'Step back and reflect': Researchers warn of nuclear weapons' increased role in global tensions

The role of atomic weapons has become more prominent and nuclear states are modernising arsenals as geopolitical relations deteriorate, researchers said Monday, urging world leaders to "step back and reflect".

Diplomatic efforts to control nuclear arms also suffered major setbacks amid strained international relations over the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its annual yearbook.

"We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War," Wilfred Wan, director of SIPRI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, said in a statement.

The research institute noted that in February 2023 Russia announced it was suspending participation in the 2010 New START treaty -- "the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty limiting Russian and US strategic nuclear forces".

SIPRI also noted that Russia carried out tactical nuclear weapon drills close to the Ukrainian border in May.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has upped his nuclear rhetoric since the Ukraine conflict began, warning in his address to the nation in February there was a "real" risk of nuclear war.

Around 2,100 were kept in a state of "high operational alert" on ballistic missiles.


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