Nuclear clock moving to midnight warns ex-Royal Navy chief ‘Something will to go wrong

Russia: Putin ‘playing a game of chess’ says expert

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Peers on Wednesday pressed the Government on what steps it is taking to reconcile differences between nuclear possessor states and non-nuclear possessor states at the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Baron West of Spithead argued the UK needed to find keep the channels of communication with Russia, led by President Vladimir Putin, open.

The Labour peer, the former First Sea Lord, said: “We really must get methods of engaging with people like Russia, because otherwise something is going to go wrong and the nuclear clock is moving towards midnight.

“And we really must really strain ourselves to get links with these countries so that something doesn’t go wrong.

“Because there’s no doubt for example, if we didn’t have nuclear weapons at all, and Russia had them with Mr Putin there, they would go ahead and do what they wanted to do.

“But we really have to make that effort.”

Former diplomat and independent crossbencher Lord Hannay of Chiswick also asked what the Government intends to do with regard to “strategic dialogue” among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) “for achieving a reduction in the risk of nuclear war”.

He went on: “What is the timetable for further meetings?

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“And what is the content which the Government is putting into that dialogue?”

Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad said he recognises “the vital importance that where we have issues of disagreement with the likes of other nuclear states, including Russia, we continue to engage and we are doing just that”.

He added: “Indeed, today, whilst it’s not specific to the issue of nuclear but the situation of security in Europe and Ukraine, we are meeting together through our Nato partners, my colleague minister Cleverly is present.

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“He will be meeting with, amongst others, the Russian deputy foreign minister on the security issues.”

In a rare joint statement issued on January 3, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) said they “believe strongly” that the further spread of nuclear weapons must be avoided and that a nuclear war “cannot be won and must never be fought”.

The statement followed the announcement that the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was due to start on January 4, had been postponed again due to the pandemic.

Also on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Moscow would use military means to neutralise threats to its security if political means did not prove enough, Interfax news agency reported.

He was speaking after talks in Brussels between Russia and NATO about Moscow’s security demands.

Mr Grushko said that Moscow laid out possible counter-measures that it could take during the talks, according to RIA news agency.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was willing to hold arms talks but would not allow Moscow to veto Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO one day – a core demand on which Russia says it will not yield.

Mr Stoltenberg told reporters: “There is a real risk for new armed conflict in Europe.

“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia. Our differences will not be easy to bridge.”

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