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Official website of the President of Russia


To the co-chairpersons of the organisation International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

January 22, 2000

Thank you for your letter praising Russia’s recent efforts to strengthen control over the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and to reduce their numbers.

At our June summit, US President Bill Clinton and I reaffirmed our determination to further reduce our nuclear missile arsenals relying on time-tested bilateral and multilateral agreements. Russia, which adheres to its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, supports the phased and comprehensive movement of the five nuclear powers along the road of nuclear disarmament. I am convinced that Russia will never stand in the way of such movement, and the implementation of the START II Treaty and the 1997 New York anti-ballistic missile (ABM) agreements will become an important step in this direction. Suffice it to say that Russia and the United States will cut their respective strategic offensive arms by two-thirds compared with 1990 levels.

We hope that the United States will also ratify the START II Treaty and related agreements and will start fulfilling them as soon as possible. I would also like to confirm Russia’s readiness to further cut its nuclear arsenal and to launch talks on concluding the START III Treaty with the United States. In our opinion, both countries should retain 1,500 warheads each, rather than the 2,000–2,500 ceiling stipulated by the 1997 Russian-US summit in Helsinki.

At the same time, I share your concern about the fact that the world has not yet taken advantage of all opportunities for progress in nuclear disarmament. The international public is coming to realise that we must preserve and strengthen all positive achievements in the field of nuclear weapons’ non-proliferation and control, or the entire system of international and bilateral agreements will be jeopardised. Much will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the 1972 ABM Treaty in connection with the United States’ plans to create the National Missile Defence (NMD) system.

Russia has always tried to reduce the nuclear threat and will continue to do so. The reduction of nuclear arsenals is just one aspect of our efforts in this sphere. The ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) by Russia proves our firm intention to prevent the development of better nuclear weapons. Judging by the number of countries which have signed and ratified the CTBT and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, both agreements enjoy broad international support. But the problem is that the goals of the CTBT can only be achieved if it is signed by the countries whose signature is necessary for it to take effect. This primarily concerns the United States.

As for your proposal on measures to enhance the safety of nuclear missiles, I would like to remind you that Russian ballistic missiles are not targeted at anyone. In May 1997, Russia deemed it possible to de-target its strategic nuclear weapons in order to reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear war. Moreover, the June Russian-US summit in Moscow decided to establish an early warning missile launch centre. We will continue to do everything possible in order to strengthen guarantees for preventing technical malfunctions and other mishaps involving nuclear weapons.

The Russian leadership applauds the contribution of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War to strengthening global peace and stability. I hope that we continue to cooperate closely in order to achieve this noble goal.

Vladimir Putin