A Russian official twice repeated a new message to President Vladimir Putin that “a nuclear war can never be won and should never be fought,” seemingly trying to walk back Putin’s warning after the invasion of Ukraine that Russia was a “powerful” nuclear power and any attempt to intervene would lead to “unfair consequences.” you’ve seen it before.” Putin’s comment then dramatically escalated global tensions, which rose days later when he ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert.
Igor Vishnevitsky, Deputy Director of the Non-Proliferation and Non-Proliferation of Arms Program at the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday began his country’s address to the conference, postponed due to the pandemic, to review the 50-year-old Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by reading Putin’s message to participants against nuclear war. He repeated the same words later.
In his opening speech on Monday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described Putin’s warnings after the invasion of Ukraine as a “dangerous and reckless nuclear rumble.”
What will be the impact of Putin’s new commitment is not yet clear.
Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mykola Tuchitsky said at the high-level meeting on Monday that Putin’s explicit threat to the world about Russia’s ability to use nuclear weapons was backed by “clear calls to do so by the Russian state media.”
“Thinkers and experts are widely debating what kind of nuclear weapons – tactical or strategic – Russia will use during the ongoing war against Ukraine,” he said.
“This is the background to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.” Defending Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, Vishnevitsky cited the expansion of NATO which he said “seeks undivided military, strategic and geopolitical hegemony” and forced Moscow to defend its “essential security interests”.
He said that Russia “has been subjected to a mixed military campaign fraught with sliding into a direct armed conflict between the nuclear powers.”
Moreover, the arms control regime, which has traditionally been a mainstay of international security and stability, is currently facing a crisis unprecedented in its scale. Vishnevitsky did not refer to Putin’s warning and his actions after the invasion of Ukraine, but said that given the current situation “it is more important than ever that the nuclear powers act with restraint and responsibility.”
He noted that in a joint statement issued in January, the five nuclear powers – Russia, the United States, China, Britain and France – emphasized that nuclear war should never be fought and cannot be won and stressed “the need to prevent not only a nuclear confrontation and any military confrontation between Nuclear Powers.
“It is necessary that all signatories prove by deeds their commitment to these provisions,” the Russian official said.
The review conference, which ends on August 26, aims to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a cornerstone of international disarmament efforts. Its goal is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately achieve a world free of nuclear weapons, and it has the broadest support of any arms control agreement, with 191 parties to the treaty.
Under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the original five nuclear powers agreed to negotiate one day the elimination of their arsenals, and non-nuclear-weapon states pledged not to acquire them in exchange for a guarantee that they would be able to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Chinese Ambassador Fu Cong, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Arms Control Division, whose country has close ties with Russia, told delegates Tuesday that “the NPT is extremely tense and faces new and most severe challenges since the end of the Cold War.”
“The specter of a Cold War mentality will remain,” he said, referring to the deteriorating global strategic security environment, the “outdated approach to security based on military alliances” and the growing threat of arms race and conflict.
Fu called on the five nuclear powers to “work together to reduce nuclear risks,” “strengthen communications on strategic stability” and have an in-depth dialogue on limiting the role of nuclear weapons in their national security doctrines and on a wide range of issues including missiles. Defense, outer space, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence.
Blinken, the top US diplomat, said Monday that the United States had chosen to “act with restraint” in response to Russia’s actions and to avoid anything that could inadvertently increase nuclear tensions. As examples, he said, the United States had abandoned previously scheduled tests of ICBMs and had not raised the alert status of its nuclear forces “in response to the rumble of Russian swords”.
“There is no place in our world — no place in our world — for nuclear deterrence based on coercion, intimidation or blackmail,” Blinken said. “We have to stand together in rejecting this.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm as the war in Ukraine began on Monday, nuclear threats in Asia and the Middle East, and other tensions, warning that “humanity is just one misunderstanding, a miscalculation far from nuclear annihilation.”
Blinken said the US, UK and France have issued a set of principles and best practices that all nuclear-weapon states in the NPT must abide by, “among which every effort must be made to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again”.