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Nuclear powers drive rearmament

According to the peace research institute SIPRI, the nuclear powers are strengthening their nuclear arsenals. After the start of the war against Ukraine, transparency also decreased. A significant increase in warheads was recorded in China.

According to the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI, all nuclear weapon states have accelerated their nuclear armament. In their annual report, the researchers warn of the increasing number of operational nuclear weapons. “We are drifting into one of the most dangerous periods in human history,” said SIPRI Director Dan Smith. He called for nuclear diplomacy to be restored and international controls over nuclear weapons to be strengthened.

According to the report, the nine nuclear powers – the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – are continuing to modernize their nuclear arsenals. According to SIPRI estimates, the global stock of nuclear warheads continued to decrease by almost 200 to an estimated 12,512 from the beginning of 2022 to the beginning of 2023. On the other hand, the number of operational nuclear weapons will increase by 86 to an estimated 9576.

In its research, SIPRI distinguishes between ready-to-use stock and total stock. The latter also includes older nuclear weapons and those intended for decommissioning.

Less transparency about number

Around 2,000 warheads are kept on high alert, mainly by Russia and the USA. These were either stored in rockets or at air force bases where nuclear bombers are also stationed. According to the peace researchers, Russia and the United States together possess almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. Their arsenals remained stable in 2022, although transparency decreased significantly after the start of the war against Ukraine. The British government also no longer publicly announced the number of nuclear weapons in 2022.

SIPRI director Smith pointed out that the increasing stockpiles cannot be explained by the war in Ukraine because it takes longer to develop new warheads. In addition, the countries with the largest increases are not directly affected by the war.

Significant increase in China

Most of the current increase is due to China increasing its stockpile of nuclear warheads from 350 to 410. The researchers expect that China’s arsenal will continue to grow, so that the country could have at least as many ICBMs as the US or Russia by the end of the decade.

India and Pakistan also introduced and further developed new types of nuclear delivery systems in 2022. The Indian weapons are now designed for longer ranges, including those that could reach targets across China, the researchers suspect.

SIPRI points with concern to the generally intensified rhetoric of the states regarding the importance of nuclear weapons. North Korea also continues to regard its military nuclear program as a central element of its security strategy. The researchers estimate that the country has now assembled about 30 warheads and has enough fissile material for up to 70 warheads.

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