Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued an order to put nuclear weapons on alert. But how many such weapons does Russia really have? The British service BBC has its own analysis.
Analysts say Putin’s move should be treated as a warning to other countries not to interfere in the situation with Ukraine, and not as a real announcement of the use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have been around for almost 80 years and are seen by many countries as a guarantee of national security.
How many nuclear weapons does Russia have?
The figures are estimated, and according to the Association of American Scientists, Russia has 5,977 nuclear warheads, or devices that trigger a nuclear explosion. This number includes those outside the devices that need to be dismantled, there are 1,500.
Of the remaining 4,500, most are strategic nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles or long-range missiles. It is these weapons that are commonly associated with nuclear war. The rest are smaller and less destructive short-range nuclear weapons used on battlefields or at sea. But that does not mean that Russia does not have thousands of long-range nuclear weapons on standby.
Experts estimate that about 1,500 nuclear warheads are currently deployed at bases and submarines.
How do they compare to others?
Nine countries in the world have nuclear weapons. These are China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
NATO, ie the United States, France and Great Britain have a total of 5,943 pieces, of which 5,428 are in the United States, 290 in France and 225 in the United Kingdom.
China has 350 warheads, Pakistan 165, India 160, Israel 90 and North Korea 20.
China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom are among the 191 countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. By doing so, they pledged to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, that is, they pledged to eliminate them completely. The deal really led to a reduction in the ’70s and’ 90s. India, Israel and Pakistan have never joined the Treaty. North Korea left in 2003.
Of the nine nuclear weapons countries, Israel is the only one that has never officially acknowledged its nuclear weapons program. Ukraine has no nuclear warheads, and contrary to Putin’s allegations, there is no evidence that they tried to procure them.
How destructive are nuclear weapons?
Nuclear weapons are designed to cause maximum destruction. The radius and degree of destruction depends on several factors. The first is the size of the warhead, the second is how high above the ground it is detonated, the third is the surroundings.
Even the smallest warhead can cause great damage and lasting consequences. The bomb that killed 146,000 people in Hiroshima was 15 kilotons. Today’s warheads can be up to 1,000 kilotons. Few could survive a nuclear attack in the blast zone itself.
After the blinding light comes a huge fireball and a shock wave that can destroy buildings and other structures within a few kilometers.
Should we be worried?
The likelihood of a nuclear conflict is currently slightly higher than usual, but still low. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC that Britain had never seen a change in the position of Russia’s nuclear weapons. However, it will continue to be closely monitored, writes the BBC.