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New Report Highlights Rising Investments in Nuclear Arsenals

  • The SIPRI report indicates a continued modernization of nuclear arsenals and an increase in the number of operational nuclear warheads.
  • ICAN reported a significant rise in global nuclear weapons spending in 2023, with the US accounting for the majority of the increase.
  • Transparency on nuclear forces has decreased following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and high operational alert warheads are primarily in the US and Russia.
Nuclear Weapons

The nine nuclear-armed nations in the world continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals amid growing reliance on them as deterrence in 2023, a fresh report issued on June 17 by a Swedish think tank said.

"While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as cold war-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads," said Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). "This trend seems likely to continue and probably accelerate in the coming years and is extremely concerning."

Earlier this month, Russia and its ally Belarus launched a second phase of exercises to practice the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, part of the Kremlin’s efforts, analysts say, to discourage the West from ramping up support for Ukraine.

Separately, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said in its own report issued on June 17 that the nine nuclear-armed states spent a total of $91.4 billion on their nuclear weapons programs in 2023. The Geneva-based coalition of disarmament activists won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

ICAN said that figures show a $10.7 billion increase in global spending on nuclear weapons in 2023 compared to 2022, with the United States accounting for 80 percent of that increase. The U.S. share of total spending, $51.5 billion, is more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together. The next biggest spender was China at $11.8 billion, ICAN said, with Russia spending the third largest amount at $8.3 billion.

In its report, SIPRI estimated that some 2,100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert on ballistic missiles, and nearly all belong to Russia or the United States. However, it said that China is also believed to have some warheads on high operational alert for the first time.

Russia and the United States have together almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons, SIPRI said. The sizes of their military stockpiles seem to have remained relatively stable in 2023, although Russia is estimated to have deployed around 36 more warheads with operational forces than in January 2023, the watchdog added.

In its SIPRI Yearbook 2024, the institute said that transparency regarding nuclear forces has declined in both countries in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and debates around nuclear-sharing arrangements have increased in importance.

Washington suspended its bilateral strategic stability dialogue with Russia, and last year Moscow announced that it was suspending its participation in the New START nuclear treaty.

By RFE/RL

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