Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor 2022 is out
As fear of nuclear war surged to the highest levels since the Cold War in 2022, the global arsenal of nuclear weapons available for use by the armed forces of the nine nuclear-armed states has increased, shows the latest edition of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, which was launched on 29 March 2023. See the key findings and download the report here.
In collaboration with the Federation of American Scientists, the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor publishes the latest available data on global nucleal forces. At the beginning of 2023, the nine nuclear-armed states had a combined inventory of approximately 12,512 nuclear warheads, of which 2,936 are retired and awaiting dismantlement. The remaining 9,576 nuclear warheads are available for use by the military, and have a collective destructive power that is equal to more than 135,000 Hiroshima bombs.
Hans M. Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and contributor to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, said: "Every year, the global inventory of nuclear warheads decreases slightly, including in 2022 when it decreased from 12,705 warheads at the beginning of the year to the estimated 12,512 warheads in January 2023, but this is only still true because Russia and the United States each year dismantle a small number of their older nuclear warheads that have been retired from service. Russia, China, India, North Korea, and Pakistan all expanded their stockpiles of warheads in 2022, however, bringing about a corresponding increase of 136 warheads from the 9,440 warheads that were available for use in early 2022, to 9,576 in 2023."
“This increase is worrying, and continues a trend that started in 2017. If this does not stop, we will soon se an increase also in the total number of nuclear weapons in the world, for the first time since the Cold War,” said the editor of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor, Grethe Østern of Norwegian People’s Aid.
While all of the nine nuclear-armed states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) refuse to join the TPNW, the Ban Monitor notes that their conduct is not compatible with the TPNW, including by continuing to develop, produce and stockpile nuclear weapons. Once again, their conduct in 2022 was also manifestly incompatible with the TPNW’s obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons. There was no evidence that any of the nuclear-armed states have the will purposefully to pursue nuclear disarmament. China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States therefore also continued to fail to comply with their existing obligation under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ on nuclear disarmament.
But it is not just the nuclear-armed states whose activities are incompatible with the TPNW. A total of 35 non-nuclear-armed states, including the world’s 32 so-called umbrella states, also contravened one or more of the prohibitions of the TPNW last year, chiefly by assisting and encouraging continued possession of nuclear weapons on their behalf.
Europe has the highest number of countries whose actions run counter to the TPNW and that vote against the Treaty in the UN. They perpetuate the idea that nuclear weapons are legitimate and necessary and are a major obstacle to nuclear disarmament.
In spite of this, the Ban Monitor points out, the TPNW gained strength in 2022. The speed with which new countries are ratifying or acceding to the Treaty accelerated, following a dip during the COVID-19 pandemic. An important milestone, the Treaty’s First Meeting of States Parties was held in Vienna in June 2022, where a declaration and first action plan was adopted and unprecedented international attention was given to the rights of people affected by nuclear weapons and the need for victim assistance and environmental remediation of areas affected by nuclear-weapons testing. Five states under the US “nuclear umbrella” attended the Vienna meeting as observers, showing early signs of a willingness to at least engage constructively with the Treaty.
As of 29 March 2023, the TPNW has 68 states parties and a further 27 countries have signed but not yet ratified the Treaty. This means that only four more states need sign or accede before the Treaty exceeds 50% of all states.
In a foreword to the 2022 edition of the Ban Monitor, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Special Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, wrote: "While states remain the key actors in international disarmament negotiations, the evolution of the TPNW has shown the usefulness of a partnership between states, civil society and academia. Projects such as this show that well-researched information and thoughtful analysis can stimulate discussion and thus contribute to achieving our shared goal of a world free of nuclear weapons."
Henriette Westhrin, the Secretary-General of Norwegian People’s Aid, a partner in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said: “The Ukraine crisis has demonstrated that nuclear weapons do not create peace or stability. They do not deter aggression but enable conventional wars and incentivize risk taking that could lead to nuclear war.”
The interim Executive Director of ICAN, Daniel Högsta, said: “This year’s Ban Monitor shows just how urgent it is for nuclear-armed countries and their allies to start taking credible, concrete steps towards disarmament. It also demonstrates clearly how the TPNW is gaining traction globally as the route to achieving a world free of these inhumane weapons of mass destruction”