Nuclear Numbers Games

Russia had deployed 148 more nuclear warheads as of Sept. 1 than at the same time last year, US State Department data show. The United States and Russia exchange data biannually as part of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and a fact sheet released Oct. 1 shows Russia had 1,796 warheads on deployed ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers. Last year, 1,648 Russian warheads were deployed. Both counts were above the limit of 1,550 deployed warheads each country must meet by February 2018 under New START. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said the increase is evidence the treaty is a “mistake and a failure. The numbers are clear: while we cut our US nuclear forces, the Russians have built more.”

The United States had 1,367 warheads deployed as of Sept. 1, down from the 1,538 deployed last year. But the US count only dropped below the treaty limit for the first time in 2015, as there were 1,642 US warheads deployed in 2014. The United States also had more deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers, with 681, as of Sept. 1, than Russia, with 508. Both countries had almost the same amount of deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers, with the United States having 848 and Russia having 847, according to the State Department data. Both amounts are above the treaty limit of 800. In March, US Strategic Command chief Adm. Cecil Haney said that while Russia had largely complied with the New START treaty, it had not done so with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that requires Russia to eliminate medium- to short-range weapons. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended a bilateral agreement to dispose of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium due to “unfriendly actions” by the United States.