More than 120 international figures have warned of an increasing risk of nuclear war amid global tensions and insecure stockpiles, calling for urgent action to minimize the threat.
The warning came in a letter published on Monday signed by senior military, political and diplomatic figures from around the world.
“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,” the letter read.
“We believe the risks posed by nuclear weapons and the international dynamics that could lead to nuclear weapons being used are underestimated or insufficiently understood by world leaders,” the letter added.
The letter, which was addressed to Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s minister for foreign affairs, was signed by John McColl, the former NATO deputy supreme allied commander in Europe; David Richards, the ex-chief of the British defense staff; and American General James Cartwright, a former vice-chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, among others.
The figures also warned of a growing risk of a nuclear accident, as too many nuclear weapons across the globe “remain ready to launch on short notice.”
The signatories called for better crisis management in “conflict hotspots” and new security measures, as there are nuclear stockpiles, which are “insufficiently secure, making them possible targets for terrorism.”
The letter was published ahead of the start of a conference titled The Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in the Austrian capital of Vienna.
According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, more than 16,000 nuclear warheads remain in the possession of nine nations (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea).
The US along with Russia holds the largest nuclear arsenals in the world. Washington is reportedly planning to spend more than USD 1 trillion to modernize its nuclear weapons over the next three decades.