The first thermonuclear test in Los Alamos in 1952
William J Perry, who served under president Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, made the sobering assessment during the Santa Fe Nuclear Weapons Summit in New Mexico.
Asked by author and journalist Eric Schlosser how great the threat of nuclear weapons being deployed currently is, Mr Perry replied: “I’m sorry to report to you that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
According to undark.org, Mr Schlosser said he did not like that answer, to which Mr Perry responded: “I don’t like it at all. But I’m afraid it’s the truth."
The tense stand off between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has drawn plenty of comparisons to the 1962 confrontation between America and the former Soviet Union.
For 13 days, the world was on tenterhooks as Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to place missiles on Cuba, pointing towards Florida, after the disastrous US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion failed to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist government.
Mr Perry is not the only person who believes the world is as close to nuclear devastation as it has ever been.
William J Perry served as Defense Secretary under Bill Clinton
The symbolic Doomsday Clock, maintained by academic journal the Bulletin, represents the chances of global catastrophe by pushing the hands closer or further away from "midnight" – the moment when the apocalypse strikes.
Since January, shortly after president Trump's inauguration, the hands were moved to two and a half minutes to midnight – the closest it's been since the 1950s.
During the summit audience was also shown a harrowing short video, made by Mr Perry himself, on the potentially catastrophic effects of a nuclear bomb hitting Washington DC.
The location of the nuclear summit is not a coincidence – Santa Fe is only a short distance from Los Alamos, where the first atomic bombs were built in 1945 under the secretive Manhatten Project.