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


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.

Aug 26, 2014

The Wall Street Journal Publishes Letter to the Editor on Russian Arms Control Cheating by Kingston Reif

"There are serious compliance concerns associated with Russia's past and present implementation of some arms-control treaties," writes Kingston Reif "But that's not a reason to throw the arms-control baby out with the bath water."

Aug 21, 2014

The Air Force can’t hide from the cost of nuclear weapons

Rebuilding the Air Force’s current suite of nuclear forces won’t come cheaply, writes Kingston Reif.

Aug 15, 2014

Senate Appropriators Defy Administration on Nukes

A summary and analysis of the FY 2015 Senate Appropriations Committee Energy and Water Bill and report.

Aug 14, 2014

Real Clear Defense Publishes Article on Nuclear Weapons Policy and Spending by Kingston Reif

"Fortunately, the United States can guarantee its security and that of its allies in a more fiscally sustainable manner by continuing to pursue further reductions in U.S. nuclear forces and scaling back current modernization plans," writes Kingston Reif.

Jun 17, 2014

Summary of the House Appropriations Committee version of the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill

A summary of the House Appropriations Committee version of the FY 2015 Defense Appropriations Bill.

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