Putin says he doesn’t want to start a nuclear war

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her US counterpart Antony Blinken have sharply condemned Russia’s nuclear threats to the United Nations.

Russia has repeatedly used “reckless nuclear rhetoric” jeopardizing efforts of the past 50 years to contain nuclear weapons around the world, Baerbock said Monday at the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. With Ukraine, Russia attacked a country without nuclear weapons, “brutally violating” earlier assurances.

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Blinken accused Russia of “dangerous nuclear saber-rattling.” “There is no place in our world for nuclear deterrence based on force and intimidation or blackmail. We must stand together to reject this.”

US President Joe Biden said in a statement that his administration is ready to negotiate “expeditiously” a new arms control framework to replace the New Start Treaty when it expires in 2026. “But negotiations require a willing partner who acts in good faith,” Biden said. And Russia’s war against Ukraine represents an attack on the fundamental pillars of the international order.

The New Start disarmament treaty is the only remaining major arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. Shortly before it expired in February 2021, Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed on an extension. The treaty limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries to 800 delivery systems and 1,550 operational nuclear warheads.

Russia’s President appeased

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, has asserted that he has no intention of starting a nuclear war. “We assume that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it must never be started,” he wrote in a message to conference participants published on the Kremlin’s website.

In doing so, he countered growing fears since the beginning of the war that Moscow might use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Shortly after the attack on the neighboring country, Putin put the Russian nuclear forces on increased alert. Now he stressed that Russia is fulfilling and will continue to fulfill its obligations as a founding member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Warning from UN chief

UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world is in a “time of nuclear danger not seen since the height of the Cold War”. “Humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in the terrible fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”. The world is just one misunderstanding or miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, addresses the United Nations Review Conference…Photo: Yuki Iwamura/FR171758 AP/dpa

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is more than 50 years old and to which 191 countries have joined, forms the basis for nuclear disarmament worldwide. It states that only the US, Russia, China, France and the UK can have nuclear weapons. The four other suspected nuclear powers India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have either not joined the treaty or have withdrawn from it. The aim of the treaty is to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, promote nuclear disarmament and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

This year’s Review Conference will be held with a time delay

A review of achievements is planned every five years. The tenth review conference was supposed to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the corona pandemic and will now run until August 26. Nuclear disarmament had already faltered before Russia launched a war of aggression against Ukraine. Now the reduction of the nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons worldwide is becoming even more difficult.

After her arrival in New York, Baerbock nevertheless advocated concrete disarmament steps. At the same time, however, she acknowledged German participation in nuclear deterrence. “Russia’s brutal war of aggression makes it clear that nuclear weapons are unfortunately a bitter reality,” she said. “The commitment to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear deterrence are not contradictory in these times.”

Germany only secondarily involved in nuclear weapons

Germany does not have any nuclear weapons itself. However, according to expert estimates, up to 20 US nuclear bombs are stationed at the Büchel air base in Rhineland-Palatinate, which are to be used by Bundeswehr fighter jets in an emergency. Germany is participating in NATO’s nuclear deterrent.

Büchel Air Base with adjoining depot area. The USA stores up to 20 nuclear warheads here.Photo: PICTURE ALLIANCE / DPA

In view of tensions and stalled negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, also called on Tehran in his speech: “We need access that is appropriate to the breadth and depth of this nuclear problem”. Only then will the IAEA be able to “give the necessary and credible assurances that any activity in the Islamic Republic of Iran serves peaceful purposes.”

Nuclear deal negotiations are currently stalling

Negotiations on reviving the 2015 agreement between Iran and the six contracting parties – China, Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia and the USA – have been stalled since March.

However, Iran signaled on Monday its willingness to resume nuclear talks. “We have received important messages in the last few days (…) There is indeed a possibility for new negotiations soon,” said foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani in Tehran.

For Baerbock, the nuclear weapons conference marks the start of a three-day trip to North America. On Tuesday she will give a speech on transatlantic relations in New York and will travel on to Canada in the evening for her inaugural visit. (dpa)

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