The US State Department on Tuesday released the number of nuclear warheads the country is storing for the first time in four years, after former President Donald Trump put the data on hold.
As of September 30, 2020, the US military maintained 3,750 active and inactive nuclear warheads, down 55 from the previous year and 72 from the same date in 2017.
That figure was also the lowest since America’s nuclear stockpile peaked at the height of the Cold War with Russia in 1965, when the total was 31,255 warheads.
The figures were released on Tuesday as part of an effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to restart arms control talks with Russia after they were blocked under Trump.
“Increasing the transparency of states’ nuclear stocks is important to non-proliferation and disarmament efforts,” the State Department said in a statement.
Trump, who withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, also left another crucial pact, the New Start Treaty on the rocks of the year. last before its scheduled expiration on February 5.
New Start caps the number of nuclear warheads held by Washington and Moscow, and letting it expire could have triggered a reversal of warhead cuts on both sides.
Trump has said he wants a new deal that includes China, which has only a fraction of the warheads the United States and Russia have.
Biden, who took office on January 20, immediately offered a five-year extension of New Start, which Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly agreed to.
The agreement caps the number of nuclear warheads that can be deployed by Moscow and Washington at 1,550.
Last week, Russian and American diplomats held closed-door talks in Geneva to begin discussions on a New Start successor and also conventional arms controls.
A US official called the talks “productive,” but both sides said just holding the talks was positive.
According to a January 2021 tally from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which includes retired warheads – not counted in State Department figures – the United States had 5,550 warheads, up from 6,255 in Russia, 350 in China, 225 in Great Britain, and 290 in France.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea together have around 460 nuclear warheads, according to the institute.
© 2021 AFP