The head of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, warned on Feb. 6 that the world may be on the brink of a “wider war” as the chances of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine reaching a peaceful outcome slowly diminish.
The secretary-general made the comments at a briefing to the U.N. General Assembly where he laid out his priorities for 2023 and delivered a gloomy outlook for the year ahead.
Guterres told the U.N. assembly that experts have determined that the so-called “Doomsday Clock”—in other words, self-destruction—is ticking closer to midnight than ever.
“In 2023, they surveyed the state of the world—with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the runaway climate catastrophe, and rising nuclear threats that are undermining global norms and institutions. And they came to a clear conclusion. The Doomsday Clock is now 90 seconds to midnight, which means 90 seconds to total global catastrophe,” Guterres said.
“In truth, the Doomsday Clock is a global alarm clock. We need to wake up—and get to work. We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes,” he continued.
Guterres pointed to various situations and problems that are happening across the globe such as wars and climate change, the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, and what he said are “epic geopolitical divisions that are undermining global solidarity and trust.”
The U.N. chief’s comments come as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine nears.
Guterres in his speech said that the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is inflicting huge suffering on the Ukrainian people, and creating profound global implications.
“The prospects for peace keep diminishing. The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” he said. “I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open.”
Guterres also pointed to the conflict between Israel and Palestine—where the establishment of a two-state solution is looking more and more unlikely—as well as the lack of women’s rights and continued terror attacks in Afghanistan.
He also noted ongoing situations in the Sahel, where countries including Burkina Faso are located, as well as continued issues in Burma, which is entering a new wave of violence and repression, and Haiti.
US Sends More Weapons to Ukraine
The secretary-general added that the world needs to look to the U.N.’s charter and international law to work toward achieving peace, adding that if every country were to fulfill its obligations under the charter, “the right to peace would be guaranteed.”
Russian forces have continued to keep Ukrainian troops tied down with intense attacks in the eastern Donbas region in recent weeks as Moscow looks to assemble additional troops for what is widely expected to be an offensive in the coming weeks.
On Feb. 3, the United States announced it would send a wide range of new weapons to Ukraine, including critical air defense and counter-drone capabilities, armored infantry vehicles, Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery ammunition, and conventional and long-range rockets to be used with the U.S.-provided HIMARS, suggesting that Russia’s war with Ukraine will likely escalate in the coming months.
The United States said its package of military support was worth around $2.5 billion, taking the total amount of U.S. military assistance for Ukraine to around $27.4 billion.
“The United States also continues to rally the world to support Ukraine. We have seen incredible solidarity from our allies and partners,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement announcing the new package.
“We applaud the more than 50 countries who have come together in solidarity with Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he continued. “Russia alone could end its unprovoked war today. Until it does so, we will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”