Russian government sources have expressed alarm that the official Doomsday Clock – which measures how close humanity is coming to extinction – is now closer to Midnight than at any point in history.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the current tensions between Russia and NATO were “really alarming,'
That’s despite the fact that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the organisation behind the symbolic clock, has blamed the change on Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s hints about unleashing Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
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Rachel Bronson, the organisation’s president, told a news conference in Washington: “Russia's thinly-veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict by accident, intention or miscalculation is a terrible risk."
When the Doomsday Clock was first devised, in 1947, the hands stood at seven minutes to Midnight.
Since then, the clock has been updated many times, reflecting the political tensions of the day. The most positive moves were in the early 1990s, when the signing of a nuclear treaty between the US and the Soviet Union – and then the communist state’s collapse – seemed to rule out any danger of a nuclear war.
But throughout this century, the situation has worsened, with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine giving rise to new fears of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the West, and the clock being moved to 90 seconds to Midnight – its closest ever – on January 24.
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That move came only one day after the previous advance of the clock. Announcing that chilling decision, the Bulletin's executive chairman, Jerry Brown, said "the dangerous rivalry and hostility among the superpowers increases the likelihood of nuclear blunder.”.
Alongside the threat of nuclear war, the scientists factored in the still-present issue of the Covid-19 pandemic and the underlying menace of climate change when calculating the threat to mankind’s existence.
Despite Cold War crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Berlin Airlift, when the superpowers stood on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the danger has never been greater than it is today, the scientists say.
But Peskov continues to blame the Western allies’ support of Ukraine, rather than his boss’s threats: "It is indeed extremely alarming and there is no sign of de-escalation, given the policy that has been adopted by the North Atlantic Alliance and the US authorities,” he said.
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