- Antonio Guterres on Monday warned that the world is “one misunderstanding” away from “nuclear annihilation.”
- The UN chief was calling on countries to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.
- His comments came as Putin warned that “there can be no winners in a nuclear war.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged countries to reduce their nuclear stockpiles, warning that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.”
“Almost 13,000 nuclear weapons are now being held in arsenals around the world. All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are growing and guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening,” Guterres said at a conference in New York of countries that are party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” the UN chief said, pointing to “festering” crises occurring around the world — including the “invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”
Guterres said “eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used,” calling on countries to work “relentlessly towards this goal.”
The UN chief’s comments came amid concerns over rising tensions, with issues like the war in Ukraine, China and Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear program causing friction.
Throughout Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, some Western officials have expressed concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin could get desperate enough to use nuclear weapons to achieve his goals in the war.
As Russia launched its attack on Ukraine in February, Putin said that any countries attempting to intervene would face “consequences you have never seen.” Putin also put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on highly alert shortly after he ordered the start of the so-called “special operation” in Ukraine.
In a letter to the NPT conference on Monday, the Russian leader warned that there could be no winners in a nuclear war.
“We proceed from the fact that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it should never be unleashed, and we stand for equal and indivisible security for all members of the world community,” Putin said, according to Reuters.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday ripped into Putin for his past “nuclear saber rattling.”
“It’s engaging in reckless, dangerous nuclear saber rattling, with its president warning that those supporting Ukraine self-defense ‘risk consequences such as you have never seen in your entire history,'” Blinken said of Russia during remarks to the NPT conference.
The US and Russia collectively possess roughly 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads.
The top US diplomat during his remarks also excoriated North Korea for expanding “its unlawful nuclear program” and continuing “its ongoing provocations against the region.” He mentioned in his remarks that North Korea appears to be preparing for a seventh nuclear test. And as the Biden administration vies to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Blinken also accused Tehran of remaining on a “path of nuclear escalation.”
Talks aimed at restoring the Iran nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — are stalled. Blinken on Monday urged Iran to come back into compliance with the deal, which President Donald Trump withdrew the US from in May 2018.
“Although it publicly claims to favor return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, since March, Iran has been either unwilling or unable to accept a deal to achieve precisely that goal,” Blinken said. “Getting back to the JCPOA remains the best outcome – for the United States, for Iran, for the world.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s atomic energy chief said on Monday, per BBC News, that the country has the technical capacity to build a nuclear bomb but no plans to do so.