The nuclear arsenal of countries possessing such weapons of mass destruction presents the BBC. The report of the well-known British media comes after his speech Vladimir Putin by which he announced “partial conscription” due to the war in Ukrainewhile warning that he will use “all the means at our disposal” to defend Russian territory, causing renewed concern around the globe.
But, as with previous warnings, analysts, according to the BBCbelieve that his actions should be interpreted more as a warning to other countries not to escalate their involvement in Ukraine than as a sign of a desire to use nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons have been around for almost 80 years and many countries see them as a deterrent that continues to guarantee their national security, the article points out.
How many nukes does Moscow have?
All figures for nuclear weapons are estimates, but according to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads – the devices that trigger a nuclear explosion – although that includes about 1,500 that have been retired and are due to be dismantled.
Of the remaining 4,500 or so, most are considered strategic nuclear weapons – ballistic missiles or rockets, which can strike over long distances. These are the weapons most commonly associated with nuclear war.
The rest are smaller, less destructive nuclear weapons for short-range use on battlefields or at sea.
But that doesn’t mean Russia doesn’t have thousands of long-range nuclear weapons ready for use.
Experts estimate that around 1,500 Russian nuclear warheads are currently “deployed”, i.e. placed on missile and bomber bases or on submarines at sea, the BBC points out.
The NPT treaty
China, France, Russia, the US and the UK are also among the 191 states that have signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
Under the agreement, they must reduce their stockpile of nuclear warheads and, in theory, commit to their complete elimination.
Also, the number of nuclear warheads stored in these countries has decreased since the 1970s and 80s.
India, Israel and Pakistan never joined the NPT – and North Korea withdrew in 2003.
Israel is the only country of the nine that has never officially acknowledged its nuclear program, but it is widely accepted that it possesses nuclear warheads.
Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons and, despite President Putin’s accusations, there is no evidence that it has sought to acquire them.
How destructive nuclear weapons are
Nuclear weapons are designed to cause maximum destruction.
The extent of the damage depends on a number of factors, including:
- the size of the warhead
- how high above the ground they explode
- the local environment
The consequences are dire
Even the smallest warhead could cause massive loss of life and lasting consequences.
The bomb that killed up to 146,000 people in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II had a yield of 15 kilotons.
Nuclear warheads today can exceed 1,000 kilotons.
Few are expected to survive the immediate impact zone of a nuclear explosion.
After a blinding flash, there is a huge ball of fire and a shock wave that can destroy buildings and structures for several kilometers.
What is “nuclear deterrence”
The argument for maintaining large numbers of nuclear weapons was that the ability to completely destroy a country’s enemy would deter it from attacking.
The most famous term for this became Mutual Assured Destruction (Mad).
Although many nuclear tests have been conducted and their technical sophistication and destructive power are constantly increasing, nuclear weapons have not been used in armed conflict since 1945.
Russian policy also recognizes nuclear weapons solely as a deterrent and lists four instances of their use:
- the launch of ballistic missiles aimed at the territory of the Russian Federation or its allies
- the use of nuclear weapons or other types of weapons of mass destruction against the Russian Federation or its allies
- an attack on critical government or military facilities of the Russian Federation that threatens its nuclear capability;
- an attack against the Russian Federation using conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is at stake.
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