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The role of nuclear weapons increases as geopolitical relations deteriorate renewing the SIPRI Yearbook now

The role of nuclear weapons increases as geopolitical relations deteriorate renewing the SIPRI Yearbook now
The role of nuclear weapons increases as geopolitical relations deteriorate renewing the SIPRI Yearbook now


(Stockholm, June 17, 2024) The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) today launches its annual assessment of the state of armaments, disarmament and international security. The main findings of SIPRI 2024 yearbook are that the number and types of nuclear weapons under development have increased as states deepen their support for nuclear deterrence.

Read this press release in Catalan (PDF), French (PDF), Spanish (PDF) or Swedish (PDF).

Click here to download the champion chapter of SIPRI 2024 yearbook on world nuclear forces.

Nuclear arsenals are being strengthened around the world

The nine nuclear-armed states, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), and Israel, continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals and some deployed new nuclear or nuclear-capable weapons systems in 2023.

Of the total global inventory of an estimated 12 121 warheads in January 2024, approx 9585 were in military stocks for potential use (see table below). About 3,904 of these warheads were deployed by missiles and aircraft60 more than in January 2023and the rest were in the central warehouse. About 2,100 of the deployed warheads were kept on high operational readiness for ballistic missiles. Almost all of these warheads belonged to Russia or the US, but for the first time China is believed to have some warheads on high operational alert.

While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to decline as Cold War-era weapons are being phased out, unfortunately we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads, said SIPRI Director Dan Smith. This trend looks set to continue and possibly accelerate in the coming years and is extremely worrying.

India, Pakistan and North Korea are all pursuing the ability to put multiple warheads on ballistic missiles, something that Russia, France, the UK, the US and, more recently, China already have. This would allow for a possible rapid increase in deployed warheads, as well as the possibility for nuclear-armed countries to threaten the destruction of many more targets.

Russia AND US together own almost 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. The sizes of their respective military stockpiles (ie, usable warheads) appear to have remained relatively stable in 2023, although Russia is estimated to have placed about 36 more heads with operational forces than in January 2023. Transparency about nuclear forces has declined in both countries since Russia's February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and debates about nuclear sharing agreements have grown in prominence.

Notably, there were several public claims made in 2023 that Russia had deployed nuclear weapons on Belarusian territory, although there is no conclusive visual evidence that the actual deployment of warheads occurred.

In addition to their military stockpiles, Russia and the US each hold more than 1,200 warheads previously retired from military service, which they are phasing out.

SIPRI's estimate of the size of ChinaThe nuclear arsenal grew from 410 warheads in January 2023 to 500 in January 2024 and is expected to continue growing. For the first time, China can also now deploy a small number of peacetime warheads. Depending on how it decides to structure its forces, China could potentially have at least as many intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) as Russia or the US by the end of the decade, although its stockpile of nuclear warheads is still expected to remain high smaller. than the reserves of each of these two countries.

China is expanding its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country, said Hans M. Kristensen, senior fellow with the SIPRI Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). But almost all nuclear-armed states have either plans or a significant push to increase nuclear forces.

Although uk is not thought to have increased its nuclear weapons arsenal in 2023, its stockpile of warheads is expected to increase in the future as a result of the British governments announcement in 2021 that it was increasing its limit from 225 to 260 warheads. The government also said it will no longer publicly disclose its stockpiles of nuclear weapons, deployed warheads or deployed missiles.

In the year 2023 France continued its programs to develop a third-generation nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and a new air-launched cruise missile, as well as to renew and upgrade existing systems.

INDIA slightly expanded its nuclear arsenal in 2023. Both India and Pakistan continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery system in 2023. While Pakistan remains the primary focus of India's nuclear deterrent, India appears to be placing increasing emphasis on longer-range weapons, including those capable of reaching targets across China.

North Korea continues to prioritize its military nuclear program as a central element of its national security strategy. SIPRI estimates that the country has now stockpiled about 50 warheads and possesses enough fissile material to bring the total up to 90 warheads, both significant increases over estimates for January 2023. While North Korea has not conducted a single nuclear test explosion in in 2023, they appear to have conducted the first test of a short-range ballistic missile from a rudimentary silo. It also completed development of at least two types of land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) designed to deliver nuclear weapons.

Like several other nuclear-armed states, North Korea is placing renewed emphasis on developing its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, said Matt Korda, research associate with SIPRI's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and senior fellow. research fellow for the Nuclear Information Project at the American Federation. Scientists. Therefore, there is growing concern that North Korea may intend to use these weapons very early in a conflict.

Israelwhich does not publicly admit to possessing nuclear weapons, is also believed to be modernizing its nuclear arsenal and appears to be upgrading the site of its plutonium production reactor at Dimona.

Tensions over the wars in Ukraine and Gaza further weaken nuclear diplomacy

Nuclear arms control and disarmament diplomacy suffered more major setbacks in 2023. In February 2023, Russia announced that it was suspending its participation in the 2010 Treaty on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) treaty. last remaining nuclear arms control limiting Russian and American strategic nuclear forces. As a countermeasure, the US has also suspended the sharing and publication of treaty data.

In November Russia withdrew its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), citing an imbalance with the US, which has failed to ratify the treaty since it was opened for signature in 1996. However, Russia confirmed it would to remain a signatory and continue to participate in the work of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Meanwhile, Russia has continued to make threats about the use of nuclear weapons in the context of Western support for Ukraine. In May 2024, Russia conducted tactical nuclear weapons exercises near the border with Ukraine.

We haven't seen nuclear weapons play such an important role in international relations since the Cold War, said Wilfred Wan, Director of the Weapons of Destruction Program at Mas SIPRI. It's hard to believe that barely two years have passed since the leaders of the five largest nuclear-armed states jointly reaffirmed that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.

An informal deal reached between Iran and the US in June 2023 appeared to be temporarily
de-escalation of tensions between the two countries, which had intensified due to Iran's military support for Russian forces in Ukraine. However, the start of Israel's Hamas war in October upended the deal, with attacks by Iran-backed groups on US forces in Iraq and Syria seemingly ending US Iranian diplomatic efforts. The war also undermined efforts to commit Israel to the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

More positively, the June 2023 visit to Beijing by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appears to have increased the scope for dialogue between China and the US on a range of issues, potentially including arms control. Later in the year the two sides agreed to resume military-to-military communications.

Global security and stability at increasing risk

The 55th edition of the SIPRI Yearbook analyzes the continued deterioration of global security over the past year. The impacts of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza are evident in nearly every aspect of the issues related to armaments, disarmament, and international security examined in the Yearbook. Beyond these two wars, which took center stage in global news reporting, diplomatic energy and international policy discussion, armed conflicts were active in another 50 countries in 2023. Fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan saw millions of people displaced. displaced and conflict flared up again in Myanmar in the final months of 2023. Armed criminal gangs were a major security concern in several Central and South American states, notably leading to the effective collapse of the state in Haiti during 2023 and in 2024.

We are now in one of the most dangerous times in human history, said Dan Smith, Director of SIPRI. There are multiple sources of instability, political rivalries, economic disparities, ecological disruption, an accelerating arms race. The abyss is beckoning and it is time for the great powers to step back and reflect. Preferably together.

In addition to the usual detailed coverage of nuclear arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation issues, the SIPRI Yearbook presents data and analysis on developments in world military spending, international arms transfers, arms production, multilateral peace operations, conflict armed and more. Special sections in SIPRI 2024 yearbook explore the role of Russian private military and security companies in the conflicts; efforts to reduce peace and security risks related to artificial intelligence, outer space and cyberspace; and issues surrounding the protection of civilians in the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

For the editors

The SIPRI Yearbook is a compilation of the latest information and analysis on developments in armaments, disarmament and international security. Three big ones SIPRI 2024 yearbook datasets were pre-launched in
202324: total arms sales by the top 100 arms manufacturing companies (December 2023), international arms transfers (March 2024) and world military spending (April 2024). The SIPRI yearbook is published by Oxford University Press. Learn more at

For information or interview requests contact Mimmi Shen ([email protected], +46 76 628 61 33) or Stephanie Blenckner ([email protected]+46 8 655 97 47).




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