Perhaps the biggest relief for the world when the Cold War ended in 1991 was that the diplomatic standoff between the United States (US) and the Soviet Union never escalated to full scale nuclear war.Unfortunately for the world, this did not mean that the risk of potentially apocalyptic nuclear conflict was gone forever. This past Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) issued a joint statement warning that certain nuclear-armed states were straying from long-standing disarmament obligations, and were instead upgrading their arsenals. The Red Cross seemed particularly concerned about certain states making their nuclear stockpiles easier to use.The statement comes around a week after the Trump administration in the US announced that it would be abandoning the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed in 1987 and has been central to superpower arms control since then. Apparently, this is because US President Donald Trump believes that Russia has not been upholding its end of the treaty. Some analysts have also hypothesized that Washington’s actions may have stemmed from concern about China not being a signatory to the treaty. Soon after the US announced that it would be withdrawing from the treaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow would follow suite, and would initiate development of new types of weapons that had been banned under the INF.That the Trump administration has opted to deal with its concerns about Chinese militarism through the severance of the INF rather than diplomatic engagement does not bode well for the world. Of particular concern is the precedent such a step would set in other parts of the globe, particularly the Subcontinent. According to a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published in 2015, Pakistan now has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world. Much of this stockpile consists of low-yield tactical weapons – small nuclear warheads designed to be used in battlefield situations. The Trump administration’s decision to abandon the INF at a time when the world is becoming increasingly non-unipolar and jingoism is rearing its ugly head in different pockets could soon lead to a new arms race. Given how much technological development has taken place in the military sector since the end of the Cold War, this could mean that the world could be at even greater risk than it was from 1947 to 1991. There are of course those who would say that the threat of mutually assured destruction will prevent full scale nuclear war from ever breaking out. However, this may not stand true anymore with missile defense systems becoming increasingly sophisticated. Furthermore, in an arena with nuclear weapons, one mistake or lapse in judgement is all it could take to initiate a full scale nuclear war. *Published in Daily Times, February 12th 2019.