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U.S. President Joe Biden (2L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands as Swiss President Guy Parmelin (R) looks on during the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange on June 16, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty Images)

Presidents Biden and Putin's Nuclear Words

The complete abolition of nuclear weapons is the only way to be safe from their threat.

Robert Dodge

"A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought." These words echoing the Reagan— Gorbachev Principle issued thirty six years before in Geneva came as a joint statement at the conclusion of Presidents Biden and Putin’s Summit last week. 

On June 16, the U.S.–Russia Presidential Joint Statement on Strategic Stability:

We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.

The world thanks you for these words, heeding the bilateral high level appeal leading up to your meeting. The groups and individuals signatory to that appeal will work to help, support and guide you in your actions while holding you accountable to your statement. We do so for as long as these weapons exist the risk of their use either by intent, miscalculation or cyber attack remains. As medical and scientific leaders working with civil society who have long warned of the risks of climate change, pandemics and yes, nuclear war, our voices must continue to be heard.

It is essential that you, as leaders of the two nations with the largest nuclear arsenals, explain to the world when and under what circumstances you would even consider using these weapons that risk ending humanity and life as we know it.

The complete abolition of nuclear weapons is the only way to be safe from their threat. Knowing this, and the reality that nuclear weapons are far more dangerous than we had ever realized, it is essential that you, as leaders of the two nations with the largest nuclear arsenals, explain to the world when and under what circumstances you would even consider using these weapons that risk ending humanity and life as we know it.

When it comes to the risk of nuclear war, a child born today has a significant chance of experiencing a nuclear war with the potential destruction of civilization in their lifetime unless you take the steps now to prevent it. Absent these steps, one must ask if this is the legacy you want to leave. 

The international community has spoken, led by the efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in developing support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which went into force January 22 this year. Currently it has been signed by 86 nations and been ratified by 54.

The most comprehensive nuclear abolition movement in the United States is the grassroots campaign called "Back from the Brink." It Calls on the United States to: 

-Actively pursue a verifiable, time bound effort working with the other nuclear nations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals and support the Treaty to abolish nuclear weapons. 

In addition, it calls on the United States to take the unilateral precautionary measures to prevent nuclear war including:

-Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first.

-Ending the sole unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack.

-Taking our weapons off hair trigger alert.

-Ending the $1.7 trillion rebuilding of our entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced nuclear weapons over the next 30 years.

To date this grassroots movement has been endorsed by over 354 organizations, 50 municipalities and 6 state legislative bodies.

The people are speaking and anxiously await your words turning into action. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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