The world's nuclear arsenal increases in "a dangerous period for humanity"

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The number of operational nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the major military powers has risen again in the past year as diplomacy between these nations has deteriorated, making the present "one of the most dangerous periods in history." history of humanity”, warn analysts from the Stockholm International Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI), authors of the latest annual report on arms, disarmament and international security.

"In this period of great geopolitical tension and mistrust, with communication channels between nuclear-armed rivals closed or barely functioning, the risks of a miscalculation, misunderstanding or accident are unacceptably high," warns its director, Dan Smith.

The risks of a miscalculation, a misunderstanding or an accident are unacceptably high

Dan SmithSIPRI Director

Of the total estimated 12,512 nuclear warheads possessed by the nine atomic powers (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) in January 2023, around 9,576 were in arsenals for use. potential, 86 more than in January 2022. Of those, about 3,844 warheads were deployed on missiles and aircraft and some 2,000, almost all from the United States and Russia, were in a state of high operational alert, meaning they were installed on missiles. or held at air bases that housed nuclear bombers, according to this body.

The rise (of 1%) ends the gradual decline that followed the end of the cold war. China is the country that registered the largest increase in the size of its arsenal, which added 60 warheads and is expected to continue to grow, so that by the end of this decade it could have as many ICBMs as Russia or the US. “It turns out every It is increasingly difficult to reconcile this trend with China's stated goal of having only the minimum nuclear forces necessary to maintain its national security,” says SIPRI Research Associate Hans M. Kristensen.

The other new weapons are attributed to Russia (12), Pakistan (five), North Korea (five) and India (four). India appears to be placing increasing emphasis on longer-range weapons, including those capable of hitting targets in China, although Pakistan remains the main target of its nuclear deterrent. As for the North Korean regime, it has assembled some 30 nuclear warheads and has fissionable material for a total of between 50 and 70 more, which is a "significant" increase compared to a year earlier.

"Most nuclear powers are toughening the rhetoric about the importance of these weapons and even using threats about their potential use. For the first time since World War II, the risk of nuclear weapons being used in a fit of anger has increased." warns Matt Korda, a SIPRI research associate.

For the first time since World War II, the risk of nuclear weapons being used in a fit of anger has increased

matt kordaSIPRI Associate Researcher

The size of the arsenal of Russia and the United States, which together account for 90% of all nuclear weapons, "seems to have remained relatively stable", although transparency in that area has declined following the Russian military intervention in Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022.

As a result of the invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin, the control of nuclear weapons and diplomacy for disarmament were damaged: Washington suspended its bilateral dialogue on strategic stability with Moscow, which last February announced that it was suspending its participation in the 2010 Treaty on the New Start, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty that limits the strategic nuclear forces of both powers.

Likewise, the Swedish institute recalls that Iran's military support for Russian forces in Ukraine and the political situation in Iran also overshadowed the talks on the reactivation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement on 2015 aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

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In addition to their usable nuclear weapons, Russia and the US each possess more than 1,000 previously decommissioned warheads, which they are gradually dismantling.

The report expects the UK to increase its number of warheads in the future and notes that France is continuing its development programs for third-generation nuclear ballistic submarine missiles and air-launched cruise missiles.

"There is an urgent need to restore nuclear diplomacy and strengthen international controls on nuclear weapons," denounces the report from this institute dedicated to conflict research, weapons, arms control and disarmament.

There is an urgent need to restore nuclear diplomacy

Dan SmithSIPRI Director

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