The world’s nuclear arsenal will grow for the first time since the Cold War
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Global nuclear power arsenal is expected to grow in coming years for the first time since the Cold War as the risk of such weapons being used is the highest in decades, a leading conflict and arms think tank said on Monday.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Western support for Kyiv have heightened tensions between the world’s nine nuclear-armed states, the International Peace Research Institute think tank says of Stockholm (SIPRI) in a new series of research.
While the number of nuclear weapons fell slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, SIPRI said that unless immediate action is taken by the nuclear powers, global stocks of warheads could soon start to increase for the first time in decades.
“All nuclear-weapon states are increasing or modernizing their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies,” said Wilfred Wan, director of the weapons of mass destruction program of the SIPRI, in the report of the think tank. Yearbook 2022.
“This is a very worrying trend.”
Three days after Moscow invaded Ukraine, which the Kremlin calls a “special military operation”, President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert.
He also warned of consequences that would be “such as you have never seen in all your history” for countries that stood in Russia’s way.
Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world with a total of 5,977 warheads, some 550 more than the United States. The two countries possess more than 90% of the world’s warheads, although SIPRI said China was in the midst of an expansion with around 300 new missile silos.
SIPRI said the global number of nuclear warheads fell to 12,705 in January 2022 from 13,080 in January 2021. An estimated 3,732 warheads were deployed with missiles and aircraft, and around 2,000 – almost all belonging to Russia or the United States – have been kept in a state of high availability.
“Relations between the world’s great powers have deteriorated further at a time when humanity and the planet face a series of deep and urgent common challenges that can only be met through international cooperation,” said the President of the SIPRI Board of Directors and former Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven.
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard and Bernadette Baum)