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8. Nuclear weapon developments




The 5 declared nuclear weapon states—China, France, Russia, the UK and the
USA—continued to deploy or develop new nuclear weapon systems in 1993. With
the possible exception of China, they also continued to retire older nuclear
weapons, scale back modernization plans or cancel weapons that were under
development. Confronted with weak economies and defining a clear and present
security threat, the British, French, Russian and US governments could not
justify allocating scarce resources to their nuclear weapon programmes at
former levels.

The end of the confrontational relationship with the USSR, progressively
declining defence budgets and the negotiation of the two START treaties have
compelled the USA to continue reducing the size of its nuclear weapon arsenal.
The number of US strategic nuclear weapons declined by about 440 in 1993. In
drawing down its strategic nuclear forces, the USA has generally retained the
most modern strategic weapon systems in its inventory, retired the oldest
systems and continued to build only the new systems for which Congress has
already appropriated funding, for example, B-2 bombers and Trident submarines.
The 1991 START I and 1993 START II treaties have provided
clear guidelines for the composition of future US strategic forces, encouraging
some force structure options while limiting or foreclosing others. With respect
to its remaining tactical nuclear weapons, almost all of which were withdrawn
in 1991-92, the USA plans to dismantle all ground-launched warheads, retain
some relatively small number of the naval warheads in storage in the USA while
dismantling the remainder, and keep several hundred gravity bombs for delivery
by aircraft, stored in the USA and deployed in Western Europe.

The available data suggested that the size and composition of Russian nuclear
forces did not change much in 1993. The development and production of new
nuclear weapon systems in Russia have ground to a virtual halt, and the
retirement of older weapons has been carried out at a relatively slow pace.
Belarus and Kazakhstan gave clear signs that they are willing to eliminate the
nuclear weapons now located on their respective territories, but as of early
1994 the Ukrainian Parliament had not yet approved the government's earlier
commitment to become a non-nuclear weapon state.

As in 1992, the UK decided in 1993 to scale back some of its non-strategic
nuclear weapon programmes and has cut its overall nuclear weapon stockpile to
the lowest level since the early 1960s. The planned introduction of Trident
submarines during the rest of the 1990s, however, will actually increase the
total number of British nuclear weapons as well as vastly improve the accuracy
and range of the British submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) force.

France has several new nuclear weapon programmes under development, including a
new class of submarine, two types of SLBM—one of which could also be deployed
as an ICBM—a nuclear-capable fighter aircraft and an air-to-surface missile
(ASM). However, some of these French programmes may be scaled back or scrapped
altogether because of budget constraints.

China's nuclear weapon programme remains shrouded in secrecy, but it appears
that China is continuing slowly to upgrade and expand its forces with the
development of new types of ballistic missile and the acquisition of
nuclear-capable aircraft from Russia. The US intelligence community estimates
that the Chinese military `can expect significant budget increases by the end
of this decade'. Presumably, these increases will make more resources available
for the development of new nuclear weapons. According to some analysts, China's
ultimate goal is to build up its nuclear capabilities to the extent that it can
settle regional security issues on its own terms without concern that it could
be politically coerced by Russia or the USA.

With the demise of the Soviet Union and the disbandment of the Warsaw Pact, the
most likely scenario for the use of nuclear weapons by the major powers—the
escalation of an East-West conflict in Central Europe—has disappeared. The
arms control community has redoubled its efforts to stigmatize and delegitimize
nuclear weapons, arguing that their political and military utility are
extremely limited. These efforts include a push for a CTB, a ban on the
production of fissile material for weapons and deeper reductions in strategic
warheads than those required by the START II Treaty.


Appendix 8A. Nuclear explosions, 1945-93


Appendix 8A provides data on nuclear explosions from 1945 to