Will there be a nuclear war? Which countries have weapons and how likely Russia is to use nukes in Ukraine
Russia has more nuclear weapons than any other country in the world, but has signed a treaty not to use them
February 25, 2022 2:26 pm
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a stark warning to the West following his invasion of Ukraine by stating that anyone who interfered “will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history”.
The threat of nuclear war has been considered by world leaders and civilians alike, despite Russia, the United States and UK all having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and therefore, on paper, agreeing to nuclear peace.
So how real is the risk that nuclear arms could be used? And what systems are in place to minimise that risk?
What is the NPT?
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, shortened to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is an international agreement signed by 191 countries intended to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
There are three main parts to the agreement: non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear energy.
Only four countries with nuclear capabilities have not signed the NPT, including Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.
Who has nuclear weapons?
Nuclear weapons are known to be possessed by nine countries, but only five of these have signed the NPT.
Russia has the most, at 6,257, of which 1,458 are active (already deployed), 3,039 are available (can be deployed if needed) and 1,760 are retired (out of use and awaiting dismantlement).
The United States follows with 5,550 nuclear weapons in total, of which 1,389 are active, 2,361 are available, and 1,800 are retired.
Of the remaining NPT countries, China has 350 active nuclear weapons, France has 290, and the UK has 225.
Pakistan, India, and Israel have never signed the NPT but have 165, 156, and 90 available nuclear weapons respectively.
North Korea originally signed the NPT but became the only country to ever withdraw from it in 2003, and is currently believed to have around 40 to 50 nuclear weapons.
Did Putin threaten to use nuclear weapons?
Putin addressed Russia on Thursday, not declaring war but claiming his goal wsa to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” Ukraine.
He added: “To anyone who would consider interfering from outside: If you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All the relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on French television channel TF1 that this message was understood to be a threat of using nuclear weapons.
Has Nato responded?
Le Drian countered with his own mention of nuclear capabilities, however. He added: “I think Vladimir Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance (Nato) is a nuclear alliance. That is all I will say about this.”
Nato itself does not own any nuclear weapons but some United States-owned missiles are reportedly kept at six airbases across five European countries.