www.ippnw-europe.org  | en | Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
Monday, 15. July 2024

IPPNW responds to ratification of New START

Letter to the presidents of the US and Russia

President Barack Obama
President Dmitri Medvedev

Dear Presidents Obama and Medvedev:

The ratification of the New START by the Russian Parliament this week and by the US Senate last month fulfills a pledge each of you made almost two years ago to lay the groundwork for a world without nuclear weapons. When you met in Moscow in March 2009, you spoke of this new round of US-Russia nuclear arms reductions as a “down payment” toward a nuclear-weapons-free world. While this down payment is modest in numerical terms, the New START, as its name suggests, is a promise of more to come.

IPPNW congratulates you on this long-awaited accomplishment, thanks you for the leadership you both showed in the face of political opposition to ratification, and urges you to build on this success without delay. We have written to you previously that, as the leaders of the world’s largest nuclear powers, you have both a responsibility and an unprecedented opportunity to end the threat posed by the only weapons capable of destroying humanity.

Terrible acts of violence have recently claimed the lives of dozens of innocent people in both your countries and have reminded all of us that such atrocities, even on a relatively small scale, are tragic and unacceptable. As physicians, we know exactly what our colleagues in Tucson and Moscow confronted in trying to save the lives of the injured. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families of the victims and to the American and Russian people, who must once again come to terms with horrifying events that have become a frequent occurrence in too many parts of the world.

Should nuclear weapons ever be used again, the casualties could number in the hundreds of millions and physicians would be helpless to mitigate the suffering of the survivors. Even with the reductions spelled out in the New START, Russia and the US between them continue to deploy nuclear arsenals capable of exterminating entire populations, devastating the global climate, and, in the worst case, rendering the Earth itself unihabitable. We may never be able to prevent each and every random act of violence, but it is completely within our power to prevent global nuclear catastrophe by eliminating the weapons themselves.

We understand that the road ahead is not free of obstacles. Russia is concerned about US missile defense plans and the large imbalance in conventional military forces; the US is concerned about the thousands of tactical nuclear weapons that remain in the Russian arsenal and are uncovered by strategic reductions agreements. Both countries point to the fact that they are not the sole possessors of nuclear weapons in the world, and argue that the disarmanent process is hampered by proliferation. These are all legitimate concerns. None of them, however, outweigh the risks of holding onto these intolerably destructive weapons or postponing the day when the world is liberated from the terror they impose on us.

As you implement the New START, we urge you to recommit yourselves to the goal of eliminating the last nuclear weapon from the world. The surest way to reach that goal is for the US and Russia to embrace the proposal for a global nuclear weapons abolition treaty — what Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, a large majority of UN Member States, and thousands of civil society groups around the world have referred to as a Nuclear Weapons Convention — and for your two countries to engage the international community — nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states alike — in negotiations on a new and permanent end to the nuclear weapons era.

We congratulate you for seeing the New START through to a successful conclusion, and appeal to you to finish the task you have started.


Vappu Taipale

Sergey Kolesnikov

Robert Mtonga