World one step away from ‘nuclear annihilation’, says UN chief

The head of the United Nations (UN) has warned that the world is one step away from “nuclear annihilation” and faces dangers not seen since the Cold War.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that “humanity is just a misunderstanding, a miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation” on the war in Ukraine, alongside others nuclear threats in the world.

I made the comments during a conference on the decades-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieve a nuclear-free world.

In his opening speech, António Guterres said the pandemic-delayed meeting, which aims to review the landmark deal, was taking place under “nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”.

The conference is “an opportunity to define the measures that will avert certain catastrophes and put humanity on a new path towards a world without nuclear weapons”, he said.

“The risks of proliferation are increasing and the safeguards to prevent escalation are weakening,” added António Guterres, stressing that “crises – with nuclear connotations – are spreading from the Middle East and the Korean peninsula”.

The threat of nuclear disaster was also raised by the United States (US), Japan, Germany, the UN nuclear chief and many other speakers.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has claimed that Russia, which did not speak at the conference at the scheduled time, is “engaged in reckless and dangerous nuclear slashing” in Ukraine.

I quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning that any intervention in the conflict could have “consequences you’ve never seen” and that his country is a “powerful nuclear power.”

Blinken also pointed to the dangers posed by North Korea’s upcoming nuclear test and Iran, which he said “unwilling or unable” to agree to a deal to revert to the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curb its nuclear program.

Putin apparently dropped his past nuclear warnings as the conference got underway.

“We believe that a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought,” the Russian president said Monday in a message of greetings to NPT participants posted on his website. “We stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the global community.”

Blinken also claimed that Russia was using Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant – which is the largest in Europe – as a military base, having seized it from Kyiv earlier in the war.

Russian forces were firing at the Ukrainians from the site, “knowing that they cannot and will not return fire because they might accidentally hit a nuclear reactor or stored highly radioactive waste”, he said.

“[This brings the idea of] a human shield on an entirely different and gruesome level.

The Russian delegation to the conference strongly rejected Blinken’s claim in a statement late Monday, saying a small number of its personnel were at the plant “to ensure [its] Safety and security.”

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the conflict in Ukraine is “so serious that the specter of a potential nuclear confrontation, or an accident, has once again reared its terrifying head. “.

He warned that the situation in Zaporizhzhya was “becoming more dangerous day by day”, while urging both sides to allow a team of IAEA security experts to visit the plant, which did not failed for the past two months.

António Guterres called on conference participants to take action to avoid a nuclear disaster.

These included urgently reaffirming and strengthening “the 77-year-old norm against the use of nuclear weapons” and working tirelessly to eliminate nuclear weapons with new commitments to reduce arsenals.

He also called on world leaders to address “simmering tensions in the Middle East and Asia” and to promote the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

“Future generations are counting on your commitment to rise from the abyss,” he told diplomats. “Now is the time for us to take this fundamental test and lift the cloud of nuclear annihilation once and for all.”

In force since 1970, the NPT has 191 signatories, making it one of the most widely followed arms control agreements.

Under its terms, the original five nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), Britain and France – agreed to negotiate for the elimination of their arsenals in the future, while nations without nuclear weapons have promised not to acquire them. in exchange for guarantees, they could develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.