World Nuclear Forces: ‘Fewer But Newer’ Weapons

Human Wrongs Watch

At the start of 2012 eight states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel — possessed approximately 4400 operational nuclear weapons, according to a new report.

Credit: ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Nearly 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possess a total of approximately 19 000 nuclear weapons (see table), as compared with 20 530 at the beginning of 2011, says the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in its Yearbook 2012.

The decrease is due mainly to Russia and the USA further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons, adds the report.

New Nuclear Weapon Delivery Systems

At the same time, the report says, all five legally recognized nuclear weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, and appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan continue to develop new systems capable of delivering nuclear weapons and are expanding their capacities to produce fissile material for military purposes, according to SIPRI’s report.

‘In spite of the world’s revived interest in disarmament efforts, none of the nuclear weapon-possessing states shows more than a rhetorical willingness to give up their nuclear arsenals just yet. While the overall number of nuclear warheads may be decreasing, the long-term modernization programmes under way in these states suggest that nuclear weapons are still a currency of international status and power,’ says SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile.

World Nuclear Forces, 2012

Country Deployed warheads* Other warheads Total 2012 Total 2011
USA 2150 5850 8000 8500
Russia 1800 8200 10000 11000
UK 160 65 225 225
France 290 10 300 300
China 200 240 240
India 80-100 80-100 80-100
Pakistan 90-110 90-110 90-110
Israel 80 80 80
Total 4400 14600 19000 20530

Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2012 * “Deployed” means warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces

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2012 Human Wrongs Watch

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