UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Thursday for restoring Cold War “mechanisms” to avoid escalation of tensions between Russia and the West, after the White House declared the expulsion of 12 Russian diplomats, among others, from its UN mission.
“I am really concerned,” he replied when asked if the increased tension warrants a revival of Cold War safety mechanisms.
“I think we are coming to a situation that is similar to a large extent to what lived during the Cold War,” the UN chief said.
“I do believe it’s time for precaution of this sort guaranteeing effective communication, effective capacity to prevent escalation,” Guterres said.
He said that he believes that mechanisms of that sort are necessary again.
The question was raised after Britain and its allies expelled more than 100 diplomats in retaliation for the alleged Moscow-directed nerve-agent attack on March 4 against a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. They remain in critical condition.
The UN chief said there are “two important differences” between the Cold War era and the current situation.
“In the Cold War there were clearly two superpowers with a complete control of the situation in two areas of the world,” he said. “But now we have many other actors that are relatively independent with a really important role in many of the conflicts that we are witnessing.”
“On the other hand, during the Cold War there were mechanisms of communicating and control to avoid the escalation of incidents to make sure that things would not get out of control when tensions would rise,” the UN chief said.
While saying the old mechanisms should be restored, he gave no specifics.
During the Cold War, there were, for instance, “hotlines” set up among major capitals, such as between Washington and Moscow. Leaders could speak by telephone directly with each other when tensions were heightened by emergencies to avoid them escalating into a nuclear war.