An Open Letter to the Presidents of the United States and Russia

President Obama and President Medvedev:

Although both of our nations have begun to reduce the number of our nuclear warheads we have, we must greatly further reduce, and eliminate this number if we want to attain a level of peace and security all humans can abide by. The fact that our nations hold so many of these warheads encourages other nations and groups to try and also get their hands on them. As the world is becoming increasingly dangerous and hostile, the liability of nuclear weapons is also increasing. The chances that these weapons fall in to the wrong hands grow larger everyday, and we must collectively lead the charge to end that possibility by eliminating them from the world we live in today. We must meet the challenge of becoming a role model for other nations to follow our policies of eliminating nuclear weapons head on.

Perhaps you should become familiar with what would actually happen to the victims if a nuclear bomb were to go off in a populated area. What most people don’t understand is that nine out of ten people do not die from the initial nuclear blast. If you are within a six-mile radius of the blast, you would be vaporized before you knew what hit you, but those victims of course, are the luckiest. Any living being within fifty miles looking in the direction of the blast would be instantly blinded as a result of the intensity of the light of the blast. The pressure wave of the blast stretching hundreds of miles causes humans to bleed from every orifice. They would soon become subjects of intense vomiting, skin rash, and unquenchable thirst due to the results of such extreme levels of radiation. This will cause in fact the deaths of the majority of the victims. The radiation causes mass malfunction among all computers and electronics, effectively ending the possibility for human communication. The firestorm of a one-megaton bomb covers nearly one hundred square miles, while the firestorm of a twenty-megaton bomb covers nearly 2500 square miles. If the victims survive the initial blast, they will likely die an excruciatingly painful death over the coming weeks and months. I ask you to do one thing; put your self in the shoes of these people.

TIME magazine conducted an interview with Alan Robock, a Rutgers environmental studies professor who participated in the original nuclear winter research, on the effects a nuclear war would have on the environment. Through scientific, Professor Robock and his colleagues concluded, “the amount of smoke produced by these explosions would block out the sunlight, cool the planet, and produce climate change unprecedented in human history. He and fellow scientists labeled their predictions “nuclear winter” because of the harsh, cold conditions the earth would become accustomed to after a nuclear war. Robock and his colleagues also found that agricultural seasonal cycle would be crippled, and as a result, the global network of food trade would be devastated. Nations would have a hard enough time focusing on finding enough food for their own citizens.  The scientists also stated that the “reduced stockpiles” of nuclear weapons our nations have are still more than enough cause a “nuclear winter.”

People living in the world today should not have to worry about the threat of a nuclear catastrophe. As you said, President Obama, in your 2009 speech in Prague, “In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the threat of a nuclear attack has gone up. Fifty years ago, our nations led the charge in developing these weapons of mass destruction, and now seven other nations have demonstrated their feeling of need for nuclear weapons. We must prove to these nations that there should not be need for such unforgiving weaponry.

Twenty years after the Cold War there are still more than 20,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. Collectively, our nations possess 95% of these weapons, with thousands on hair-trigger alert ready for an immediate launch. Again, President Obama, as you said in Prague, “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city . . . could kill hundreds of thousands of people.  And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.” By eliminating nuclear weapons we eliminate the chances that one day our planet will be uninhabitable because of nuclear war.

Experts such as Ted Postol, an MIT physicist and professor, warn that the chances of an accidental nuclear war are uncomfortably significant, and as the leaders of nations with the most nuclear firepower, it is your duty to do everything in your power to ensure that does not occur. In 1995, “Russia initially interpreted the launch of a Norwegian scientific rocket as the onset of a U.S. nuclear attack. Then-President Boris Yeltsin activated his “nuclear briefcase” in the first stages of preparation to launch a retaliatory strike before the mistake was discovered.” We cannot let a mistake such as this, caused by the simple fact that each of our country holds thousands of these weapons, be the reason for deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. It would unarguably be recognized as the biggest mistake humankind has ever made. As the leaders of the two greatest nuclear powers, do you want to go down as a key player in end of the world as we know it? Wouldn’t you rather be recognized as one of the key figures leading the charge to eliminate a threat of such capacity? Further reduction and the elimination of nuclear weapons are essential in ending the risk of an accidental nuclear war.

An agreement between our nations such as START (New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) are a positive step in the right direction, but is a baby step in comparison to what we realistically need do to become a world safe from nuclear threat. This treaty allows our nations to still have 1550 globally deployed nuclear weapons, 800 strategic delivery vehicles, and 700 heavy bombers, deployed and non-deployed. Realistically, this doesn’t do much in persuading other nations that having nuclear weaponry is unacceptable.

As leaders of the nations boasting the largest arsenals, it is essential that you actively engage with the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, and North Korea, all whom have nuclear weapons, to create a plan that causes all members to begin to significantly reduce their nuclear arsenals. We must do everything in our power to promote the cooperation between all nuclear nations. It is also absolutely essential that you do everything in your power to stop nations, such as Iran, who have shown a definite interest in developing these weapons of mass destruction. The threat of these nations even attempting to develop nuclear weapons could result in a preemptive strike from another weary nation, which could very possibly result in the break out of an all out war.

Experts also warn of the grave threat of nuclear terrorism, and state that if nations like Iran, that possibly harbor and support terrorists, acquire nuclear weapons, they “could also protect the terror groups Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.” Not only does this mean we have to worry about another nation having weapons of mass destruction, but this means we now have to worry about terrorists getting their hands on these powerful weapons. Terrorists would be able to acquire nuclear weapons in two ways; either stealing one, which would be tough to do, or gaining access to the material and expertise needed for developing a bomb, which is something they demonstrated they have the capacity to do. You must do everything in your power to make sure it is impossible for terrorist groups to be able to get their hands on the material needed for building a nuclear bomb.

I urge you, President Obama and President Medvedev, to make a clear and concise statement to the world that we cannot live in cohesive existence with these weapons of mass destruction. The risk is far to great that something terrible and unforgivable could happen if, for any reason, one of these weapons detonates. You must continue to reduce and eliminate your stockpiles, as the existence of these bombs is completely unnecessary.

If you do not demonstrate an urgency to rid the world of these killing machines, how will the rest of the world follow suit and understand the mass importance that we cannot afford to live with the risk of nuclear annihilation? It is understood that a main reason for having these weapons is to be prepared in case another nation uses them against you, but if you work together to eliminate all nuclear weapons, there will no longer be that threat of an initial strike. It is essential to the welfare of our planet and all of human kind that the threat of such deadly weapons is eliminated. The effects would truly be unimaginable. Hopefully, you will take more than politics in to account as you form your future policies regarding nuclear weapons, because there is certainly much more at stake that just politics when dealing with these weapons.



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