The United States dropped two nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So the world learned how the Manhattan Project of the United States ended in cooperation with some allies, and a new era of weapons began. This article explains everything you need to know about the nuclear club members and their nuclear weapons. This is written by the famous Egyptian publication Sasapost.
Russia and the world’s largest nuclear arsenal
Russia has the largest number of nuclear warheads. It is estimated that in 2019, the number of nuclear warheads in the Russian Federation was about 6490 units of stored and decommissioned weapons. The Kremlin has at its disposal the so-called “nuclear triad”: land-based, air-based, and sea-based weapons.
Moscow managed to get nuclear weapons, not because of its scientists, but thanks to spies. The Soviet Union obtained all the information necessary to build a nuclear arsenal from Soviet agents involved in the Manhattan Project.
On August 8, 2019, a powerful explosion occurred at the Nenoksa test site, killing five Russian specialists. Then Russia announced that the accident occurred during an experiment with a nuclear engine, and the details of the incident were constantly being corrected.
According to American experts, this is probably another test of Putin’s new weapon. They called it “falling from the sky.” Putin, himself in 2018 described his weapons as invincible.
It is worth noting that Armenia and Belarus are under the protection of the Kremlin’s nuclear umbrella since they are buffer states between Russia and Europe. Any threat to these countries is regarded as a threat to Russia itself.
The United States is the only country that has used nuclear weapons
As of 2019, the United States has the second-largest nuclear arsenal in the world with 6,185 warheads. Moreover, it is the only Power in history that has used nuclear weapons. During World War II, the event occurred when the Americans dropped two bombs on the Japanese islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
The United States is the only power that stores its nuclear weapons in other countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. According to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, the number of weapons stored in these countries is about 180 weapons. As noted in the 2018 report, this number has declined sharply since the Cold War.
In August 2019, America withdrew from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-range and Shorter-Range Missiles, after previously accusing Russia of violating this agreement, signed in 1987 by US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The treaty provided for the prevention of the use of intermediate-range and shorter-range intercontinental nuclear weapons.
15 days after the US withdrawal from the treaty, the US military conducted the first ground test of a missile, prohibited by the agreement’s terms.
Moreover, America has confirmed the possibility of using its nuclear weapons to protect NATO member states and Japan, Australia, and South Korea. Thus, all these countries violate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to some extent.
France is a nuclear power
France ranks third among the nuclear powers with 290 warheads but does not have a nuclear triad like Russia and America. The country has only sea-and air-based nuclear weapons. However, this does not detract from French nuclear weapons’ power: the Dassault Rafale fighter can drop a nuclear warhead 20 times larger than the bomb that fell on Hiroshima. As the Nuclear Secret website explains, if a nuclear warhead of this size falls on Washington, it can lead to the death of 280 thousand people.
France has faced many tests in the process of building its nuclear arsenal. Despite the involvement of some French scientists in the Manhattan Project, the country was new to the field of nuclear weapons, and it lacked the information and resources that would allow it to build its nuclear arsenal.
The country launched a nuclear program for peaceful purposes. It soon became a pioneer in the construction of nuclear reactors, which provided it with the resources and materials necessary to develop military capabilities. After the trilateral aggression against Egypt, France felt insulted in the international arena. Unable to rely on Britain’s nuclear defenses or the United States, Paris decided to launch its own nuclear weapons program.
France agreed with West Germany and Italy to create a joint nuclear arsenal. Still, when he came to power, Charles de Gaulle decided that the nuclear arsenal should be exclusively French, which significantly increased its costs.
The United States disagreed with the French plans under the pretext that they were unnecessary but did not take any measures to prevent them. The exception was that the Americans and the British refused to help the French in any way. One of the reasons for the lack of US support for the project was the understanding that France would refuse to follow the British example regarding nuclear weapons. Thus, the United Kingdom agreed with the American policy in the field of nuclear weapons, which provides for the rejection of escalation and pre-emptive missile launches. Meanwhile, according to France, the Soviet threat coming from the East could only be countered with a nuclear arsenal.
Scientists from France and Israel continued to collaborate until the former conducted the first nuclear missile test in Algeria in 1960. When the test was successful, Paris refused the help of Israeli scientists. French testing continued on Algerian soil even after its independence in 1962, but by the mid-1960s, testing had moved to French Polynesia. The country continued to expand its nuclear arsenal during the Cold War to join the nuclear club.
Chinese Dragon: Threats from the East
The Pentagon has warned of China’s ambitions to build a nuclear triad. In 2020, China had approximately 320 nuclear weapons. The country has a policy of not launching a pre-emptive strike, but that doesn’t stop the international community from fearing the Chinese dragon. In 2019, China had 290 nuclear weapons, and relations between the US and China were strained, which did not bode well for the future.
The UK: sea-based nuclear weapons always at the ready
The UK can use its nuclear weapons by using four submarines. It is estimated to have about 215 warheads at its disposal by 2020. Nuclear submarines are the UK’s only arsenal. Since 1959, the British have had a submarine on patrol, always ready to launch a nuclear missile. However, as we mentioned, the country refuses to strike first and threaten its potential to non- Great Britain was the first country to explore the field of military applications of the atom. With the entry of the United States into World War II, the countries agreed to cooperate in the field of technology and weapons. In 1943, it was decided to share all information related to the creation of the atomic bomb. Still, after the success of the Manhattan Project, the United States tried to monopolize nuclear technology and refused to share it with the British side.
According to the latter, this violated bilateral agreements, while for America, the issue was purely political in nature. As the Americans reasoned, the then British Prime Minister Clement Attlee would decide to follow a peaceful path, especially since the economy of the British Empire was on the verge of collapse, but the United States was wrong.
In 1947, Attlee announced the beginning of creating the British nuclear arsenal, despite the high costs. So, the UK was able to create its first nuclear weapon in five years thanks to the participation of its scientists in the Manhattan Project. The work was completed in 1952.
However, the British did not know where to test the resulting weapons. The British Isles are too small, so the country decided to conduct tests in its largest colony — Australia-after, after the Australians, promised to help build nuclear reactors to generate energy. In 1955, the United States agreed to share nuclear technology with Great Britain to guarantee its place in the nuclear club as the third country after the United States and the Soviet Union.
Pakistan and India: nuclear neighbor and conflict over Kashmir
The conflict between India and Pakistan over disputes over Kashmir contributed to the beginning of the two countries ‘ race in the field of nuclear weapons.
Pakistan has about 150-160 nuclear warheads, while India has 130-140. Each of them is trying to create a nuclear triad to gain superiority over the enemy. However, the five nuclear powers-Russia, the United States, France, Great Britain, and China — refuse to allow India and Pakistan to join the nuclear club.
Despite sanctions against Pakistan, it is increasing its nuclear arsenal faster than any other country in the world. Like the UK, Pakistan has a policy of not striking first and not threatening to strike non-nuclear-weapon States. This leaves room for questions about the position of the Indian side.
Israel: We don’t have nuclear weapons
So far, Israel has not declared possession of nuclear weapons. However, the international community is confident that the country has a nuclear arsenal, and the number of nuclear warheads is estimated from 80 to 90. The lack of information about the tests of this weapon raises doubts about its effectiveness. According to some sources, Israel conducted some tests together with France and the Republic of South Africa. Thus, uncertainty remains around the Israeli nuclear program.
North Korea: We have nuclear weapons
Although North Korea admits to possessing nuclear weapons, the number of warheads is not reported. It is estimated that this is 20-30 units. As the head of the country, Kim Jong-un, has repeatedly stated, it is necessary to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, but what steps will be taken to do this and whether they will be, at the moment, is unclear.
Iran: sanctions, sanctions, and more sanctions
Iran launched its nuclear program in the 1950s, and the state insisted on its exclusively peaceful nature. But doubts about Iran’s goals continued to grow, and since 2010, the United States has been pressing for sanctions against Tehran.
In 2015, Iran agreed to sign a deal with major powers under which it would partially curtail its nuclear program in exchange for trade cooperation. However, in 2018, former US President Donald Trump rejected the deal, accusing Iran of violating its terms.
After the deterioration of relations between Washington and Tehran, Trump promised that Iran would not possess nuclear weapons as long as he is in power. After the assassination of Qasem Suleimani, the Iranians declared their refusal to comply with the obligations under the agreement. Although Tehran does not possess nuclear weapons, and at the moment, it is just a program, the Americans are still hostile to the Iranians.
A world without nuclear weapons. Will we ever be able to talk about the disappearance of the nuclear threat?
Despite numerous forecasts predicting the world’s end due to a nuclear catastrophe, the number of nuclear weapons is constantly decreasing. So, in the 80s, its number reached 70 thousand warheads, and in 2020 it was reduced to 14 thousand units. While Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom are reducing their nuclear arsenals, China, Pakistan, India, and North Korea are expanding it.
In 2017, the largest attempt to create a world free of nuclear weapons was made, when more than 100 countries at the United Nations signed an agreement to ban nuclear weapons, but its holders boycotted these agreements. For example, France and the United Kingdom explained their boycott by saying that the agreement did not consider international security and that nuclear weapon allowed to maintain peace for 70 years.
The positions of the five nuclear Powers and the unofficial owners of nuclear weapons are very contradictory. So can we talk about the real disappearance of the nuclear threat?