Center for Arms Control

Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear Weapons

For the latest Nuclear Weapons related news and analysis, please see the Nukes on a Blog section of Nukes of Hazard.

Reagan and Gorbachev sign the INF Treaty (1987). Reagan library.

By the late 1960s, it became apparent that while the arms race between the United States and Soviet Union was yielding thousands of additional nuclear weapons, it was not leading to greater security for either country or the world at-large.

In 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the NPT, was opened for signature. In addition to establishing an international commitment to nonproliferation, the NPT laid the groundwork for eventual disarmament by all existing nuclear states. This disarmament vision was embodied in Article VI, which called upon signatories to negotiate "effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race" as well as "general and complete disarmament."

The NPT served as a prelude to the first round of Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT I) between the U.S. and Soviet Union. On May 26, 1972, SALT I produced bilateral pledges to freeze at existing levels the number of strategic ballistic missile launchers possessed by each country and to take other steps to mitigate the arms race. Most notably, SALT I also produced the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty banning missile defense systems as well as an interim agreement on strategic offensive arms.

In the past 30 years, various important agreements were negotiated, signed, and ratified between the United States, Soviet Union (and its successor states), and other parties to reduce strategic nuclear stockpiles. These include the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I (START I) and the associated Lisbon Protocol, the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT or Moscow Treaty), and the New START treaty.

Thanks to these agreements and significant unilateral reductions by the United States, Russia, and other nuclear weapons states, the global stockpile of nuclear weapons is significantly less that it was during the Cold War. However, there are still approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons in nine countries, 95% of which belong to the United States and Russia. Meanwhile, the nuclear weapons states continue to spend large amounts of money to sustain and modernize their nuclear arsenals. According to a recent estimate, the United States spent $31 billion in FY 2011 on its strategic offensive nuclear forces.


John Isaacs

John Isaacs

Senior Fellow
202-546-0795 ext. 2222
jdi AT armscontrolcenter DOT org


Oct 30, 2014

Finalizing the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization (NDAA): Key Issues for Congress

As the House and Senate begin to work behind the scenes to write a final bill of the National Defense Authorization Act, it should take the enclosed seven steps recommended by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.

Oct 29, 2014

Business Insider Publishes Post by Sarah Tully on North Korea's Nuclear Program

For over a year, the U.S. has been all eyes on Iran, but is this distracting us from states that already have nuclear weapons—such as the ever-unpredictable North Korea? On the Nukes of Hazard blog, Sarah Tully suggests that the DPRK’s nuclear program is “flying under the radar” while the U.S. spends its days engaging Iran and refusing to engage North Korea. The post was most recently published in the Business Insider.

Oct 29, 2014

Business Insider Publishes Post by Angela Canterbury and Sarah Tully on Obama's Nuclear Weapons Reductions

Barack Obama began his presidency by pledging to work toward a world with zero nuclear weapons, beginning of course with reductions to the U.S.'s own massive arsenal. But for a U.S. president to espouse such rhetoric, on the one hand, and to realistically do very little in the way of reductions, is no new phenomenon. Angela Canterbury and Sarah Tully's Nukes of Hazard blog on Obama's failure to make nuclear reductions was published in the Business Insider.

Oct 25, 2014 Quotes Angela Canterbury on the Cost of Nuclear Weapons Modernizations

Commenting on Obama's plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, Angela Canterbury calls for more sensible plans that cut costs and unnecessary nuclear weapons.

Oct 25, 2014

The Diplomat Cites Center Fact Sheet on North Korea

The Center's factsheet on North Korea's nuclear program was cited in a The Diplomat article published last week. The article was published after Gen. Curtis Scaparotti revealed his confidence in North Korea's ability to place a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Sep 19, 2014

Fact Sheet: Government, Former Government Officials Agree: U.S. Nuclear Weapons Spending Plans Enormously Costly

A collection of quotes from U.S. military leaders and nuclear laboratory officials on the costs of nuclear weapons.

Sep 5, 2014

Real Clear Defense Publishes Article on U.S. Tactical Nuclear Weapons in Europe by Kingston Reif

"To the extent nuclear weapons are a topic of discussion at the summit, the emphasis should be on moving towards a strategy that better reflects the current threat, political, and financial environments," writes Kingston Reif.

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