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This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Aug. 1, 2022. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons license.

The head of the United Nations issued a stark warning Monday that global geopolitical conflicts and escalating military tensions between nuclear-armed powers have pushed humanity to the brink of self-destruction—a looming catastrophe that can only be avoided by eliminating atomic weapons entirely.

The NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] review conference comes as Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine and rising tensions between the US and China continue to heighten fears of a large-scale conflict, one that could involve the use of nuclear weaponry.

“Today, humanity is just one misunderstanding, one miscalculation away from nuclear annihilation,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his remarks at the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in New York, the first formal gathering of NPT signatories since the separate UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons took effect last year, without support from the United States, Russia, China, and other nuclear-armed countries.

“We have been extraordinarily lucky so far. But luck is not a strategy,” said Guterres, who lamented that “humanity is in danger of forgetting the lessons forged in the terrifying fires of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Japanese cities that the US attacked with nuclear bombs in 1945.

The attacks marked the only time nuclear weapons have been used in warfare.

“Almost 13,000 nuclear weapons are now being held in arsenals around the world. All this at a time when the risks of proliferation are growing and guardrails to prevent escalation are weakening,” Guterres continued. “Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only guarantee they will never be used. We must work relentlessly towards this goal.”

The NPT review conference comes as Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine and rising tensions between the US and China continue to heighten fears of a large-scale conflict, one that could involve the use of nuclear weaponry. Recent research indicates that the global nuclear stockpile is set to grow in the coming years for the first time since the Cold War era.

Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep