IPPNW response to the Moscow Summit
July 9, 2009
March 2009, just before the historic first meeting between US President Barack
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear War sent the two leaders a
letter signed by more than 300 of the worlds top physicians, appealing
for leadership toward a world without nuclear weapons. Our hopes and expectations
were raised by the statements issued from the London meeting, and by President
Obamas speech in Prague a few days later, when he pledged America's
commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons
and added that as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon,
the United States has a moral responsibility to act.
From the perspective
of the US-Soviet Cold War, when tens of thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger
alert threatened humanity with extinction, the goal announced by Presidents Medvedev
and Obama this week in Moscow the reduction of US and Russian strategic
arsenals to their lowest levels since the mid 1950s is welcome news.
a promised down payment toward a nuclear-weapons-free world, however,
this is a disappointingly small step. Combined stockpiles of 3,000 strategic warheads
are still more than enough to kill and injure hundreds of millions of people,
and plunge the Earth into a nuclear winter. Even a nuclear war using only a fraction
of the proposed arsenals would result in a humanitarian and climate catastrophe
to which physicians could offer no meaningful medical response.
is no plausible definition of deterrence that could not be satisfied with far
fewer weapons during the transition to a nuclear-free world. Engaging the other
nuclear weapon states in meaningful negotiations will require deeper reductions
by the worlds largest nuclear powers, and we see no reason to postpone such
reductions despite the need to resolve disputes about missile defenses, NATO expansion,
and conventional force levels. Taking all US and Russian missiles off high alert
would go a long way toward removing the danger of accidental nuclear war, and
can be done by executive orders in Washington and Moscow. We have urged both leaders
to take this security enhancing and confidence building step in the past, and
we do so again.
Ridding the world of nuclear weapons will not happen overnight.
But we should not have to wait for another generation of leaders to finish the
task to which Presidents Obama and Medvedev say they are committedand to
which we believe they are committed. A nuclear-weapons-free world can be achieved
in our lifetime, but it will require bolder action than we have seen so far.
Russian and US negotiating teams, with the support of abolitionist Presidents,
could exceed the modest goals set for them in Moscow, and we hope they will. IPPNW
told Presidents Obama and Medvedev in March that A thousand years from now
no one will remember most of what you will do over the next few years; but no
one will ever forget the leaders who abolished the threat of nuclear war.
We reiterate that message as the Moscow summit comes to a close, and continue
to offer our support, our encouragement, and our impatience for a world that is
no longer held hostage to these instruments of mass extermination.