The independent resource on global security

Nuclear force reductions and modernizations continue; drop in peacekeeping troops; no progress in cluster munitions control—new SIPRI Yearbook out now

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) today launches the findings of SIPRI Yearbook 2013, which assesses the current state of international security, armaments and disarmament. Key findings include: (a) alone among the five legally recognized nuclear weapon states, China expanded its nuclear arsenal in 2012; (b)the number of personnel deployed with peace operations worldwide is falling rapidly, due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan; and (c) progress towards a global ban on cluster munitions stalled in 2012.


World nuclear forces—reductions and modernization continue

At the start of 2013 eight states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel—possessed approximately 4400 operational nuclear weapons. Nearly 2000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted, these states together possess a total of approximately 17 265 nuclear weapons (see table), as compared with 19 000 at the beginning of 2012.

The decrease is due mainly to Russia and the USA further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons under the terms of the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START) as well as retiring ageing and obsolescent weapons.

At the same time, all five legally recognized nuclear weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—are either deploying new nuclear weapon delivery systems or have announced programmes to do so, and appear determined to retain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely. Of the five, only China seems to be expanding its nuclear arsenal. India and Pakistan are both expanding their nuclear weapon stockpiles and missile delivery capabilities. 

‘Once again there was little to inspire hope that the nuclear weapon-possessing states are genuinely willing to give up their nuclear arsenals. The long-term modernization programmes under way in these states suggest that nuclear weapons are still a marker of international status and power,’ says SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile.

World nuclear forces, 2013

Country Deployed warheads* Other warheads Total 2013 Total 2012
USA 2150 5550 7700 8000
Russia 1800 6700 8500 10000
UK 160 65 225 225
France 290 10 300 300
China   250 250 240
India   90-110 90-110 80-100
Pakistan   100-120 100-120 90-110
Israel   80 80 80
Total 4400 12865 17265 19000


Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2013
* 'Deployed' means warheads placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.


Peacekeeper numbers drop sharply—Syrian crisis exposes gap between principles and action

The number of peacekeepers deployed worldwide fell by more than 10 per cent in 2012, as the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan got under way.  At 233 642 personnel, the total was still more than double the number deployed in 2003.  These personnel were deployed in 53 operations worldwide, one more than in 2012.

‘We are certainly going to see total peacekeeper numbers keep falling this year, and probably next year too, as a result of the NATO drawdown in Afghanistan,’ said Dr Jaïr van der Lijn, a SIPRI Senior Researcher, who leads SIPRI’s work on peace operations, peacebuilding and conflict management. ‘How far they fall, and what the future peacekeeping landscape looks like, is going to depend on how many troops are eventually deployed in Mali, the broader Sahel region and, potentially, Syria, as well as on states’ willingness to take action to improve the protection of civilians through peace operations and implement the responsibility to protect instead of just bemoaning the failures. Austerity measures will also play a role, but paradoxically, austerity might well encourage states to send more troops to other peace missions in order to avoid domestic pressure to cut their armed forces.’

The United Nations appeared paralysed on the Syria crisis. The new principle of an international responsibility to protect populations if the national government fails to do so—the basis of the 2011 intervention in Libya—was not invoked, as China and Russia threatened to veto any action through the UN and other Security Council members opposed outside ‘interference’ in Syria’s domestic affairs.

‘The lack of action over Syria in 2012 highlighted the weakness of international commitment to the responsibility to protect.  In the end, national interests and deep-rooted fears that the responsibility to protect undermines the principle of state sovereignty, seem to weigh heavier than the plight of populations caught up in conflict,’ said van der Lijn.

Cluster munitions control efforts stall in 2012
Attempts to enhance international controls on the use, production, trading and stockpiling of cluster munitions had a disappointing year in 2012, as supporters of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions proved unable to persuade any new states to sign the convention. Major cluster munitions producers that have not signed or ratified the convention include Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Israel, South Korea, Russia and the United States. Several of these states have in the past used cluster munitions. Cluster munitions disperse multiple smaller munitions, some of which can explode months or years later causing civilian casualties.

‘As long as the major producers stay outside the Cluster Munitions Convention, they can argue that cluster munitions remain a “legitimate” means of waging war and military-industrial product—even if most seem to have acknowledged their potentially grave humanitarian impacts,’ said SIPRI Researcher Lina Grip, co-author of a new section of the Yearbook looking at humanitarian arms control.


For editors

The SIPRI Yearbook is a compendium of cutting-edge information and analysis on developments in armaments, disarmament and international security. SIPRI Yearbook 2013 includes sections on patterns of organized violence and the interactions between peace operations and conflict management alongside authoritative data and analysis on military spending, arms transfers, arms production, nuclear forces, nuclear non-proliferation and arms control, and chemical and biological weapon arms control. Three major Yearbook data sets were pre-launched earlier this year on the SIPRI Top 100 arms producing companies (18 February), international arms transfers (18 March) and world military expenditure (15 April). The SIPRI Yearbook is published in July 2013 by Oxford University Press.