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EDITORIAL: In his address to the inaugural session of the 10th Review Conference of States Parties to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told them some home truths. “We have been extraordinary lucky so far [about averting nuclear disaster],” he said, adding that “but luck is not a strategy, nor is it a shield from geopolitical tensions boiling over into nuclear conflict.”

Pointing to the stark reality that “today, the world is just one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation”, he urged nations to put humanity on a new path towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Later in a joint statement, representatives of the big three Western nuclear powers — the US, Britain and France — completely ignored his sane advice using the occasion instead to take a swipe at Russia for its “irresponsible and dangerous nuclear rhetoric and behaviour” and yet asserted that nuclear weapons should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression and prevent war — all reasons President Vladimir Putin cited to make a veiled threat against countries who might have intervened in his Ukraine ‘Military Operations’.

The US though has the singular distinction of actually dropping nuclear bombs on two Japanese cities, and never apologising for the colossal death and destruction they caused.

The danger of a nuclear conflict persists because of two key reasons: the three big Western nuclear powers’ discriminatory policies, and strengthening of their own guardrails. They are after Iran while turning a blind eye to its regional adversary, Israel, which is in possession of estimated 80-400 nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. Iran is being subjected to severe economic sanctions even though it says it has no intention to produce nukes.

On its own part, the US has been leading the nuclear arms race for over five decades, developing ever new strategic and tactical weapons. At one point it initiated, albeit abortively, a ‘star wars programme’ aimed at deploying nuclear weapons in space.

Yet it invaded and destroyed Iraq on the false pretext of making weapons of mass destruction. It is also in the habit of taking to moral high ground to give risk reduction lectures to rival states. In a statement to the ongoing Review Conference, President Joe Biden asked Russia (between them the two countries hold a vast majority of the existing nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons that can destroy the world many times over) to demonstrate its willingness to renew nuclear arms reduction pact, since the previous Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) Treaty is to expire in 2026.

He also called on China to “engage in talks that will reduce the risk of miscalculation and address destabilising military dynamics.”

Trimming down of nuclear arsenals is worthless. As long as nuclear weapons exist the threat of their use won’t vanish. The original nuclear powers need to lead the way to a safer world, as the Secretary-General suggested, by fulfilling the commitments they made when they signed, along with 182 other nations, the NPT.

Under it each of the State Parties was to undertake “good faith” negotiations “on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” That is where the Review Conference, which to run until August 26, needs to focus its attention and energies rather than pointing finger at Iran or proposing arms limitations.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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