The international arms control system is collapsing, according to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has urged Russia and the United States to stop the imminent demise of a key nuclear accord – the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
Speaking at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament on Monday, Guterres said that the world “simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War”.
“I will be blunt. Key components of the international arms control architecture are collapsing,” he said.
“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised,” the UN chief added. “It is very important that this treaty be preserved.”
The US has already begun the process of withdrawing from the treaty in response to Moscow’s deployment of the 9M729 missile, prompting Russia to announce its own withdrawal.
The collapse of the 1987 treaty, which banned ground-launched missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km, has sparked fears of a new arms race in Europe.
The US withdrawal is not set to take effect until August, giving a six-month window to save the treaty, but few expect this to happen and NATO has warned the world should ready itself for the pact’s scrapping.
Guterres recalled that despite a mutual lack of trust, the US, the former Soviet Union and later Russia agreed to a series of arms control agreements through a commitment to strict verification, which became “one of the hallmarks of international security”.
He voiced hope that nations would recommit to the principles of verification and compliance to forge urgently needed deals covering nuclear weapons and new technologies like “hypersonic weapons that could be used to launch attacks at unprecedented speed”.
Guterres warned that new technologies were changing the arms control landscape “in ways we do not yet understand and cannot even imagine”.
“We need a new vision for arms control in the complex international security environment of today,” he said.