UN chief Guterres warns of ‘catastrophic’ consequences of conflict in Ukraine

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres used his opening speech at the Munich Security Conference on Friday to warn against conflict in Ukraine, saying it was “high time to seriously de-escalate.”

“With a concentration of Russian forces around Ukraine, I am deeply concerned about heightened tensions and increased speculation about a military conflict in Europe. I still think it will not happen. But if it did, it would be catastrophic,” he said.

“I am often asked whether we are in a new Cold War. My answer is that the threat to global security now is more complex and probably higher than at that time,” he said.

“During much of the Cold War, there were mechanisms that enabled the protagonists to calculate risks and use back-channels to prevent crises. Today, many of those systems no longer exist and most of the people trained to use them are no longer here with us.”

Just prior to Guterres, conference chair Wolfgang Ischinger described this year’s edition as “the single most importance conference” during his 14 years in charge of the meeting. The world was faced, he said, with a “rising tide of mutually reinforcing crises.”

Ischinger said he regretted that Russian representatives were not at the conference, and welcomed the participation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, at which point many delegates in the hall clapped.