“The United States has a—sadly—unique perspective on the human consequences of the production, testing, and use of nuclear weapons,” the four lawmakers assert.
Amid the looming threat of nuclear escalation in Ukraine, a group of U.S. congressional Democrats on Friday urged the Biden administration to send delegates to a key upcoming nuclear disarmament summit in Austria.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.)—the four co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group—urged the State Department to send senior officials to participate in the 2022 Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference, which is set to begin in Vienna next week.
The lawmakers note that the conference will take place in the shadow of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “which has heightened concerns about the use of nuclear weapons in conflict.”
“Active U.S. participation in the conference will provide an important platform to discuss the current unsettling state of nuclear affairs in the world and demonstrate U.S. leadership in managing the nuclear threat,” the authors argue.
They add that nuclear “saber-rattling” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government and Russia’s “vast arsenal of tactical or ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons” is a “frightening reminder that the conventional war in Ukraine could turn nuclear—whether intentionally, by miscalculation, or even by accident.”
Nearly 70% of respondents to a March survey conducted for the American Psychological Association said they feared Russia’s war in Ukraine will escalate to include use of nuclear weapons.
Highlighting U.S. nuclear history, which includes waging the world’s only nuclear war on Japan and exposing people from Nevada to the Marshall Islands with deadly fallout from atomic weapons testing, the lawmakers assert that “the United States has a—sadly—unique perspective on the human consequences of the production, testing, and use of nuclear weapons.”
“We would bring a needed and voice and invaluable insight to the conference,” the letter contents, adding that U.S. participation “would show our commitment to playing a leadership role in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used in warfare again.”
The letter dismisses the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a historic 2021 agreement signed by scores of nations—but none of the nine nuclear powers—as unrealistic given the world’s current atomic landscape.
Instead, the lawmakers affirm former President Barack Obama’s nebulous commitment to seek “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”
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