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‘The world has changed’ Winning a nuclear war is impossible, says Moscow, but Washington must understand that peace is harder now than during the Cold War

Source: Meduza
Maxim Shemetov / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

World leaders traded ominous remarks about the future on Monday as the 10th Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) got underway in New York. “Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” warned UN head Antonio Guterres, adding, “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.” Western powers and senior officials in Russia agree about the dangers of atomic bombs, but the consensus weakens once the conversation moves to concrete steps.

Representatives of France, Great Britain, and the United States issued a joint statement criticizing Russia’s “irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behavior” in response to Western opposition to the “unprovoked and unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine.” “Nuclear weapons, for as long as they exist, should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war. We condemn those who would use or threaten to use nuclear weapons for military coercion, intimidation, and blackmail,” they said.

President Biden made a separate statement, as well, urging Moscow to “negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026.” (He also called on Beijing to “engage in talks that will reduce the risk of miscalculation and address destabilizing military dynamics.”)

In his own appeal to the conference, Vladimir Putin stressed that winning a nuclear war is impossible and beginning one would be unwise:

As a state party to the NPT and one of its depositaries, Russia consistently follows the letter and spirit of the treaty. We have fully fulfilled our obligations under bilateral agreements with the U.S. on reducing and limiting the weapons in question. We are guided by the understanding that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and such a war should never be unleashed. We support equal and indivisible security for all members of the global community.

On his Telegram channel, the increasingly belligerent Security Council Deputy Chairman (and former President) Dmitry Medvedev remarked that “the Americans have come crawling” to talk about strategic security:

With a heavy heart, Biden spit out that, hey, even during the Cold War the USSR and U.S. discussed security issues and found compromises. And that we need a new treaty to limit nuclear arsenals to replace START-3, which expires in 2026. That’s all fine, of course, but I’ll point this out again: the situation now is far worse than the Cold War. Far worse! And we’re not to blame for that. And most importantly… Do we need it at all? The world has changed.

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