Number of nuclear weapons on the rise, warns think tank
There are now 12,512 warheads thought to exist worldwide.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) warned that the world is "drifting into one of the most dangerous periods in human history" as the number of active nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the main military powers is increasing once more.
There are currently believed to be 12,512 warheads worldwide, up 86 from a year earlier, 9,576 of which are in military stocks prepared for future use. This number comes at a time when both international relations are worsening and nuclear saber-rattling is increasing.
The alarming rise puts an end to the phase of gradual decline after the end of the Cold War, according to the leading think tank. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) detailed that 60 of the new warheads were held by China.
The other new weapons are traced to Russia (12), Pakistan (five), DPRK (five), and India (four).
Despite a declaration that "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought" by the UN's five permanent security council members in 2021, the US, Russia, China, the UK, and France, there has been a surge in battle-ready warheads.
Together, the US and Russia are in possession of roughly 90% of all nuclear weapons in the world. The two nuclear powers each have more than 1,000 warheads that have been withdrawn from military service and are slowly removing them, in addition to their deployed nuclear weapons.
Additionally, Sipri calculates that 3,844 of the 12,512 warheads in existence—including those that are retired and awaiting dismantlement—are used with missiles and airplanes.
Nearly the majority of those, or around 2,000, are Russian or American and are kept on high operational alert, which means that they are mounted on missiles or packed at air bases housing nuclear bombers.
However, Sipri argues that it is challenging to assess the complete picture because a number of nations, notably Russia, the US, and the UK, have decreased their degree of openness since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
The third-largest nuclear power in the world, China, is claimed to have raised the number of warheads in its arsenal from 350 in January 2022 to 410 in January 2023. Although Sipri forecasts that they won't overtake the arsenals of the US and Russia, that arsenal is projected to keep expanding.
The next greatest nuclear powers are France (290) and the UK (225), and after announcing two years ago that it was expanding its limit from 225 to 260 warheads, the UK is poised to increase its operational arsenal.
Following the war in Ukraine, the US terminated its bilateral strategic stability discussion with Russia, and the Russian government declared that it was pulling out of the last nuclear arms control agreement restricting the strategic nuclear capabilities of the two Cold War adversaries.
On August 8, Moscow informed Washington that it is temporarily halting inspections at its facilities covered by the New START Treaty. The Russian Foreign Ministry explained that Russia was forced to resort to such actions "due to Washington’s persistence in implicitly restarting inspections on conditions that do not take into account the existing realities, create unilateral advantages for the United States and actually strip Russia of the right to carry out inspections on US soil."
US President Joe Biden had said his administration is ready to negotiate a new arms control framework to replace the New START treaty with Russia upon its expiry in 2026.
It is noteworthy that Russia and the United States announced in February 2021 the entry into force of the decision to extend the START 3 Treaty on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms for a period of five years.
The Treaty kept the two countries' nuclear arsenals at a much lower level than during the Cold War, as it set the number of installed strategic nuclear launchers at 700 and the number of nuclear warheads at 1,550.
Russia has constantly reiterated that the threat of nuclear war was real and should not be underestimated but that it should be avoided at all costs.
Recent statements by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan regarding Washington's readiness for talks on nuclear weapons are important and positive, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has recently said.
During his speech at the Arms Control Association's 2023 Annual Meeting two weeks ago, Sullivan said the United States is willing to engage in arms control talks with Russia and China without preconditions. The US is ready to begin talks with Russia on nuclear risk management and a post-2026 arms control framework, the official added.
Concurrently, Peskov told reporters that Sullivan's comments were "important and positive" and that Russia expects the statements to be backed up by steps through diplomatic channels, making it a possibility to consider the dialogue formats.
On his account, Dan Smith, a director at Sipri, said, “We are drifting into one of the most dangerous periods in human history. It is imperative that the world’s governments find ways to cooperate in order to calm geopolitical tensions, slow arms races and deal with the worsening consequences of environmental breakdown and rising world hunger.”
The real threat kept secret
The story of Israeli nuclear weapons has been a huge secret for a long time. In its report, Sipri estimated that the Israeli occupation has 90 nuclear stockpiles. In April, former Israeli occupation Prime Minister Ehud Barak admitted that the occupation possesses nuclear weapons through a tweet he made.
"[...] political parties in the West are deeply concerned about the possibility that, if the coup in Israel succeeds, a messianic dictatorship will be established in the heart of the Middle East with nuclear weapons in its possession," Barak said on Twitter.
Over the years, the Israeli occupation has adhered to a policy of ambiguity when it comes to its nuclear weapons, but the most prominent thing that was leaked was a team of reporters from The Sunday Times saying in the early 90s that Mordechai Vanunu, the technician who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in "Israel", confirmed through photographs and government documents that the occupation had between 100 and 200 nuclear warheads with a variety of destructive capabilities.
Moreover, the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in 1977 quoted French General Georges Bouet as saying during an interview for the French Europe 1 radio that the occupation possessed at the time the means required to produce two atomic bombs a year, revealing that it also had 13 atomic bombs, as well as the means to get them to their targets.
Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 1978 that a New York radio station broadcast a classified documented report on September 4, 1974, prepared by the CIA, which stated, "We believe that Israel has indeed manufactured nuclear weapons."
Maariv also confirmed the report on March 2, 1978, citing a high-ranking CIA official, that then-US President Lyndon Johnson was informed that the Israeli occupation had nuclear weapons, and the head of state ordered that the whole thing remains under covers.
The Israeli occupation challenged the UN Security Council Resolution 487 of June 1981, which required "Tel Aviv" to urgently submit all of its nuclear facilities to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The IAEA on September 18, 2009, issued a resolution calling on the occupation to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as well as open its facilities to international inspection, though the occupation did not express any interest in the matter.
Again the UN General Assembly invited the occupation to become a treaty member in December 2009 following UNGA Resolution "Establishment of a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Region of the Middle East." Though 167 countries voted in favor of the resolution, the Israeli occupation refused to acquiesce in it. Furthermore, "Tel Aviv" skipped the 2010 nuclear summit in Washington.
On an almost daily basis, Israeli occupation officials attack the Iranian nuclear program despite its pacifist nature. Meanwhile, reports indicate that the occupation has nuclear weapons.