Russia is in the middle of a broad modernization of its strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces, including some new developments. The authors estimate that as of early 2016, the country had a stockpile of approximately 4500 nuclear warheads assigned for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter range tactical nuclear forces. In addition, as many as 2800 retired but still largely intact warheads awaited dismantlement, for a total inventory of about 7300. The modernization program reflects the government’s conviction that strategic nuclear forces are indispensible for Russia’s security and status as a great power. Unless a new arms reduction agreement is reached in the near future, the shrinking of Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal that has characterized the past two decades will likely come to an end, with the force leveling out at around 500 launchers with roughly 2400 assigned warheads. Combined with an increased number of military exercises and operations, as well as occasional explicit nuclear threats against other countries, the modernizations contribute to growing concern abroad about Russian intentions.
The Bulletin elevates expert voices above the noise. But as an independent, nonprofit media organization, our operations depend on the support of readers like you. Help us continue to deliver quality journalism that holds leaders accountable. Your support of our work at any level is important. In return, we promise our coverage will be understandable, influential, vigilant, solution-oriented, and fair-minded. Together we can make a difference.