A new report from the Federation of American Scientists finds that Russia and the United States have slowed the rate at which they reduce their nuclear arsenals, even while they enacted a new atomic arms control deal less than two years ago.
The U.S. stockpile of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads presently stands at roughly 4,650, down from more than 19,000 in 1991, according to FAS Nuclear Information Project Director Hans Kristensen. Russia has seemingly seen its corresponding arsenal of active and reserve warheads drop from 30,000 warheads to about 4,500 over the same post-Cold War period.
"There are indications that, although U.S. and Russian reductions are continuing, both countries are becoming more cautious about reducing further. The drawdown of forces has slowed since 2007 and both countries are now investing huge sums of money in new nuclear weapon systems that are designed to operate toward the end of the century," according to the analysis. "Unless new unilateral reductions take place or significant arms control agreements are reached, large nuclear forces could be retained far into the future."
The New START accord, which entered into force in February 2011, requires both nations to reduce their stocks of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to 1,550 warheads and 700 delivery systems. The accord does not address reserve or tactical armaments.
"Now that the U.S. presidential election is over, President Obama should once again make nuclear arms control a prominent and visible part of his foreign policy agenda," Kristensen stated in the report. "The financial crisis will probably help by making simple and quick reductions more attractive to save money in the short term. Fortunately, there are several changes that can and should be made to the U.S. nuclear posture that does not require negotiating a new treaty."
He cited reduction examples including expediting New START nuclear cuts ahead of the accord's 2018 deadline, along with slashing the number of Minuteman 3 ICBMs from 450 to 300 and "the decision to reduce by four the missile loading on each Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). ... The SSBN missile reduction should be doubled, however, and combined with reducing the SSBN fleet by two boats."
Kristensen also offered recommendations for Russia among a host of nuclear arms-cutting suggestions. His proposals included having Russia call off plans for a new "heavy" ICBM and to keep only one nuclear warhead on its mobile RS-24 ICBMs.