Viral graph shows estimated global nuclear arsenal by country
The chart shows estimates for worldwide nuclear inventories. It is not an exact total, because some countries are more secretive than others.
In his address to the nation in Moscow on February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was suspending Russia’s participation in the New START Treaty, a nuclear weapons treaty with the United States.
After he made the announcement, “Third World War” trended on Twitter, along with a chart showing the estimated number of nuclear warheads each country has globally.
Do experts estimate that the United States and Russia hold 90% of the world’s nuclear stockpile, as the propagation graph shows?
Yes, experts estimate that the US and Russia hold 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenal.
WHAT WE FIND
The data seen in the chart was published by a team within the Nuclear Information Project of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS). According to the FAS, the data is an estimate based on publicly available information, analysis of historical records, and occasional leaks.
The data shows that nine countries around the world have an estimated 12,700 nuclear warheads, as of early 2022. About 90% of them are owned by Russia (5,977) and the US (5,428), the data shows.
Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Program, told VERIFICATION these are the types of nuclear weapons that count:
- Weapons deployed on launchers can be used when ready.
- Weapons in long-term storage are not intended to be deployed right now but can be returned to the launch pad.
- Weapons used in military stockpile have expired. They are likely stored in storage and will be dismantled at some point in the future.
Kristensen said the exact number of nuclear weapons each country possesses is mostly kept secret. The level of secrecy varies from country to country.
“The United States, by comparison, is the most accessible. Not only the totals they share over time, but also the details of the modernization program, the discussions in Congress, the budget information… because we live in a democratic society, ” Kristensen told VERIFY.
He said the most secretive countries include North Korea and Israel. Following are Russia, China, India and Pakistan. China, India, North Korea, Pakistan and Russia were among the countries that the FAS also found to be increasing stockpiles.
For countries that aren’t willing to provide inventory information, Kristensen said the FAS uses their own research by watching local news stories and monitoring military bases.
“We can tell when the new systems will come into service, if the base is full and how many launchers are there,” Kristensen said. “We combine all that information, and also from the military forces. We also incorporate research that other institutes do… It’s a huge amount of information that we’re somehow trying to understand.”
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), based in London, is an institute that FAS uses to compile data. Each year, the IISS publishes a military balance sheet that provides up-to-date data available on the military organizations of 171 countries.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) also holds estimates for the total number of nuclear weapons in the world. NTI estimates are slightly higher than FAS, with 13,100 nuclear weapons across nine countries. The NTI believes that 22 countries have materials that can be used to make nuclear weapons.
Kristensen said Putin’s decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the New START Treaty would limit the amount of information shared with the US, such as the total number of weapons. This will make it difficult for researchers to keep track of how many weapons Russia has.
Putin said he would respect the treaty’s limit on the number of nuclear weapons the country could possess and agreed that Russia would continue to exchange information on ballistic missile launches.
FAS says using estimated data to spread claims of nuclear war is irresponsible
Kristensen was surprised to learn that FAS data was being shared along with the “World War III” trend on social media. He said there was never an intention behind publishing the data.
“It is a difficult situation. When you put information in the public domain, you have no control over how it will be used,” he said. “We did not intend to depict a picture of the sky falling. We’re trying to give people factual information so they can discuss this.”
“Actually, it is a bit irresponsible to depict such scenes of falling skies during World War III, because it tends to cover up a large amount of detail. All these nine countries in the world have nuclear weapons. They don’t have the same strategy on how to use them. They don’t necessarily think the same way, nor do they have the same arsenal. There is a huge difference between them,” added Kristensen.
“Some are young; they have little expertise in how to manage a nuclear crisis. Others were very old. They’ve been in the business for many, many decades and have a lot of expertise in how to manage it. So it’s a shame to lump everything in one box. And just to say, you know, that’s the crux here that the numbers by themselves don’t tell you anything about what countries plan to do with it.”
Kristensen told VERIFY that it’s important for agencies around the globe to track nuclear stockpiles, and that governments are open to their data, too.
“If you know something about what’s going on, you’re less likely to overreact and panic. When there’s total secrecy, the stage is just for all kinds of hype and rumours,” Kristensen said. “Some degree of transparency is really important to weed out the form of misinformation and misinformation that builds up over time and can get much worse.”
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https://www.king5.com/article/news/verify/world-verify/experts-estimate-the-us-and-russia-hold-90-of-the-worlds-nuclear-inventory/536-038f17ca-d3ee-48b3-95b1-b17b8fa34fe9 Viral graph shows estimated global nuclear arsenal by country