Russian nuclear forces, 2018

Nuclear Notebook: How many nuclear weapons does Russia have?

Russia is in the second half of a decades-long modernization of its strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces to replace Soviet-era weapons with newer systems. These modernizations, combined with an increase in the number and size of military exercises and occasional explicit nuclear threats against other countries, contribute to uncertainty about Russia’s long-term intentions and growing international debate about the nature of its nuclear strategy. These concerns, in turn, drive increased defense spending, nuclear modernization programs, and political opposition to further nuclear-weapon reductions in Western Europe and the United States.

As of early 2018, we estimate that Russia has a stockpile of roughly 4,350 nuclear warheads assigned for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter-range tactical nuclear forces. Of these, roughly 1,600 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and at heavy bomber bases, while another 920 strategic warheads are in storage along with about 1,830 non-strategic warheads. In addition to the military stockpile for operational forces, a large number – perhaps almost 2,500 – of retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement, for a total inventory of more than 6,850 warheads…

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The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook column has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.


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