Mammoth Nuclear Spending Towards World Reckoning

Todd Moses
June 18, 2024

The world's nine nuclear-armed states together spent $91.4 billion last year as they "continue to modernize, and in some cases expand their arsenals," details the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Inputs that matter: ICAN reports the United States spent $51.5 billion, "more than all the other nuclear-armed countries put together."

  • It says China was the next biggest spender, spending $11.8 billion, and Russia spent the third largest amount, $8.3 billion.
  • The report notes that the United Kingdom's "spending was up significantly for the second year in a row," with a 17% increase to $8.1 billion, just behind Russia.
  • The combined total of the five other nuclear powers, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea, amounted to $11.6 billion last year.

The opportunity: Meanwhile, the face of war is changing with drone technology.

  • An overnight drone attack set several oil storage tanks ablaze near the town of Azov in southern Russia on Tuesday, sparking a large fire, local officials said.
  • "Oil product tanks caught fire in Azov as a result of a drone attack. According to preliminary findings, there were no casualties," the Rostov region governor Vasily Golubev said on Telegram.
  • NATO wants to replicate some of the rapid tech adoption and deployment seen in Ukraine since the war started.
  • For example, to respond to Russian jamming, Ukrainian startups are developing drones that can map terrain without GPS and navigate with onboard cameras or sensors.

Zoom in: "We have not seen nuclear weapons playing such a prominent role in international relations since the Cold War," said Wilfred Wan, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's weapons of mass destruction program.

  • The Ukrainian military has started using US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to hit Russian air defense systems, weapons depots, and other military targets on Russian territory, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament told CNN.
  • "Across Europe and Canada, NATO allies are increasing defense spending by 18% this year, that's the biggest increase in decades, and 23 allies are going to spend 2% of GDP or more on defense this year," says NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Between the lines: NATO is considering deploying more of its nuclear weapons in the face of threats from Russia, China, and North Korea, the defense alliance's leader said.

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with the Telegraph that it is essential that NATO "communicate the direct message that we, of course, are a nuclear alliance" by removing more of its warheads from storage.
  • "I won't go into operational details about how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored, but we need to consult on these issues," he said.

Follow the money: Moscow launched joint nuclear drills last week with Belarus, where it began storing some of its nuclear warheads in 2023 in a move widely interpreted as a warning to the West not to interfere in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

  • Stoltenberg also raised the alarm about China's burgeoning nuclear program, cautioning that before long, "NATO may face something that it has never faced before, and that is two nuclear-powered potential adversaries — China and Russia."

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