The present Russian nucear stockpile is vastly reduced from that of the Soviet era. The Soviets were quite thrifty, and seemingly never threw anything away. In the United States, nuclear material from obsolete weapons was recyled into modern weapons, placing some rational upper limit on the size of the stockpile. The American stockpile peaked at about 30,000 weapons in the early 1960s, and by the end of the Cold War stood at around 20,000 weapons.
The Soviets, in the grasp of the Tyranny of the Producers, built new weapons with new materials, so the stockpile just kept on growing, peakng at about 40,000 weapons at the end of the Cold War. By the year 2010, both countries seemed to have stockpiles of about 5,000 weapons.
Under the terms of the New START agreement, the Russians made significant reductions in their strategic arsenal. The number of deployed missiles and bombers fell by 35 percent from 809 to 527 and the number of warheads by 65 percent from 3,897 to 1,444.
According to Article II of the Treaty of the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, Russia and the United States were on February 5, 2018 limited to :
- 700 deployed ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
The Russian Federation has fully complied with its commitment to reduce its strategic offensive weapons. As of February 5, 2018, Russia's aggregate potential is the following:
- 527 deployed ballistic missiles (ICBMs), deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 1,444 nuclear warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments;
- 779 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments.
The Russian Federation and United States' statements on meeting thess aggregate limits on strategic arms, particularly nuclear warheads, reflect "counting rule" aggregates rather than actual numbers of deployed warheads, which are surely greater than these numbers [viz. SIPRI], and probably around three times greater than these numbers [do the math].
In 2017, the US DoD reported that "Russia currently has an active stockpile of approximately 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons. These include air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs, and depth charges for medium-range bombers, tactical bombers, and naval aviation, as well as anti-ship, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft missiles, and torpedoes for surface ships and submarines. There may also be warheads remaining for surface-to-air and other aerospace defense missile systems."
At the end of March 2006, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a special meeting with a dozen senior officials responsible for Russia's nuclear weapons infrastructure to assess: how much is it possible to maintain Moscow’s credibility and its nuclear deterrence potential, without testing nuclear weapons, as Russia transfers its nuclear weapons industry into the peaceful course of nuclear energy. For the first time in Soviet and Russian history, Moscow began to separate the civilian and military components of its nuclear complex. Russian nuclear weapons designers also face the problems of their predecessors related to inadequate funding, more attractive job opportunities in the commercial sectors of the high-tech industry, and other problems. Due to such difficulties, the best scientists and engineers of Russia do not aspire to work in the nuclear industry. According to one Russian analyst, after conducting the latest nuclear tests in October 1992, Russia lost more than half of its nuclear weapons designers.
Since the mid-1980s, Russia has reduced its reserves of pristine warheads from about 35,000 to about 15,000 (of which about 9,300 are in reserve or awaiting disposal). However, the short life of Russian warheads (estimated to be 10-20 years, which is significantly less than in the US) means that Russia produces hundreds of warheads per year. The decommissioned warheads are being guarded to one of the two remaining large enterprises for their collection and dismantling. Technicians disassemble them and replace components with a limited service life (for example, plutonium cores). Fissile material waste is sent for recycling or disposal. Russian experts point out that frequent disassembly and reprocessing can detect problems in warheads without testing them using the American method, which involves the US nuclear arsenal management program.
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