Doomsday clock could be brought forward amid threat of nuclear war

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Vladimir Putin’s repeated threats of a nuclear war has raised concerns the elimination of the whole humanity could happen sooner than expected. Scientists are set to reveal the Doomdsay Clock next week in a highly-anticipated forecast as tensions between Russia and Ukraine could push the minute hand even closer to 12 o’clock. Historically, the clock has measured the danger of nuclear disaster, but now it also represents just how close – or far – humanity is from the brink.

As the war rages on in Ukraine, the nuclear threat is now making a comeback and could significantly determine the outcome of the forecast.

Scientists from the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a Chicago-based group of experts in the fields of nuclear risk, climate change, disruptive technologies and bioterrorism, will make that assessment next week, with Russian nuclear threats at the forefronts of discussions.

In a statement, they said: “For many years, we and others have warned that the most likely way nuclear weapons might be used is through an unwanted or unintended escalation from a conventional conflict. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought this nightmare scenario to life.”

The Doomsday Clock shows how close humanity is to destroying life as we know it, with midnight representing the onset of a global catastrophe.

Scientists unveiled the first clock at the start of the Cold War in 1947 and set it at seven minutes before midnight. After the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty in 1991 to reduce nuclear weapons, the clock was reset to 17 minutes to midnight.

However, in recent years, the minute hand has been creeping closer to midnight.

The catastrophic disruption of climate change was first considered as a deciding hand-setting factor in 2007 when the clock was changed from seven minutes to midnight to five minutes to midnight in 2007.

Due to both nuclear risk and climate change, the clock was set at two minutes to midnight in 2018, and 100 seconds to midnight in 2020, the closest it has ever been.

The clock’s setting has since remained unchanged in both 2021 and 2022.

2023 could be different, as Putin and his allies have doubled down on their nuclear threats, raising the spectre of humanity’s annihilation.

Putin made a veiled reference to nuclear weapons in September while vowing to defend Russia’s “territoriality” after he annexed four Ukrainian regions, emphasising that “this is not a bluff.” Since then, Putin has made threatening remarks about Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

While Russia’s largest arsenal of tactical nukes – the largest in the world – could only kill tens of thousands if used against a city, its deployment could trigger a dangerous chain of reactions, culminating in a full-blown nuclear in the worst-case scenario.

President Joe Biden suggested in October that the potential of nuclear “Armageddon” is at its greatest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and that the US has secretly informed Russia that using nuclear weapons would have “catastrophic repercussions.”

One of the latest nuclear threats has come from Viktor Medvedchuk, an ally of Vladimir Putin, who warned of the possibility of a nuclear war breaking out in Europe.

In a wide-ranging article for Izvestia, a daily broadsheet newspaper in Russia, he said: “It is no longer Europe that teaches Ukraine politics, but Ukraine teaches Europe how to achieve economic decline and poverty with the help of a policy of hatred and intransigence.”

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Mr Medvedchuk added: “And if Europe continues to continue this policy, it will be dragged into a war, possibly into a nuclear one.”

With the war in its 11th month, Putin’s ally said he sees only two ways out of the current war.

He explained: “And now there are only two ways out: to slide into a world war and a nuclear conflict, or to start the process of detente again, for which it is necessary to take into account the interests of all parties. But for this, it is necessary to recognise politically that Russia has interests, that they must be taken into account in the construction of a new detente.

“But if the world political system is not capable of elementary decency, blinded by pride and its own mercantile interests, then even more difficult times await us.”

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