Risks of nuclear war rising because of global tensions and insecure stockpiles, warn experts

'Too many nuclear weapons in the world remain ready to launch on short notice,' the military, political and diplomatic figures say

Urgent action is needed to minimise the risk of a nuclear war, more than 120 senior military, political and diplomatic figures from across the world have warned.

Ahead of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, which starts today, the experts wrote in a letter that the danger of such a conflict was “underestimated or insufficiently understood” by world leaders.

The signatories include people from across the political spectrum such as former Conservative Defence Secretary Lord King, a Labour counterpart Lord Browne, former Foreign Secretaries Margaret Beckett and David Owen, and former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell. John McColl, former Nato Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Lord Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, and General James Cartwright, former Vice-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also signed the letter.

“Tensions between nuclear-armed states and alliances in the Euro-Atlantic area and in both South and East Asia remain ripe with the potential for military miscalculation and escalation,” says the letter to Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“In a vestige of the Cold War, too many nuclear weapons in the world remain ready to launch on short notice, greatly increasing the chances of an accident.

“This fact gives leaders faced with an imminent potential threat an insufficient amount of time to communicate with each other and act with prudence.”

There should also be better crisis management in “conflict hotspots” and new security measures, warning that stockpiles were “insufficiently secure, making them possible targets for terrorism”.

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