Issue Brief on “Increasing Role of Nuclear Weapons: Global and Regional Trends”

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The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently published its Yearbook 2024, according to which “the number and types of nuclear weapons have increased as countries deepen their reliance on nuclear deterrence.”[1] While the U.S. and Russia together hold 90 percent of global nuclear weapons, others are building up their nuclear arsenals. SIPRI has estimated China’s stockpile to be 500, while reporting that India’s stockpile has increased to 172 surpassing that of Pakistan. Nuclear weapons are becoming increasingly important in the global arena. There are important trends in the development and deployment of nuclear weapons that would have regional and global security implications.

The importance of nuclear weapons is on the rise. As of January 2024, there were an estimated 12,121 warheads globally. SIPRI estimates that 3904 of those warheads were deployed, which is 60 more than the number deployed in January 2023. Further, about “2100 of the deployed warheads were kept in a state of high operational alert,”[2] 100 more than the previous year. Most of these deployed warheads belong to the U.S. and Russia. Moreover, both countries have extensive programs underway to replace and modernize their nuclear forces. This reflects the increase in the U.S.-Russia competition and the return of what is being termed a ‘New Cold War.’

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