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Letter from Linus Pauling to John F. Kennedy. July 21, 1961.
Pauling writes to implore Kennedy to avoid steps that might increase the chances of nuclear war and to resist the rearmament of a unified Germany.


Dear Mr. President:

With all the intensity that I can muster, I urge that, in your negotiations with the Soviet Union, you not take actions that increase the chance of nuclear war, such as the threat to use military force if the negotiations do not proceed in the way that you desire.

No dispute can justify nuclear war. The time has come when problems such as that involving Berlin and the German peace treaty must be settled by recourse to principles of justice, rather than by threat of military action or by the military action itself.

After sixteen years, it is of course high time that the German peace treaty be made. But the world cannot take the chance of a unified and armed Germany. A Germany armed with nuclear weapons would represent an increased threat to world peace. I hope that you are giving serious consideration to the possibility of initiating negotiations to extend the principle of demilitarization to a region in central Europe, including West Germany, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and possibly other countries. The problem of achieving such an arrangement is a difficult one, but the contribution that it would make to world security is so great that the problem should be attacked and solved.

I urge also that you make an honest effort to achieve the completion of the test-ban treaty, by proposing, in good faith, some reasonable compromises on the questions that remain unsettled. The United States has not yet proposed reasonable compromises in good faith. Until this is done, it will not be possible to place the blame on the U.S.S.R., in case that the Geneva bomb-test negotiations are broken off.

Sincerely yours,

[Linus Pauling]

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