UN chief warns of “nuclear annihilation”

August 2, 2022 - 19:8

The UN Secretary-General has warned that “geopolitical tensions reaching new highs” while some governments, in a false bid for peace and security, are spending “billions on nuclear weapons” has put “humanity” one misstep away from “nuclear annihilation”

Antonio Guterres was speaking at the opening of the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which runs until August 26. 

He said, “to [underscore] the importance of this conference, I will be in a few days in Hiroshima at the anniversary of the first nuclear bombardment in human history.” 

“Humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in the terrifying fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Geopolitical tensions are reaching new highs,” he warned. 

The United States remains the only country in the world and in history to have ever used nuclear weapons to massacre other people when it dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The first on the city of Hiroshima and the second on Nagasaki city, wiping them both out of existence. 

Guterres says “states are seeking false security in stockpiling and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on doomsday weapons that have no place on our planet.”

“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,” he said. 

“The clouds that parted following the end of the Cold War are gathering once more,” Guterres warned “today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” We need the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as much as ever.”

He noted that the conference is an opportunity to hammer out the measures that will help avoid a certain disaster and help return the world on a new path “free of nuclear weapons”

There are only a handful of countries that have nuclear weapons. Tensions in the West Asia region tend to stem from the Israeli regime. The apartheid occupation not only occupies Palestinian land but is also in possession of hundreds of nuclear weapons. 

At the same time the regime is not a party to any nuclear treaty, nor does it allow the International Atomic Energy Organization (The IAEA or UN nuclear watchdog) to inspect any of its nuclear weapons sites. Ironically, Israel was not exposed during the UN Secretary General’s speech. 

On the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been under the most robust IAEA inspections regime despite having a civilian nuclear program for energy and all the reports from the UN nuclear watchdog have stated Iran’s program is peaceful.

Iran has regularly voiced its strong opposition to any nation possessing nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction at all. The country itself has been subject to attacks by weapons of mass destruction, the survivors of which are still suffering from the effects today in Iranian hospitals. 

Elsewhere, the Secretary-General outlined five areas for action, starting with reinforcing and reaffirming the norm against the use of nuclear weapons, which he underlined, requires steadfast commitment.

He said “we urgently need to reinforce and reaffirm the 77-year-old norm against the use of nuclear weapons. This requires a steadfast commitment from all States Parties. It means finding practical measures that will reduce the risk of nuclear war and put us back on the path to disarmament.”

“We need to strengthen all avenues of dialogue and transparency. 
Peace cannot take hold in an absence of trust and mutual respect.”

He also cited that “reducing the risk of war is not enough. Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used. We must work relentlessly towards this goal,” he pointed out. 

“This must start with new commitments to shrink the numbers of all kinds of nuclear weapons so that they no longer hang by a thread over humanity.”

The UN Secretary-General cited the fighting in Ukraine among the conflicts driving the risk to a level not seen since the height of the Cold War. “All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are growing and guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening,” he noted.

Also addressing the opening day of the conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there can be no winners in a nuclear war, and such a war “must never be fought”.

"We advocate equal and inseparable security for all members of the international community," he underscored in a message of greeting uploaded to the Kremlin’s website.

Putin said that Russia as a signatory to the NPT consistently followed its letter and spirit. "our obligations under bilateral agreements with the United States on the reduction and limitation of relevant weapons have also been fulfilled," he said. 

The Russian leader stressed that over the more than half of a century of its existence, the NPT had become one of the key elements of the international system of security and strategic stability. 

The commitments that it stipulates in the spheres of non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful uses of nuclear powerfully meet the interests of both nuclear and non-nuclear states.

"We are convinced that all NPT-compliant countries should have the right of access to civilian nuclear power without any additional terms whatsoever. We are ready to share with the partners our experience in the field of nuclear energy," he pointed out.

He stressed that Moscow attaches great importance to the IAEA guarantee system "as a verification mechanism of the NPT and believes that it is very important to ensure its unbiased, depoliticized and technically grounded use."

In conclusion, Putin expressed the certainty that the conference would confirm the readiness of all NPT member countries to strictly comply with their commitments and make a tangible contribution to enhancing non-proliferation and world peace, security, and stability.

Russia wants to find out whether U.S. President Joe Biden’s remarks about the need to negotiate a treaty to replace the New START when it expires in 2026 were an invitation to dialogue or just “lofty rhetoric,” Russian diplomats have said.

The Russian delegation to the 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) said in a statement, published by Russia’s permanent mission that "[U.S.] Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken cited President Biden’s words regarding the readiness of the U.S. administration to negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026. The U.S. President added that negotiation required a willing partner (implying Russia) ‘operating in good faith.’ We truly wonder if the U.S. side is indeed ready to negotiate or if it is mere ‘lofty rhetoric’,"

"It was the United States that unilaterally withdrew from the dialogue on strategic stability with Russia citing the developments around Ukraine as a pretext," the delegation said. 

Russia has accused the West of waging a "proxy war" against it by arming Ukraine and imposing sanctions on Moscow.

"The U.S. did this even though the goal of that dialogue was to lay down the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures, i.a. with a view to making new relevant agreements. So it is high time Washington made up its mind, stopped rushing around, and told us frankly what it is that they want - escalate the situation in the area of international security or embark on equal negotiations."

The New START Treaty was struck in 2011, the treaty has been extended to the end of February 4, 2026.

Among the many agreements, Washington, in particular, former President Trump withdrew the United States from, was the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia in a blow to world peace and security.

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