Washington (June 17, 2022) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-03) and Donald S. Beyer (VA-08), the four co-chairs of the Nuclear Weapons and Arms Control Working Group, today wrote to Secretary of State Blinken urging him to send a senior U.S. official to participate in the 2022 Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in Vienna, Austria on Monday, June 20th. The lawmakers argue that the United States should attend the conference to participate in discussions on the threat Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose to the nonproliferation regime and to layout a vision to reduce the threat of nuclear dangers globally. A recent poll conducted for the American Psychological Association found that nearly 70% of Americans fear that Russia’s war in Ukraine will lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

“Any Russian use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine would be catastrophic. Even their limited use would render large parts of Ukraine uninhabitable. Dangerous levels of radioactivity would likely prevent life-saving assistance from reaching those in need and would ripple globally, destroying for generations Ukraine’s status as the world’s ‘breadbasket’ due to contamination of its fields of sunflower, maize, and wheat. The use of nuclear weapons would also exacerbate a refugee crisis that has already seen 13 million Ukrainians displaced since the war began,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Secretary of State Blinken. “Russia’s suggestions that it may use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and its threats to the nonproliferation regime and to international law have upped the nuclear ante. 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, and would show our commitment to playing a leadership role in ensuring that nuclear weapons are never used in warfare again.”

The lawmakers state that the United states has “lived experience” to share at the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons Conference in the light of the 200 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests it conducted, which exposed downwind Americans, U.S. armed forces, Marshallese, and others to harmful levels of radioactivity. They also argue that U.S. participation at the conference would demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the pursuit of nuclear disarmament ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference to take place this August at the United Nations in New York.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.