(Photo credit: US Air Force)
A new report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reveals that nuclear-armed states are in a race to modernize their nuclear armament as a result of the ongoing shift in the global balance of power.
“There are clear indications that the reductions that have characterized global nuclear arsenals since the end of the cold war have ended,” Hans M. Kristensen, Associate Senior Fellow with SIPRI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, says in the report.
Another SIPRI official speaks of “a very worrying trend” in relation to nuclear-armed states that have been “sharpening” their rhetoric on nuclear weapons.
There are nine nuclear-armed states in the world: the US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
According to SIPRI, all nine are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, despite a slight decline in the total number of nuclear weapons between 2021 and 2022.
According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), global powers spent $82.4 billion in modernizing nuclear weapons last year.
The US alone spent $44.2 billion on its arsenal, up 12.7 percent from a year earlier, despite the country facing its largest inflation levels in decades.
Israel, the only nuclear-armed state that has never officially acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons, has spent $1.2 billion, the same as in 2020, according to ICAN.
SIPRI estimates that out of a total estimated inventory of 12,705 nuclear warheads around the world, around 2,000 are kept in a state of “high operational alert,” and nearly all of these belong to the US and Russia.
The Swedish institute has also warned that the ‘Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty’ – signed by US and Soviet leaders at the end of the cold war – is set to expire in 2026, paving the way for a marked increase in the production of nuclear weapons.
Talks to create a new non-proliferation agreement were ongoing until last year, before NATO’s expansionist agenda opened the doors for Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
But despite this worrying trend, over recent years, the UN nuclear watchdog has been mainly tasked with investigating and stalling Iran’s nuclear energy program, at the behest of Israel and the US.
Tehran maintains its nuclear project is pursued for peaceful purposes only, as the development of weapons of mass destruction contravenes both the teachings of Islam and the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Earlier this year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for the establishment of a nuclear-free zone in West Asia and North Africa.
“It is vital to create a zone in [West Asia] and North Africa free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, as stipulated in the Security Council resolution, and after the two sessions of the conference, according to the 2018 decision by the UN General Assembly in which Russia participated,” Lavrov said during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on 1 March this year.
Lavrov said he hoped that Israel and the US would both join this process, especially as the US also happens to be the co-author of the resolution.