An estimate of the world nuclear forces today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).


First published in June 2021.


The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has launched the findings of SIPRI Yearbook 2021, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.

The nine nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) — together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021. This marked a decrease from the 13,400 that SIPRI estimated these states possessed at the beginning of 2020.

Despite this overall decrease, the estimated number of nuclear weapons currently deployed with operational forces increased to 3,825, from 3,720 last year. Around 2,000 of these — nearly all of which belonged to Russia or the USA — were kept in a state of high operational alert.

The UK’s ‘Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’, published in early 2021, reversed a policy of reducing the country’s nuclear arsenal and raised its planned ceiling for nuclear weapons from 180 to 260.

China is in the middle of a significant modernization and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals.





Note: The figures for North Korea are SIPRI’s estimates of the number of warheads that North Korea could potentially build with the amount of fissile material it has produced. There is no publicly available evidence that North Korea has produced an operational nuclear warhead for delivery by an intercontinental-range ballistic missile, but it might have a small number of warheads for medium-range ballistic missiles. The figures for North Korea are highly uncertain and are not included in the global totals.



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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 14 June 2021. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

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