China and Russias nuclear arsenal combined: Shocking number of warheads revealed

Stewart McDonald clashed with Laura Trott over nuclear deterrent

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Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated western fears more than a week ago after he announced that he would be increasing Moscow’s deterrent forces – including nuclear weapons – to “special alert”. As war rages on in Ukraine, its President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) impose a no-fly zone over his country. But the military alliance has refused, owing to concerns that such a development could trigger a nuclear war.

How many nuclear weapons does Russia have?

All figures are estimates, but the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists states Russia has the largest supply of nuclear weapons in the world.

According to its figures, Moscow owns around 4,447 warheads – the devices that trigger a nuclear explosion – of which 1,588 are deployed on ballistic missiles and heavy bomber bases.

The Kremlin keeps a further 977 strategic warheads and 1,912 nonstrategic warheads in reserve.

Hans M Kristensen and Matt Korda, writing for the Bulletin, said: “Of the stockpiled warheads, approximately 1,588 strategic warheads are deployed: about 812 on land-based ballistic missiles, about 576 on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and possibly 200 at heavy bomber bases.”

How many nuclear weapons does China have?

The Federation of American Scientists estimated that China has 350 nuclear warheads.

Although this is dwarfed 21 times over by Russia’s arsenal, the figure still represents the third largest stockpile of any country in the world.

After Russia, the next largest collection is owned by the US – 5,600 on the authority of the global think tank.

Elsewhere, France is estimated to have the fourth largest build-up of nuclear warheads, with 290.

The UK has slightly fewer at 225, while Pakistan (165) and India (160) own the sixth and seventh largest arsenals respectively.

Israel and North Korea complete the list of top nine countries who own the biggest collection of nuclear weapons.

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Could Russia use nuclear weapons over Ukraine?

Although Putin raised alarm bells with his decision to raise Russia’s nuclear alert, it doesn’t mean he intends to use them.

The UK’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has previously said he doesn’t expect Russia’s President to use nuclear weapons in his pursuit of Ukraine.

He said: “As much as he might be ambitious for Ukraine, I don’t think he wants to go into that space.”

Last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that if a third world war were to occur, it would involve nuclear weapons and be destructive.

His comments suggested that while the Kremlin is acutely aware of using its nuclear arms as a deterrent, there is also an appreciation for the devastation they would lead to, including for Russia.

Putin has previously warned about the dangers a nuclear war could trigger. In December 2018, he said if nuclear weapons were used in conflict it “would lead to the collapse of the entire civilisation and maybe our planet”.

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