Global Nuclear Tensions Surge as Arsenals Modernize: SIPRI Report

World | June 18, 2024, Tuesday // 08:55
Bulgaria: Global Nuclear Tensions Surge as Arsenals Modernize: SIPRI Report

As global geopolitical tensions escalate, nuclear powers are modernizing their arsenals, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The institute's researchers have urged world leaders to reconsider their approaches, emphasizing that nuclear weapons have not played such a significant role in international relations since the Cold War.

The nine nuclear-weapon states—Russia, the US, France, India, China, Israel, the UK, Pakistan, and North Korea—have all enhanced their nuclear arsenals, with several introducing new systems in 2023. As of January, out of approximately 12,121 existing nuclear warheads globally, about 9,585 were available for potential use. Around 2,100 of these were kept on "high operational readiness" for ballistic missiles, with nearly all in the arsenals of Russia and the US, which collectively hold 90% of the world's nuclear weapons.

For the first time, SIPRI has reported that China has "several warheads in a state of increased operational readiness," meaning they are ready for immediate use. Between January 2023 and January 2024, China's nuclear warhead count increased from 410 to 500, making it the world's fastest-growing nuclear arsenal. This rapid growth positions China to potentially rival the intercontinental ballistic missile arsenals of Russia and the US by the end of the decade, though it is unlikely to match their total stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

In July 2023, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg predicted that China could have 1,500 nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching Europe and the US by 2035. Dan Smith, SIPRI's director, warned that the world is currently in one of the most dangerous periods in history, citing political rivalries, economic inequality, environmental violations, and an accelerating arms race as sources of instability.

Despite a gradual dismantling of Cold War-era nuclear weapons, the number of operational nuclear warheads has been increasing annually, a trend that SIPRI expects to continue and likely accelerate in the coming years. Smith called for the great powers to step back and reassess their actions collectively.

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Tags: SIPRI, nuclear, global, China

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