World stockpiles of nuclear warheads have dipped to 15,850 due to cuts by the US and Russia. However, nuclear superpowers have continued to modernize their arsenals.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that a downward trend in stockpiles of nuclear weapons should not be misinterpreted. The number of nuclear warheads around the globe fell by 500 compared to 2014.
But the institute also pointed that "extensive and expensive long-term modernization programs" between the world's two largest nuclear powers - Russia and the United States - accounted for 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. This is a trend that the institute has been observing for several years.
Good news and bad news
SIPRI researcher Shannon Kile said that the overall decline in the number of nuclear weapons was “good news”.
"The bad news is that all the countries that have nuclear weapons are committed to retaining them for the indefinite future, and are either modernizing or building new systems," he said.
Nuclear weapons are "still the central pillars of the national security strategies" of the nine countries that have them, Kile explained. The US was pointed out for upgrading production facilities for nuclear weapons, where some dated back to the 1960s. Russia had also continued to upgrade its nuclear forces, replacing Soviet-era systems.
15,850 warheads were accounted for in total, a number which included all warheads that were active, in storage or ready to be dismantled. The US had an estimated 7,260 warheads, while Russia had 7,500. The other nuclear states are Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. The think tank also announced that 1,800 nuclear weapons were at a high state of alert globally.
"Despite renewed international interest in prioritizing nuclear disarmament, the modernization programs underway in the nuclear weapon-possessing states suggests that none of them will give up their nuclear arsenals in the foreseeable future," Kile added.
Transparency key to report
The report was based on open sources, including governments such as the US and Britain, which are relatively transparent about their arsenals, while the other states are "more opaque," Kile said.
The institute pointed out that reliable information on nuclear stockpiles varied greatly between states with the US getting top marks for transparency in the report, while Britain and France were more restrictive and Russia divulged nothing officially, except in bilateral contacts with the US. In Asia, China also revealed little about its arsenal, and the only information made public by nuclear rivals India and Pakistan was announcements of missile tests.
The report also mentioned Iran, stating that the five nuclear powers, who were also members of the UN Security Council - US, Russia, China, Britain and France - along with Germany, were in ongoing talks with the Islamic Republic urging the country not to develop nuclear weapons.
ss/bw (AFP, dpa)