United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that the world was “one step away from nuclear annihilation”, raising the specter of the Cold War, as the United States, Britain and France called on Russia to abandon its “nuclear rhetoric”.
Guterres spoke of “escalating” crises in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula and in Ukraine, which is facing a Russian invasion, expressing his fears of an escalation.
“We have been exceptionally lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy, and it does not protect against geopolitical tensions that escalate to the point of a nuclear conflict,” he said at the start of a conference of the 191 signatories to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“Humanity today is one misunderstanding, one uncalculated step away from nuclear annihilation,” he added, adding that the world faces “a nuclear danger unparalleled since the height of the Cold War.”
“Humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons learned from the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” he said, noting that he would go after a few days to Hiroshima on the anniversary of its bombing.
He shares the concern with Guterres, the Argentine president of this conference, Gustavo Zlauvenen, who considered that “the threat posed by nuclear weapons … has returned to the level it was during the Cold War.”
“If we have learned one thing from the pandemic, it is that events that are considered to have a low probability of occurring can happen, without warning or short warning, with catastrophic repercussions for the world. The same is true for nuclear weapons,” he added.
After being postponed several times since 2020 due to the crisis of the Covid-19 epidemic, the tenth conference to discuss the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force in 1970, will be held until the 26th of this month at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Guterres considered this conference an “opportunity to consolidate this treaty and harmonize it with today’s world”, expressing his hope to reaffirm the non-use of nuclear weapons and also to take “new commitments” to reduce the arsenal.
“The abolition of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee that they will never be used,” he said.
He pointed out that “approximately 13,000 nuclear weapons are stored in arsenals around the world, at a time when the risks of proliferation are increasing and safeguards are weakened to prevent an escalation,” speaking in particular about the “crises” in the Middle East, the Korean peninsula and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In January, the five permanent members of the Security Council (the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France) who are also nuclear powers, pledged to “prevent the further proliferation” of nuclear weapons, ahead of a new postponement of the Conference on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and before the start of the Russian invasion. for Ukraine.
The United States, Britain and France on Monday reaffirmed that pledge in a joint declaration, reiterating that “nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.”
However, the three nuclear powers also criticized Russia and called on it to respect its international obligations. “In the context of Russia’s illegal and unjustified aggressive war against Ukraine, we call on Russia to put an end to its nuclear rhetoric and its irresponsible and dangerous behavior,” she said.
For his part, US President Joe Biden called on Russia and China to participate in talks aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, noting that Moscow in particular should be responsible after its invasion of Ukraine. He reiterated that his administration was ready to “quickly negotiate” an alternative to the “New START” treaty that ends the intercontinental nuclear power of the United States and Russia, which will expire in 2026.
In turn, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed on Monday that there can be no “winners” in a nuclear war that should never be “unleashed,” stressing that his country remained true to the “text and spirit” of the treaty.
Since the start of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, Putin has issued veiled threats suggesting Russia may deploy tactical nuclear weapons that the Russian military considers it might use to force an opponent to retreat.
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which signatories assess its good implementation every five years, aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote complete disarmament and promote cooperation for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
However, during the last conference to consider the treaty in 2015, the parties were unable to reach agreement on the core issues.
“The world cannot be safe as long as there is one country that possesses nuclear weapons,” said Beatrice Finn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, who is in New York to attend the conference.
She stressed that “the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons recognizes this. The parties must act now.”
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