The letter, signed by senior faculty and deans of medical schools, heads of medical associations, health ministers, medical journal editors, and Nobel laureates from 39 countries, was delivered to Presidents Obama and Medvedev by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), its US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Russian Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Dr. Ira Helfand, a US physician who was a principal organizer of the campaign, said that the 25,000 nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals are “the most urgent and immediate threat to the health and survival of humankind. And, unlike the other major health threats of our time-climate change, poverty, AIDS and other epidemic diseases-this one can be eradicated with nothing more than a firm decision to do so.”

Noting that a world without nuclear weapons is now championed by experts and diplomats across the political spectrum, the physicians called on the US and Russian presidents to lead the world by negotiating a worldwide agreement “that will abolish all nuclear weapons.”

In making the letter public, IPPNW urged the leaders to put recent strains in US-Russian relations aside and to make the most of “what may be the best and last opportunity we have to rid the world of the only weapons capable of destroying all humanity.”

“A thousand years from now,” the signatories to the letter told Presidents Obama and Medvedev, “no one will remember most of what you will do over the next few years; but no one will ever forget the leaders who abolished the threat of nuclear war.”