West needs Cold War ‘backchannels’ with Putin to stop nuclear war

Vladimir Putin says threat of nuclear weapons is ‘growing’

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The chair of the UK’s Defence Select Committee has warned “there is a real danger” the war in Ukraine will escalate into a nuclear conflict, if Cold War-style “backchannels” between the Kremlin and western seats of power are not developed.

Tobias Ellwood told Express.co.uk: “The architecture in the Cold War that kept us safe, were all the various nuclear treaties that existed.

“That’s all gone now, there’s no limits. There’s not one single treaty left that’s operating.”

Mr Ellwood said the absence of a “back phone” between officials close to Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak creates the conditions for the war in Ukraine to become nuclear.

Without backchannels of communication, the MP for Bournemouth East said, neither side has a means of reassuring the other that their intention is to avoid using nuclear force.

He said: “When Lavrov says something or Peskov says something to the press, you then have to dissect and read between the lines of what they’re doing.

“There isn’t somebody very senior to Putin, who is just a friend of Putin, an ex-ambassador that was in Washington… who then says ‘Listen, I know it on authority that he was just saying this for a domestic audience, don’t worry about it’”.

Mr Ellwood said without this Cold War-style communication channel, he is concerned the war “ratchets out of control”.

“The real danger is it escalates because of misinterpretation, miscalculation, or by accident, and that’s where the backchannels come into play,” he added.

The former Army Captain, who served in Bosnia and other war zones, said the absence of secure communication lines between the Kremlin, the White House and Downing Street, makes the war in Ukraine, and the diplomatic tension surrounding it, more threatening to global security than anything during the Cold War.

“In the Bay of Pigs [invasion], there were the backchannels, so they were testing us, and then we tested them.

“You never got Khrushchev, Brezhnev, or any of these people actively saying: ‘If the United States does this, I’m going to blow them up with a nuclear weapon’, nobody used that sort of language.

“And here you have Putin saying: ‘I am actively engaging with my tactical nuclear weapons’”.

Last week, the Russian president announced he was suspending his country’s involvement in its last remaining nuclear arms treaty with the United States, the New Start treaty.

“They want to inflict a strategic defeat on us and claim our nuclear facilities”, Mr Putin said.

“In this regard, I am forced to state that Russia is suspending its participation in the strategic offensive arms treaty.”

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