By Janet Ekstract
NEW YORK- At this week’s 10th annual talks on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which began on August 1, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented that Russia is using Ukraine’s nuclear plant as the “equivalent of a human shield.” Blinken said the world is at “a critical moment” with the imminent threat of a nuclear war. Blinken highlighted what he labeled as North Korea’s “unlawful nuclear program” and its “ongoing provocations.” He added that both Iran and Russia are major threats to any hope of calming fears about a nuclear attack. The greatest threat is the fact that Russia took over Europe’s largest nuclear facility, which Blinken said is of major concern since Zaporizizhia is the main nuclear area in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the conference on Monday, said his goal is to decrease the risk of nuclear escalation. Guterres referred to nuclear threats in three regions including the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and from Russia since their invasion of Ukraine. Guterres said the grave concern is that the possibility of nuclear proliferation is moving closer to reality, adding “humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation.” He lamented that the opportunity for nuclear de-escalation is waning and that immediate action must be taken to further non-proliferation.
The meeting which opened on Monday is for reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and was initially set to meet two years ago but was postponed because of the pandemic. Though Russia’s President Putin sent a letter to the conference stating: “There can be no winners in a nuclear war, and it must never be fought,” the situation in Ukraine was at front and center for all those who spoke at the conference on Monday. Blinken added that the reason the takeover of the largest nuclear plant in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia is crucial is that the Russian army is using that region to launch attacks against Ukrainians he said “knowing that they can’t and won’t shoot back because they might accidentally strike a nuclear reactor or highly radioactive waste in storage.”
What’s even more worrying to the U.S. and experts on Russia, is the most recent nuclear ballistic missile test that Russia conducted in April that had Norway reporting high levels of radioactivity and its most recent attacks where Norway is currently reporting higher than normal levels of radioactivity in its country. Russia’s activities threaten the entire region, analysts have pointed out and many Eastern European countries are in the line of fire as well as the Baltic region. In the meantime, Putin appears to be hell-bent on hunkering down for the long haul as he has told the press and his threats direct and indirect are an indication that an immediate halt to any nuclear ambitions on Putin’s side must be facilitated as soon as possible.