Russia has presented a chart and other data detailing recent reductions in its nuclear forces to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference currently underway in New York. But the information provided falls far short of the (itself incomplete) level of disclosure recently made by the United States, reports Hans Kristensen–and it may not even be accurate (“Russian Nuclear Weapons Account Falls Short,” FAS Strategic Security Blog, 11 May 2010).
The numbers provided for Russian strategic nuclear weapons “are not ‘actual quantities’ of weapons but so-called aggregate numbers previously published in the Memorandum of Understanding exchanged by Moscow and Washington under the now expired START treaty. The aggregate numbers are inaccurate because they include so-called phantom weapons that were not operational at the time, and because they attribute a declared warhead number to each delivery platform rather than what is actually deployed. The aggregate numbers also do not include strategic warheads that are not counted as deployed.”
Kristensen goes on to note that “the number for 2012 on the graph is curious because it lists 2,000 strategic warheads, the medium value of the 1,700-2,200 of the Moscow Treaty. But since Russia doesn’t count its strategic bomber weapons as deployed under the Moscow Treaty and the New START agreement only counts one warhead per bomber, practically all of the listed 2,000 warheads would have to be on ballistic missiles. Yet the ballistic missiles Russia is projected to deploy in two years don’t have enough warhead spaces for 2,000 warheads.”
The Russian figures also fail to account for so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons. The Russian government reports that its tactical nuclear arsenal had been reduced by 25% since 1991, but no figures for the size of that arsenal, thought to be around 2,000 deployed weapons (with another 3,400 in storage), have been provided.
In total, Russia is estimated to possess about 12,000 nuclear weapons–more than half of the world’s total nuclear arsenal–including about 4,600 operationally deployed weapons.