United Nations — The UN chief warned the world on Monday that “humanity is just a misunderstanding, a far cry from nuclear annihilation.”
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded dire warnings at the opening of a long-delayed high-level meeting to review the historic 50-year-old treaty aimed at halting the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieving a nuclear-free world. He specifically cited the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear weapons to conflict in the Middle East and Asia, two regions “heading towards catastrophe.”
Guterres told several ministers, officials and diplomats attending the month-long conference to review the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that the meeting was taking place “at a critical juncture for our collective peace and security” and “at a time of nuclear threat”. Not seen in the height of the Cold War.”
“The conference is an opportunity to advance measures that will help avoid some disaster, and lead humanity on a new path toward a world free of nuclear weapons,” the Secretary-General said.
But Guterres warned that “geopolitical weapons are reaching new highs,” there are nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons in arsenals worldwide, and countries seeking “false security” are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on “weapons of doom”. Huh.
“All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are rising and the guardrails are weakening to prevent escalation,” he said, “and when the crisis – along with nuclear ventures – led to Russia’s invasion of the Middle East and the Korean peninsula. Ukraine is celebrating.”
Guterres called on the participants of the conference to take a number of actions: urgently reinforce and reaffirm the “77-year norm against the use of nuclear weapons”, with new commitments to reduce arsenals, towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. Work tirelessly in addressing the “emerging tension”. in the Middle East and Asia” and promoting the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
“Future generations are counting on your commitment to step back from the abyss,” he urged ministers and diplomats. “This is our moment to complete this fundamental test and lift the cloud of nuclear annihilation once and forever.”
Since 1970, the non-proliferation treaty, known as the NPT, has the broadest adherence to any arms control agreement, of which some 191 countries are members.
Under its provisions, the five original nuclear powers – the United States, China, Russia (then the Soviet Union), Britain and France – agreed to negotiate toward someday eliminating their arsenals and nations without nuclear weapons. Promised not to get them in return. To guarantee being able to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
India and Pakistan, which did not join the NPT, proceeded to get the bombs. So did North Korea, which ratified the deal but later announced it was withdrawing. Non-signatory Israel is believed to have a nuclear arsenal, but neither confirms nor denies it. Nonetheless, as a framework for international cooperation on disarmament, the treaty has been credited with limiting the number of nuclear entrants (US President John F. Kennedy once predicted about 20 nuclear-armed nations).
The meeting, which ends on August 26, aims to build consensus on next steps, but hopes remain low – if any – for agreement.
Still, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, Japanese Prime Ministers Fumio Kishida and Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama, and foreign ministers from more than a dozen countries are expected to attend from at least 116 countries, a United Nations official did not name. Spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly before the conference.
Other speakers at Monday’s inauguration include UN nuclear chief Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Beerbock.
The five-year review of the NPT was to take place in 2020, when the world was already facing a lot of crisis, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is taking place at a time when fears of a nuclear conflict fueled by Russia’s comments after the February 24 invasion of neighboring Ukraine have increased.
Russian President Vladimir Putin then warned that any attempt to intervene would have “results you’ll never see” and emphasized that his country is “one of the most powerful nuclear powers.” A few days later, Putin ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert.
Patricia Lewis, former director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, now in charge of international security programs at the international affairs think tank Chatham House, London, said: “President Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons has shocked the international community. “
Russia is not only an NPT signatory but a depository for treaty ratification, and in January it joined four other nuclear powers, reiterating former US President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s statement that “a nuclear war will never Can be won and must never be fought,” she told the Associated Press.
Lewis said the countries participating in the review conference will have to make a difficult decision.
To support the treaty and what it means, “governments must address Russia’s behavior and threats,” she said. “On the other hand, to do so risks dividing the members of the treaty – some of whom have been persuaded or at least not concerned with Russia’s propaganda, for example, as NATO states.”
“There is no doubt that Russia will strongly oppose being named in the statements and any result documents,” Lewis said.