Frightening figures are published by analysts at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI ). According to their calculations, the number of nuclear warheads that are in a state of high operational alert today has reached two thousand. This is the number of charges since the beginning of the year that the United States and Russia have put on alert. The key finding of a study published by the institute is that despite a modest reduction in the number of nuclear warheads in 2021, nuclear arsenals are expected to grow over the coming decade. All nine nuclear-weapon states - the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea - continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals.
During 2021, the nuclear-weapon permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5) - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - worked on a joint statement, which they released on January 3, 2022, reaffirming that "nuclear war cannot be won and should never be waged." They also reaffirmed their commitment to respecting non-proliferation, disarmament and arms control agreements and commitments, as well as their commitments under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and achieving the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Despite this, all members of the "Big Five" continue to expand or modernize their nuclear arsenals and appear to be increasing the importance of nuclear weapons in their military strategies. Some political figures in Russia even talked about the possible use of nuclear weapons in the context of a special operation in Ukraine. Bilateral US-Russian talks on strategic stability have stalled, and no other nuclear-weapon state is negotiating arms control.
“ There are clear signs that the process of reducing global nuclear arsenals, which has been ongoing since the end of the Cold War, has been completed ,” says SIPRI director Dan Smith . Experts also note that against the backdrop of hostilities in Ukraine, the risk of using nuclear weapons is now higher than at any time since the beginning of the Cold War.
SIPRI notes that the arms race has actually started again between the countries. Britain has announced plans to build up its nuclear potential. France has begun a program to develop third-generation submarines with nuclear weapons on board. India, Pakistan and North Korea are also building up their nuclear potential.
Of a total stockpile of an estimated 12,705 warheads as of early 2022, about 9,440 were in military storage for potential use. Of these, an estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed by missiles and aircraft, and about 2,000 - almost all of which belonged to Russia or the United States - were on high alert.
Although the overall stockpiles of warheads in Russia and the United States continued to decline in 2021, this was due to the dismantling of warheads that were withdrawn from military service several years ago. The number of warheads in the usable military stocks of the two countries remained relatively stable in 2021. The deployed strategic nuclear forces of both countries were within the limits established by the bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty (2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, New START Treaty). However, the New START Treaty does not limit the total stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads, experts say.
" If the nuclear weapon states do not take immediate and concrete action to disarm, then the global stockpile of nuclear warheads may soon begin to increase for the first time since the Cold War ," FAS Nuclear Senior Scientist Matt Korda said.