Nuclear Proliferation – the uncontrolled spread of nuclear weaponry, has been the fear of nations since the first bombs were dropped in World War II. And while the US remains the only country in the world to use strategic nuclear bombs in a combat situation, the stockpiles of these weapons of mass destruction are a major concern to governments and private groups around the globe.
The problem is difficult to define as most counts focus on the nuclear devices themselves, and not the delivery system required to make it true weapon. Many countries listed as having nuclear capabilities lack the missiles or aircraft to make them a true long range threat.
So. Who has them and how many do they have?
Top Two: Russia and the United States:
To anyone who has read about or lived through the arms race of the 20th century will not be surprised that these two superpowers are at the top of the list for nuclear bombs, and by a hefty margin. Both the US and Russia have over 7,000 warheads, while the rest of the nuclear countries have 300 or less.
Some people might be surprised to learn, however, that in this contest, Russia scores in the number one slot with 7,700 devices to America’s 7,100. Still, at that scale, the difference is largely academic.
Leading the rest of the pack:
Representing Europe are two neighbors across the channel, France and Britain, ranking number 3 and 5 with 300 and 225 nuclear devices respectively. Ranking #4 with 260 warheads is China, the best armed of the Asian nations.
Tied for 6th with 120 warheads each are India and Pakistan, two other neighboring countries who share a long border and a longer history of animosity towards each other. This delicate balance is under careful scrutiny by those keeping an eye on nuclear issues.
Finishing up the list are Israel at #7 with 80 devices, and North Korea at #8 with 8.
Other nations may also have access to an ally’s nuclear arsenal under various treaty agreements. For example, NATO members Germany, Italy, Belgium and Turkey currently have nuclear weapons belonging to the United States which they are ‘hosting’ under NATO defense agreements.
The Dangers of Nuclear Proliferation:
The problem with so many weapons out there is that it doesn’t take much to push a regime over the nuclear edge. Especially when the players have a long history of aggression, like Pakistan and India, North Korea and China, and of course Russia and the US. The chances of someone ‘hitting the button’ continues to be a source of concern.
Even the countries with smaller arsenals and a lack of long range attack capabilities are an issue. Bombs can be deployed over land and still be an effective weapon against a neighboring country. And with the kind of payload that even a small strategic nuclear device caries, accuracy in targeting is not the first concern.
While many countries are genuinely working to reduce the total number of weapons both in their own arsenals and worldwide, other countries are looking to join the list of nuclear powers. This makes it important to keep an eye on the state of nuclear armament.