Dear Presidents Obama and Putin: Ukraine conflict risks nuclear war


[IPPNW co-presidents Ira Helfand and Vladimir Garkavenko have sent the following letter to Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Vladimir Putin of Russia, expressing the Federation’s concern over the continuing conflict in Ukraine between two heavily armed nuclear States. Dr. Helfand is a member of the board of IPPNW’s US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Dr. Garkavenko is a member of the board of IPPNW’s Russian affiliate, Russian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.]Dear Presidents Obama and Putin:

We write this letter to you in our capacity as co-presidents of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) because we are deeply concerned about the conflict in Ukraine and the risk that nuclear weapons will be used in this conflict.

As you may know, IPPNW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for the organization’s work in educating the public about the medical effects of nuclear war.

In Ukraine, Russia and the United States, along with its NATO partners, are embroiled in a conflict that threatens us all. Any supplying of military aid to the parties directly involved in the fighting makes this situation more and more dangerous. This conflict cannot be solved by military means. It requires diplomacy, trust and confidence-building measures.

It is time for the United States and Russia to take the lead in defusing this dangerous situation, and it is important for both countries to make clear that this conflict cannot justify the use of nuclear weapons. Both of our countries have nuclear weapons in the region. Both of us plan maneuvers in the region that involve nuclear systems. Deployments of—and talk about the potential use of—these weapons are threats to world peace. Therefore, we implore you to immediately desist from any threats or behavior that involve nuclear weapons.

Moreover, we urge you to return to the negotiating table and give attention to those agreements that are central to European security: the INF Treaty, the NATO-Russia Founding Act and the CFE Treaty. By strengthening these agreements you will do much to rebuild trust and confidence in the region.

As physicians we have a responsibility to sound a warning when human survival is at stake. It is our belief that the conflict in Ukraine, and the way the US and Russia are reacting to this crisis, have brought us closer to nuclear war than at any time since the height of the Cold War. Please give this your joint consideration and act accordingly. World peace and the very survival of humanity is in your hands.


Ira Helfand, Co-president

Vladimir Garkavenko, Co-president