World one misstep from ‘nuclear annihilation’- says UN chief as US, China and Russia play ‘Nuclear Chicken’ with our lives

Antonio Guterres sounds a global alarm at the opening of the meeting to review a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

Russia Nuclear Drills
Russia’s military launches a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile in this photo taken from video [File: Russian Defence Ministry via AP]

2 Aug 2022

Nuclear threats emanating from the war in Ukraine as well as in Asia and the Middle East have put the world one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”, the United Nations secretary-general said. 

At the UN on Monday, Antonio Guterres issued the dire warning at the opening of a long-delayed meeting to review the landmark 50-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and eventually achieving a nuclear-free world.

Guterres told many ministers, officials and diplomats gathered in the General Assembly Hall that the month-long review conference is taking place “at a time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.

The meeting is “an opportunity to hammer out the measures that will help avoid certain disaster, and to put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons”, he said.

However, Guterres warned that “geopolitical weapons are reaching new highs” as almost 13,000 nuclear arms are in arsenals around the world and countries are seeking “false security” by spending hundreds of billions of dollars on “doomsday weapons”.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy. Nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict,” the UN chief said.

INTERACTIVE- World Nuclear Club

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test, Iran “has either been unwilling or unable” to accept a deal to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at reining in its nuclear programme, and Russia is “engaged in reckless and dangerous nuclear saber-rattling” in Ukraine.

He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning after his country’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine that any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen”, emphasising his country is “one of the most potent nuclear powers”.

This is contrary to assurances given to Ukraine of its sovereignty and independence when it gave up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in 1994, Blinken said, and sends “the worst possible message” to any country thinking it needs nuclear arms to defend itself and deter aggression.

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