right to health, the prohibition of genocide, and related rights in other human rights instruments. He emphasized the particular relevance to these questions not only of IHL, but also the provisions of human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Covenants on human rights, the Genocide Convention and the UN Convention against Torture. As he noted, while to some degree IHL and human rights converge, “the notable difference” in his view is that “the main United Nations Covenants and regional human rights instruments have no ‘threshold’ and apply to all situations irrespective of whether there is armed conflict or not.” This means that not only does the use of nuclear weapons raise legal questions, but so too does their possession, manufacture, and stockpiling in “peacetime,” under human rights law.
2003- In January of 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty after U.S. officials said that Pyongyang had admitted to efforts to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
2003- India’s 2003 official nuclear doctrine not only pledged there would be “no first use” of nuclear weapons, but added an additional negative security assurance of “non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.”
2006- On 9 October 2006, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea detonated a nuclear device.
2006- In a landmark speech, then French President Jacques Chirac described nuclear deterrence as the very foundation of French defense policy: ‘‘[Our] defense policy relies on the certainty that, whatever happens, our vital interests will be protected. That is the role assigned to nuclear deterrence, which is directly in keeping with the continuity of our strategy of prevention. It constitutes its ultimate expression”.
2009- On 2 July 2009, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea test fired a series of at least four surface-to-ship cruise missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Two days later, on 4 July, they proceeded to test fire a further seven Scud-type ballistic missiles into the same sea.
2010- Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, to the Geneva Diplomatic Corps in Geneva stated: “The International Committee of the Red Cross firmly believes that the debate about nuclear weapons must be conducted not only on the basis of military doctrines and power politics. The existence of nuclear weapons poses some of the most profound questions about the point at which the rights of States must yield to the interests of humanity, the capacity of our species to master the technology it creates, the reach of international humanitarian law, and the extent of human suffering we are willing to inflict, or to permit, in warfare.”
2010- The 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document states: “the conference expresses its deep concern at the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons, and reaffirms the need for all states at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”
2010- NPT Review Conference- Nations agreed to convene in 2012 to discuss a nuclear free zone in the Middle East. The 2010 review conference endorsed a number of practical steps, of which the first was that the U.N. secretary general and the co-sponsors of the 1995 Middle East resolution, which included the U.S., U.K. and the Russian Federation, in consultation with the states of the region would convene a conference in 2012 to be attended by all states of the Middle East on the establishment of the zone, on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at by the states of the region, and with the full support and engagement of the nuclear weapons states. It was agreed that the 2012 conference would take as its terms of reference the 1995 resolution.