As Doomsday Clock strikes close to midnight, US risks ‘blundering’ into nuclear war-NewsCO

January 29, 2017

Growing hostilities between Russia and the United States are heightening the threat of a nuclear catastrophe – a threat that could be mitigated with help from countries like Australia, an emeritus professor at Stanford University says.

Dr William Perry, who also served as US defence secretary under Bill Clinton, told SBS he believed the tensions could “end civilisation”.

“There is a danger we could end up with some sort of a crisis, some sort of military conflict, which could then put us up to the level where the probability of blundering into a nuclear war now becomes significant,” he said.

“I think nations all over the world should work together – it’s a problem that affects anybody. If we have, for example, a real nuclear war, it’s not just affecting the two countries involved, it affects the entire planet.

“A full scale nuclear war has the possibility to end civilisation all over the planet so, yes, it’s not just an issue for the nuclear powers, it’s an issue for all powers.”

Dr Perry’s comments came as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on Friday announced that the ‘Doomsday Clock’ had ticked over to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight – the closest humanity has been to destroying the planet since 1953 when the Soviet Union first began testing thermonuclear weapons.

The decision to move the ominous clock’s hands from three minutes to two-and-a-half to midnight was, the Science and Security Board explained, due to a rise in “strident nationalism”.

“Donald Trump made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change,” a statement from the scientists read.

Late last year, Trump rubbished decades of American bipartisan policy designed to help reduce the number of nuclear weapons in less than 140 characters.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability,” he tweeted on December 22. The tweet has since been removed.

The scientists’ statement also outlined how US-Russia relations had compromised global security.

“This year, events surrounding the US presidential campaign – including cyber offensives and
deception campaigns apparently directed by the Russian government and aimed at disrupting the US election – have brought American democracy and Russian intentions into question and thereby made the world more dangerous than was the case a year ago.”

In an opinion piece penned for The New York Times, two members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists also pinned the Doomsday Clock’s edging towards Armageddon solely on Trump.

“Never before has the Bulletin decided to advance the clock largely because of the statements of a single person,” Lawrence Krauss and David Titley wrote.

“But when that person is the new president of the United States, his words matter.”

“President Trump has signalled that he would make matters worse either because of a mistaken belief that the threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate can be ignored or that the words of a president of the United States do not matter to the rest of the world.”

Krauss and Titley’s sentiment was echoed by Dr Perry.

“I’m concerned with some of the statements he’s made… it would be dangerous if he really believed them.

“I don’t believe any statement should really be made in an offhand way about an issue so great,” he said.

“Even though it’s a low probability, if it happens, the consequences are astronomical, the consequences, as I say, are no less than the end of civilisation, therefore we have to take it seriously that the probability of that happening is certainly not zero.” 

Dr Perry founded the William J. Perry Project in 2013 with the aim of educating the public on the threat of nuclear weapons with a view to seeing that such weapons are eliminated globally.

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