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UN chief: Security threat seems higher than during Cold War

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says the world is probably a more dangerous place today than it was during the Cold War

MUNICH, Germany — With East-West tensions at their highest level since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday the world was likely a more dangerous place today than during the Cold War.

Guterres warned that a small mistake or miscommunication between the major powers could have catastrophic consequences.

“I am often asked if we are in a new cold war,” Guterres said in his keynote address at an annual security conference in Munich. “My answer is that the threat to global security is now more complex and probably higher than it was then.”

During the decades-long confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States in the 20th century, “there were mechanisms that allowed the protagonists to calculate risks and use relief channels to prevent crises” , Guterres said. “Today many of these systems no longer exist and most of the people trained to use them are no longer here with us.”

“I urge all parties to be extremely careful with their rhetoric. Public statements should aim to reduce tensions, not inflame them,” António Guterres said.

While US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the Munich security conference, no senior Russian officials were present.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the Russians had missed an opportunity.

“Especially in the current extremely threatening situation, it would have been important to also meet Russian representatives in Munich,” she said in a statement ahead of the conference. Even small steps towards peace would be “better than a big step towards war”.

In her speech later Friday, she said the security crisis in Europe is not a Ukrainian crisis.

“It’s a Russian crisis. We urgently call on Russia to withdraw its troops immediately,” she said. “The first signals in this direction were a beacon of hope, but we need to see action now. Because the Russian threat remains real.

Baerbock said it was essential that the West impose crushing sanctions on Moscow in the event of an invasion, even if it would cost Europe dearly. The Biden administration has made it clear that an invasion would mean the end of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was built to boost Russian gas exports to Germany.

“In Germany we are ready to pay a high price for this,” Baerbock said. “That’s why all options are on the table, including Nord Stream 2.”


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