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Then, in January, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the United States – which together hold 12,270 of a global arsenal of 12,705 nuclear warheads reaffirmed their opposition to the proliferation of weapons. nuclear and agreed that there should be no nuclear war. (However, it must be said that the Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons found that those countries will spend $ 77 billion on updating their arsenal by 2021.)

Russia’s attack on Ukraine changed the world and made a period of prolonged emergency the relatively calm beginning of the year. Suddenly, the likes of US President Joe Biden or the Pope are talking about a possible World War III.

Another kind of terror

Many points need to be made to offer some context.

First, the “new” war launched by Moscow allows the world to forget about an older war: the war on terrorism. Days before the Russian attack, in Feb. 8, 2022, the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University in the United States published a report entitled Costs of War.

It was observed that the two decades of war on terrorism, which began after the 9/11 attacks, led to the violent deaths of 979,000 people (including all soldiers and civilians), and a larger number of people due to destroyed infrastructure, environment. deterioration and malnutrition. The research body linked the departure of 38 million people within their countries or abroad during this period to the war on terrorism.

Second, before the Russian attack, an arms race evidently took place. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has seen a steady increase in arms spending since 2015. Its total for the two pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 has reached a record US $ 4 trillion (four million dollars).

The United States, India, Great Britain and Russia alone are responsible for 62% of that spending, and the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the trend. President Biden’s proposed defense budget, for example, is the highest in U.S. history: $ 813 billion, to which the Senate recently added another $ 45 billion.

New nuclear threshold

Third, the nuclear threshold is changing. Russia’s decision to put its nuclear forces on alert following the invasion of Ukraine has been unprecedented and disturbing. Just four days after its attack in Feb. 28, the journal Security Studies published a study that found the majority of the public in some Western studies favor the use of nuclear weapons if they are more effective than the usual options!

Tensions within countries appear to reflect increasing distrust of states abroad.

Some countries without nuclear weapons also saw aggression as a valid reason for acquiring them. They were not in Iraq in 2003 and were attacked. Libya scrapped its unconventional arms programs in 2004 and underwent controversial intervention in 2011.

In 1994, Ukraine itself signed the Budapest Memorandum (along with Russia, Great Britain and the United States) to return to the Russian Federation its share of the Soviet nuclear and ballistic arsenal.

Is China next?

Finally, the world’s hotspots, such as Taiwan, Iran or the NATO border, are getting hotter. In May, Sino-American tensions intensified when Biden dismissed the United States ’strategic ambiguity on Taiwan and confirmed that it would respond militarily in case China invaded. Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran are in danger of collapsing, and we have yet to see Russia’s final reaction to NATO’s recent expansion.

World tensions are growing amid a reorganization of global power that is itself fueling conflicts. There was a resurgence of reactionary nationalism, growing social unrest in response to the gross inequality, and economic crisis that stemmed from this pandemic and war. Currently, there is no recognized leader or coalition of peoples, or truly multilateral assembly with real authority, that can alleviate these tensions.

Western societies have become more polarized, with tensions in some resembling a pre-civil war state. Tensions within countries appear to reflect increasing mistrust in foreign states, as if nations and their leaders are tired of peace.

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