Nuclear arsenals expected to grow for first time since Cold War: think tank

FILE – In this file photo taken from a video distributed by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, a rocket launches from missile system as part of a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile test launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia. A Swedish arms watchdog says the world’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons are expected to increase in coming years after declining since the end of the Cold War. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Nuclear arsenals are expected to grow over the next decade after a “marginal decrease” in warheads in 2021, according to a new report.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report out Monday said that the world’s nuclear-armed states, which include the U.S., Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, will likely increase their nuclear weapons over the next decade.

“If the nuclear-armed states take no immediate and concrete action on disarmament, then the global inventory of nuclear warheads could soon begin to increase for the first time since the Cold War,” Matt Korda, an associate researcher with the institute, said.

Numbers of total warhead inventories in countries like Russia and the U.S., which combined have more than 90 percent of all nuclear weapons, have declined in recent years. But the report attributed that change “to the dismantling of warheads that had been retired from military service several years ago.”

“All of the nuclear-armed states are increasing or upgrading their arsenals and most are sharpening nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies,” Wilfred Wan, who directs the institute’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, said, adding that “this is a very worrying trend.”

Nuclear weapons recently have become of increasing concern amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen warned last month that the U.S. should prepare for the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons during the war. 

“It’s very difficult to know what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is thinking at any particular time. He’s obviously spoken to this. I think we need to make sure that we consider it as a possibility,” Mullen said on ABC’s “This Week” at the time, adding that nuclear weapons are “the most devastating weapons ever created on Earth.”

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