How Many Nuclear Weapons Does NATO Have?
15:24 GMT 11.01.2023 (Updated: 16:51 GMT 31.07.2023)
As NATO’s tensions with Russia and China show no sign of abating, people across the world become increasingly worried over the threat of the alliance being involved in a nuclear confrontation with Moscow or Beijing. Does NATO have nukes? If so, how many? Which member-states have nuclear weapons? Sputnik gives you the answers.
What is NATO's Current Nuclear Stockpile?
At the moment, NATO possesses a total of 5,943 nuclear warheads.
Some research companies, meanwhile, remain at odds over the total number of NATO nukes, mainly referring to the so-called operational number of warheads.
5 November 2022, 16:51 GMT
One western media outlet, for instance, cites about 4,178 operational nuclear warheads that the alliance possessed in 2022.
According to Statista
, in 2012 the figure stood at 5,406
, a far cry from the number of NATO nuclear warheads
registered in 2002 (11,087)
and 1992 (14,498)
. In 1972, the alliance reportedly had a total of 27,009
nukes – the biggest figure that has been registered by Statista since 1952.
Which NATO Countries Have Nukes?
Nuclear weapons are currently possessed by three NATO allies
: the United States, United Kingdom and France. The US possesses the lion's share of all nukes
How Many Nukes Does the US Have?
Currently, there are 5,428 nuclear warheads
on at least 652 delivery vehicles
in the US, including 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and 14 nuclear-capable Ohio-class Trident submarines
, Pentagon data indicates. The currently deployed number of the US nuclear warheads
stands at 1,350.
According to the Washington-based non-profit organization Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the number comprises an estimated 100 nuclear warheads that the US stored across Europe on air bases in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey, in line with the so-called principle of NATO nuclear sharing.
What About the UK's Nuclear Arsenal?
A US news outlet
argued that Britain currently possesses a total of 225 nuclear warheads
The number includes more than 100 warheads that can be part of arms of the British Vanguard-class nuclear-powered submarines.
Does France Outstrip UK in Terms of Nukes' Number?
There are about 290 nuclear weapons
in France, which is capable of launching nukes
from submarines or using missiles dropped from an aircraft, according to the global civil society coalition International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
The coalition argued that France spent an estimated $5.9 billion to build and maintain its nuclear forces in 2021.
What is NATO Nuclear Sharing?
According to NATO’s official website, nuclear sharing
is the alliance’s “arrangements” ensuring that “the benefits, responsibilities and risks of nuclear deterrence are shared across” the whole of NATO.
In line with the concept, the US “has deployed a limited number of B-61 nuclear weapons to certain locations in Europe, which remain under US custody and control in full compliance with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.”
The concept came to the fore late last week, when Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto announced that his country would not house nuclear weapons on its territory even after joining NATO.
This was preceded by Stockholm and Helsinki making it clear in November 2022 that they don’t exclude deploying US nukes on their soil, if, of course, both Sweden and Finland join NATO.
"We shouldn't [make] any preconditions. This isn't something that we are actively now discussing. We are waiting to become members and then these kinds of matters can be discussed," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters at the time.
Her Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson stressed that Stockholm shares Helsinki’s approach to the issue of deploying nukes on the two countries’ soil.
"We'll go hand-in-hand, also in this sense, with Finland. And of course, we acknowledge the fact that we embrace all of NATO's capabilities, as NATO is today. But I think Sweden and Finland should draw exactly the same conclusions," Kristersson said.
The remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin
emphasized earlier last year that Moscow has no problems with Finland and Sweden
, and that the possible expansion of NATO at the expense of these two countries does not pose an “immediate threat" to Russia. He, however, warned that Moscow would respond in kind to the NATO enlargement.
“The expansion of military infrastructure to this territory [of Finland and Sweden] will certainly cause our response, which will be based on the threats that will be posed against us. Actually, the problem is being created from scratch, and we will react accordingly to this,” Putin stressed.
When Can NATO Use Nuclear Weapons?
The possibility of NATO using nuclear weapons
was mentioned by the alliance’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in October 2022, when he singled out the topic in light of Russia’s ongoing special military operation
“Circumstances in which NATO might have to resort to nuclear weapons are extremely remote," he argued, accusing Russia of issuing “reckless” rhetoric related to what he claims was Moscow’s drive to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
19 November 2021, 10:47 GMT
“They also know that a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought,” Stoltenberg added.
Russia has repeatedly underlined that Moscow does not threaten anyone with nuclear weapons, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov telling Sputnik in November that the goal of western countries’ bellicose remarks is to make the global community believe that Moscow is purportedly preparing to launch a tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, warned that a nuclear war threat is growing and that Moscow does not want to be "brandishing" its nukes around the world.