A new analysis shows that global spending on nuclear weapons rose to a record $91.4 billion last year

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'The Abyss Is Beckoning': Global Nuke Spending Surged to $2,898 a Second in 2023

Two new reports detail how the world's nine nuclear-armed countries are spending aggressively to modernize and deploy weapons that pose an existential threat to civilization.

A pair of reports published Monday show that global spending on nuclear arms surged to nearly $3,000 a second last year as nations expanded and modernized their potentially civilization-destroying arsenals of atomic weaponry.

The United States, the first and only country to ever use an atomic weapon in war, spent $51.5 billion on its vast nuclear arsenal in 2023—more than every other nuclear-armed country combined, according to an analysis by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The U.S. also accounted for 80% of the $10.7 billion global increase in spending last year compared to 2022.

ICAN found that total spending on nuclear weapons globally rose to a record $91.4 billion last year—$173,884 per minute—as countries worked to modernize their arsenals and flaunt new nuclear capabilities.

"By comparison, the World Food Program executive director stated in 2021 that to end world hunger, countries could spend $40 billion per year through 2030, which is a total of $360 billion over nine years," ICAN's new report reads. "That is $27 billion less than what these nine countries spent on their nuclear arsenals in just five years."

Growing nuclear weapons spending has been a major boon for military contractors such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. According to ICAN, "nuclear-armed countries have ongoing contracts with companies to produce nuclear weapons worth a total of at least $387 billion, continuing in some cases through 2040."

A separate report published Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated that 3,904 nuclear warheads were deployed across the globe as of January 2024—60 more than were deployed at the start of last year.

SIPRI said that the world's nine nuclear-armed countries—the U.S., Russia, France, the United Kingdom, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel—"continued to modernize their nuclear arsenals and several deployed new nuclear-armed or nuclear-capable weapon systems in 2023."

"While the global total of nuclear warheads continues to fall as Cold War-era weapons are gradually dismantled, regrettably we continue to see year-on-year increases in the number of operational nuclear warheads," SIPRI director Dan Smith said in a statement. "This trend seems likely to continue and probably accelerate in the coming years and is extremely concerning."

"We are now in one of the most dangerous periods in human history," Smith added. "There are numerous sources of instability—political rivalries, economic inequalities, ecological disruption, an accelerating arms race. The abyss is beckoning and it is time for the great powers to step back and reflect. Preferably together."

The alarming new reports were published hours after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg toldThe Telegraph that the Western military alliance is considering mobilizing more nuclear weapons in an effort to counter China and Russia, respectively the second- and third-largest nuclear spenders last year behind the U.S., according to ICAN.

"I won't go into operational details about how many nuclear warheads should be operational and which should be stored, but we need to consult on these issues," said Stoltenberg. "That's exactly what we're doing."

The Kremlin, which has faced condemnation from ICAN and other groups over its recent nuclear threats amid the war in Ukraine, swiftly denounced Stoltenberg's comments as "nothing else but an escalation."

ICAN said Monday that while its findings and ongoing nuclear threats "paint a bleak picture," progress toward a world without atomic weapons remains possible and worth fighting for.

"While the nine nuclear-armed governments have steadily increased their investments in nuclear weapons, in 2023, 101 cities and municipalities joined the ICAN cities appeal, including Durham and Leicester from the United Kingdom and Lyon and Montpellier from France, calling on their government to join the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons," the group's report notes. "These cities join international capitals like Washington, Paris, and Berlin which have already adopted the appeal."

"While they continue to make massive profits from contracts to produce and maintain weapons of mass destruction, the number of companies that recognize that nuclear weapons are problematic and that their increasing obligations under human rights reviews and investor scrutiny require them to step away from the industry is growing," the report adds. "It is clear that pressure from the public, investors, and governments is having an effect."

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