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The enormous fear that exists about the use of nuclear weapons and that has resurfaced with the threats of Russia to Ukraine It raises the same magnitude of doubts and questions, even in areas that, in theory, are very far from the countries most likely to clash. They are such powerful weapons with such devastating effects that, although their use is done in a small proportion, it means breaking a barrier that had not been crossed since the horror caused by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs in 1945.
Román Ortiz, a Spanish analyst at the Center for International Security at the Francisco de Vitoria University (Madrid), points out that the first thing to bear in mind is that there is a very wide range of possibilities for the use of nuclear weapons. There could be an attack from a very low threshold to a massive nuclear exchange.
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“We do not know where the use of nuclear weaponsthe risk is that there will be an escalation that will end at least in the death of millions of people and at most in the end of organized life”, he tells El Comercio.
However, he emphasizes that at this point in the war between Russia and Ukraine It is not impossible to use nuclear weapons by Putin, but it seems highly unlikely. “There is a risk, but it is small. There are other intermediate possibilities that seem to me much more likely, such as the use of chemical weapons.”, he notes.
Speaking of the possible scenarios of a nuclear attack by Russia, a question that usually assails Latin America is how it could be affected by this potential event. Although it is often said that the region has a privileged position in the face of this type of war, it is worth delving a little into this reality.
Damage in Latin America?
In principle, the news for the region is not bad. Carlos Umaña, member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) and the International Association of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, emphasizes that no direct attack will fall on the countries of the southern hemisphere.
“The countries of Latin America are protected by the Treaty of Tlatelolco, we are a zone free of nuclear weapons, we are not a target for a nuclear weapon. However, we are not exempt, the effects are global”, he tells this newspaper.
The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) is an international pact that entered into force on April 25, 1969 and that imposes the denuclearization of the territory of Latin America and the Caribbean of the countries that signed the agreement. It was proposed by the Mexican government in response to the fear caused by the missile crisis in Cuba in the early 1960s. In total, 37 countries are part of this agreement, including Peru.
However, the protection of the region against a nuclear attack depends largely on the size of the nuclear exchange.
“If we talk about the hypothesis that is being discussed at the moment, which is the use of the smaller-scale tactical nuclear weapon, the effect of that weaponry is relatively limited, even in terms of contamination. Then Latin America would not be affected by that use. Another thing is if we were talking about a global nuclear exchange, but we are still very far from that hypothesis “Ortiz points out.
Blows on other fronts
Although it is highly unlikely that Latin America will be affected by a direct nuclear attack, other consequences could reach other parts of the world, especially at the geopolitical level.
Román Ortiz points out that if Putin crosses the line and executes the nuclear attack, there will be a radical increase in the defensive measures of the United States, which, in all probability, would mean that the tolerance that has existed for the presence of countries close to Russiaor even the presence of Russian military technicians in some countries like Venezuela or Nicaragua would end.
On the other hand, the expert recalls that there have been two countries in the region, Argentina and especially Brazil, that have come close to developing their own nuclear weapons in the 1970s, so a Russian nuclear attack is likely to start a debate about whether giving up these weapons was wise.
“This must be understood in the sense that the use of a nuclear weapon by Putin would also mean a very big boost to proliferation on a nuclear scale. That is, if that weapon is used against a non-nuclear country like Ukraine The incentives for everyone to equip themselves with the same weapons will be very great. That could undoubtedly affect Latin America, although in a very tangential way because in some way the United States is not going to tolerate that there are other countries in the hemisphere that tend to develop those capacities.”, he adds.