The risk of a nuclear conflict is the highest since the Cold War era, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The “SIPRI Yearbook 2022”, a report released on Monday assessing the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security around the world, said nuclear arsenals are expected to increase over the next decade.
Despite the fact that the total number of nuclear weapons in the world decreased slightly between January 2021 and January 2022 (just before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine), this number is expected to increase in the near future, according to the SIPRI.
About 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal belongs to Russia and the United States, with a total inventory of 5,977 and 5,428 nuclear weapons respectively in 2022.
The nine nuclear-weapon states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals. Weapons that were dismantled in the United States and Russia last year had already been “retired” from military service, leaving the two countries’ arsenals of usable nuclear weapons virtually unchanged.
“While there have been significant gains in both nuclear arms control and nuclear disarmament over the past year, the risk of nuclear weapons use appears higher now than at any time. time since the height of the Cold War,” said SIPRI director Dan Smith.
The war in Ukraine has certainly triggered the increased risk of nuclear conflict, as Russia has already repeatedly issued threats of possible nuclear weapons in response to Western support for Kyiv.
“Relations between the world’s major powers have deteriorated further at a time when humanity and the planet face a series of deep and urgent common challenges that can only be met through international cooperation,” said Stefan Löfven, Chairman of the Board of SIPRI.
The growth predicted by the Swedish Institute of the world’s nuclear arsenal would be the end of a steady decline in nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War.
“There are clear indications that the reductions that have characterized the world’s nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War have come to an end,” said Hans M. Kristensen, Senior Fellow in SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
Last year, Britain announced it would raise the cap on its total warhead stockpile while saying it would not publicly release figures for the country’s operational nuclear weapons stockpile, warheads deployed or deployed missiles.
In 2021, France launched a development program for a third-generation ballistic missile nuclear submarine. SIPRI believes that India, Pakistan and Israel are also developing and modernizing their nuclear arsenals.
“All nuclear-weapon states are increasing or modernizing their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies,” added Wilfred Wan, director of the weapons of mass destruction program of the SIPRI. “This is a very worrying trend.”
“If nuclear-weapon states do not take immediate and concrete action on disarmament, the global inventory of nuclear warheads could soon begin to increase for the first time since the Cold War,” said Matt Korda, associate researcher at SIPRI.