The Times of London has reported that the Obama administration will present a plan to Russia calling for an 80% reduction in each country’s stockpile of nuclear weapons; and the administration has confirmed its approach of putting nuclear arms control on the “fast track.” This is a very important step toward the new President’s stated goal of abolishing nuclear weapons and is a reason to celebrate. We offer President Obama our enthusiastic congratulations for his vision and courage. The move sends a signal to the world that the United States is ready to take meaningful steps toward lowering tensions and expanding dialogue.

Just after Obama’s historic election, New Humanist Spokespersons from all over the world sent him a letter emphasizing the grave danger of nuclear war. Today this risk surpasses even the most dangerous moments of the cold war. We urged him to move quickly to “use the power of [his] new office, the mandate … received from the citizens of the United States and the support of people around the planet, to decisively signal a new direction for US foreign policy.”

We stated: “In our view, the priorities in such a direction should be the withdrawal of US troops from all occupied territories, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and a clear and immediate initiative toward progressive and proportional global nuclear disarmament.”

In less than three weeks since his inauguration, President Obama has taken the first step. We encourage the President to go further and to abandon US plans to build radar and missile installations in Poland and the Czech Republic, part of the National Missile Defense (NMD) project. This plan has provoked great concern in Russia, which, not unreasonably, interprets the shield as an aggressive move. We encourage President Obama to re-think the US military presence in Afghanistan and to move forward decisively in withdrawing from Iraq.

The people of the world overwhelmingly want peace and this is a moment when a new direction is both urgent and possible. The time is right. Also this week, the British Foreign Secretary reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. The US initiative is an excellent beginning and an important signal to the world. Congratulations President Obama!

Let’s continue on this path toward giving future generations the great gift of a world without nuclear weapons and pave the way for reducing conventional weapons and militarism as well.