Global spending on Nuclear Arms on rise after 30 years of decline

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Nuclear arms spending, arsenals swell as global tensions grow: studies
  • The world’s nuclear powers, and China in particular, increased investment in their arsenals for a third consecutive year in 2022 amid swelling geopolitical tensions, two reports showed Monday.
  • The world’s nine nuclear-armed states jointly spent $82.9 billion on their arsenals last year, with the United States accounting for more than half of that, according to a new report from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).
  • Pointing to the stockpile of usable nuclear warheads, Smith said that “those numbers are beginning to tick up”, while adding that they remain far below the more than 70,000 seen during the 1980s.
  • The bulk of the increase was in China, which increased its stockpile from 350 to 410 warheads
  • India, Pakistan and North Korea also upped their stockpiles and Russia’s grew to a smaller extent, from 4,477 to 4,489, while the remaining nuclear powers maintained the size of their arsenals.
  • Washington spent $43.7 billion, which was slightly less than a year earlier but was still far ahead of all other countries, the report showed.
  • China was next in line with $11.7 billion spent, followed by Russia at $9.6 billion — both marking an increase of around six percent from 2021.
  • Britain raised its spending level by 11 percent to $6.8 billion.

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Latest in threats from Moscow mulling use of nuclear weapons

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia journal: Moscow mulls possible use of nuclear arms to fend off US attack
  • A Russian defense ministry journal says Moscow is developing a new type of military strategy using nuclear weapons to protect against possible U.S. aggression, RIA news agency reported on Thursday.
  • The article is the latest in a series of combative remarks by Russian politicians and commentators after the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year, suggesting Moscow would, if necessary, be prepared to deploy its vast nuclear arsenal.
  • RIA said the article, published in the Voennaya Mysl (Military Thought) magazine, concluded Washington was worried it might be losing dominance over the world and had therefore “apparently” prepared plans to strike Russia to neutralize it.
  • Although Moscow says it would only use nuclear weapons in case Russia’s territorial integrity were threatened, Putin allies have regularly suggested calamity could be close.

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Top U.S. general confirms ‘very concerning’ Chinese hypersonic weapons test

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, has provided the first official U.S. confirmation of a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.

The Pentagon has been at pains to avoid direct confirmation of the Chinese test this summer, first reported by the Financial Times, even as President Joe Biden and other officials have expressed general concerns about Chinese hypersonic weapons development.

But Milley explicitly confirmed a test and said that it was “very close” to a Sputnik moment — referring Russia’s 1957 launch of the first man-made satellite, which put Moscow ahead in the Cold War-era space race.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg television, in an interview aired on Wednesday.

Nuclear arms experts say China’s weapons test appeared to be designed to evade U.S. defenses in two ways. First, hypersonics move at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,853 mph), making them harder to detect and intercept.

Second, sources tell Reuters that the United States believes China’s test involved a weapon that first orbited the Earth. That’s something military experts say is a Cold War concept known as “fractional orbital bombardment.”

Last month, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall alluded to his concerns about such a system, telling reporters about a weapon that would go into an orbit and then descend on a target.

“If you use that kind of an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory — which is directly from the point of launch to the point of impact,” he said.

“It’s a way to avoid defenses and missile warning systems.”

Fractional Orbital Bombardment would also be a way for China to avoid U.S. missile defenses in Alaska, which are designed to combat a limited number of weapons from a country like North Korea.

Jeffrey Lewis at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies summed up fractional orbital bombardment this way: “The simplest way to think about China’s orbital bombardment system is to imagine a space shuttle, put a nuclear weapon into the cargo bay, and forget about the landing gear.”

Lewis said the difference is that the Chinese re-entry system is a glider.

China’s foreign ministry denied a weapons test. It said it had carried out a routine test in July, but added: “It was not a missile, it was a space vehicle.”

U.S. defenses are not capable of combating a large-scale attack from China or Russia, which could overwhelm the system. But the open U.S. pursuit of more and more advanced missile defenses has led Moscow and Beijing to examine ways to defeat them, experts say, including hypersonics and, apparently, fractional orbital bombardment.

The United States and Russia have both tested hypersonic weapons.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Russian lawmakers approve extension of nuclear arms pact with U.S.

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s parliament on Wednesday approved a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, which a senior official said had been agreed on Moscow’s terms at the eleventh hour before it expires next week.

Signed in 2010, the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a cornerstone of global arms control and limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.

The White House did not immediately confirm a Kremlin announcement on Tuesday of a deal to extend the treaty but said new President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the issue by telephone and agreed that their teams work urgently to complete the pact by Feb. 5, the expiry date.

Both Russia’s lower and upper houses of parliament, the State Duma and Federation Council, rushed through votes on Wednesday to approve the extension of the last major pact of its kind between the two nuclear powers.

“The essence of the agreement is to extend it for five years, as it was signed, without any changes,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Duma.

The next step is expected to be President Vladimir Putin signing the legislation.

Ryabkov said the treaty would be formally extended once Russia and the United States had exchanged diplomatic notes after completing all their respective domestic procedures.

He said the extension had been agreed “on our terms,” the TASS news agency reported.

Moscow and Washington had failed to agree an extension under former U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration had wanted to attach conditions to a renewal that Moscow rejected.

Addressing a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, Putin cast the extension as “a step in the right direction” – at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are strained in other areas.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council, described it as a good treaty that ensured Russia’s national security.

“If the treaty had not been extended, ceilings and quantitative limits would have disappeared, which would open the opportunity for an arms race,” he said.

(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy, Darya Korsunskaya, Elena Fabrichnaya and Alexander Marrow; Editing by Tom Balmforth and Mark Heinrich)

U.S. pushes ahead with bid to extend Iran arms embargo though support unclear

By Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is pushing ahead with its bid to extend an international arms embargo on Iran by way of a second draft U.N. Security Council resolution, despite what some diplomats say is a lack of enthusiasm for such a move among its 15 members.

The U.S.-drafted resolution needs at least nine votes in favor to force Russia and China to use their vetoes, which Moscow and Beijing have signaled they will do. Some diplomats question whether Washington can even secure those nine, however.

“We have tabled a resolution that we think accomplishes what we think needs to be accomplished,” U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook told the Aspen Security Forum, held virtually, on Wednesday.

“The easy way is to do a rollover of the arms embargo. It’s not difficult, there’s all the reasons in the world to do it. But we will do this one way or another.”

The arms embargo on Iran is currently set to end on Oct. 18 under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Washington quit in 2018.

The second draft circulated by Washington is virtually unchanged from the first text shared with the council in June.

If the United States is unsuccessful in extending the embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all U.N. sanctions on Iran under a process agreed in the 2015 deal.

Such a move would kill the deal, touted as a way to suspend Tehran’s suspected drive to develop nuclear weapons. Washington argues it can trigger the sanctions because a Security Council resolution still names it as a participant.

Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the U.S. withdrawal and Washington’s re-imposition of sanctions.

“For as long as Iran is allowed to enrich, we’re going to be having this discussion – how close is Iran to a nuclear breakout? … We need to restore the U.N. Security Council standard of no enrichment,” Hook said.

Iran denies it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb.

Diplomats say Washington would face a tough, messy battle if it tries to trigger a return to sanctions.

The United States would have to submit a complaint to the council, which would then have to vote within 30 days on a resolution to continue Iran’s sanctions relief. If such a resolution is not put forward by the deadline, sanctions would be reimposed – what is known as a snapback.

Some diplomats have suggested the United States will submit its complaint by the end of August to ensure the 30 days ends in September, before Russia takes the monthly rotating council presidency in October.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

U.S. suspends compliance on weapons treaty with Russia, may withdraw in six months

FILE PHOTO: Components of SSC-8/9M729 cruise missile system are on display during a news briefing, organized by Russian defence and foreign ministries, at Patriot Expocentre near Moscow, Russia January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

By Lesley Wroughton and Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States will suspend compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia on Saturday and formally withdraw in six months if Moscow does not end its alleged violation of the pact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

The United States would reconsider its withdrawal if Russia, which denies violating the landmark 1987 arms control pact, came into compliance with the treaty, which bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

“Russia has refused to take any steps to return (to) real and verifiable compliance,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department. “We will provide Russia and the other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF treaty, effective in six months.

“If Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance with the treaty within this six-month period by verifiably destroying its INF-violating missiles, their launchers, and associated equipment, the treaty will terminate.”

The United States alleges a new Russian cruise missile violates the pact. The missile, the Novator 9M729, is known as the SSC-8 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Russia says the missile’s range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty that it wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles. Russia also has rejected a U.S. demand to destroy the new missile.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday the United States had been unwilling to discuss the issue.

A few hours before Pompeo’s announcement a statement from NATO said the alliance would “fully support” the U.S. withdrawal notice.

Some experts believe the collapse of the INF treaty could undermine other arms control agreements and speed an erosion of the global system designed to block the spread of nuclear arms.

European officials are especially worried about the treaty’s possible collapse, fearful that Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the United States and Russia.

Speaking before Pompeo’s announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the importance of using the six-month window to keep talking.

“It is clear to us that Russia has violated this treaty …,” she said. “The important thing is to keep the window for dialogue open.”

Senator Bob Menendez, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Trump failing to grasp the importance of arms control treaties or of having a wider strategy to control the spread of nuclear weapons.

“Today’s withdrawal is yet another geo-strategic gift to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin,” he said in a statement.

(Reporting By Makini Brice, Susan Heavey, Arshad Mohammed and Lesley Wroughton; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Trott)

U.S. detects new activity at North Korea factory that built ICBMs

A satellite image shows the Sanumdong missile production site in North Korea on July 29, 2018. Planet Labs Inc/Handout via REUTERS

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. spy satellites have detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, a senior U.S. official said on Monday, in the midst of talks to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms.

Photos and infrared imaging indicate vehicles moving in and out of the facility at Sanumdong, but do not show how advanced any missile construction might be, the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the intelligence is classified.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that North Korea appeared to be building one or two new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles at the large research facility on the outskirts of Pyongyang, citing unidentified officials familiar with intelligence reporting.

According to the U.S. official who spoke to Reuters, one photo showed a truck and covered trailer similar to those the North has used to move its ICBMs. Since the trailer was covered, it was not possible to know what, if anything, it was carrying.

The White House said it did not comment on intelligence. A senior official at South Korea’s presidential office said U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies are closely looking into various North Korean movements, declining specific comment.

The evidence obtained this month is the latest to suggest ongoing activity in North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities despite talks with the United States and a June summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump declared soon afterward that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat. Kim committed in a broad summit statement to work toward denuclearization, but Pyongyang has offered no details as to how it might go about that and subsequent talks have not gone smoothly.

It was not the first time U.S. intelligence clashed with the president’s optimism.

In late June, U.S. officials told U.S. media outlets that intelligence agencies believed North Korea had increased production of fuel for nuclear weapons and that it did not intend to fully give up its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs despite its pledge to denuclearize. But he insisted the Trump administration was still making progress in its talks with Pyongyang.

Joel Wit, a former State Department negotiator and founder of 38 North, a North Korea monitoring project, said it was unrealistic to expect North Korea to stop its programs “until the ink is dry on an agreement.”

That was the case with U.S. negotiations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and more recently with Iran, “which continued to build more centrifuges capable of producing nuclear material even as it negotiated with the United States to limit those capabilities,” Wit said.

The Sanumdong factory produced two Hwasong-15 ICBMs, North Korea’s longest-range missiles, but the U.S. official noted that Pyongyang still had not tested a reliable re-entry vehicle capable of surviving a high-velocity trip through the Earth’s atmosphere and delivering a nuclear warhead.

It is possible, the official said, that any new missiles the North is building may be for further testing of such vehicles and of more accurate guidance systems.

“They seem to have figured out the engines, but not all the higher-tech stuff, and that might be what this is about,” the official said.

“What’s more, a liquid-fueled ICBM doesn’t pose nearly the threat that a solid-fueled one would because they take so long to fuel, and that’s something we almost certainly could see in time to abort a launch, given our assets in the vicinity.”

(Additional reporting by David Alexander and Joyce Lee; Writing by Mary Milliken; Editing by Peter Cooney)

U.S. says ex-consultant set up meetings over Iran’s nuclear program

FILE PHOTO - Ahmad Sheikhzadeh (C), a consultant to the Iranian mission to the United Nation, leaves Brooklyn Federal Court in New York, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Pearl Gabel/File Photo

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing on Friday that a former consultant to Iran’s mission to the United Nations recruited a United States-based atomic scientist to meet with Iranian officials about Iran’s nuclear program.

The filing regarding the former consultant, Ahmad Sheikhzadeh, does not contain criminal charges, but was made to support prosecutors’ request for a tough prison sentence for him for tax fraud and conspiracy to violate sanctions against Iran.

Sheikhzadeh pleaded guilty last November to the charges, which do not involve the Iranian nuclear program.

In the filing, prosecutors said that, starting around 2005, Sheikhzadeh helped arrange meetings between the scientist and Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, previously the country’s chief negotiator on nuclear issues, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, formerly Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations.

Sheikhzadeh’s lawyer, Steve Zissou, said on Friday, “The only goal Dr. Sheikhzadeh has ever had was to improve relations between the two countries so that they could both live in peace.”

A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors did not name the scientist, who they said was an Iranian national who had worked at a U.S. nuclear power plant.

They said the scientist, working with Sheikhzadeh, provided advice to help Iran negotiate with other countries over its nuclear program. For example, they said, he gave an estimate of how many gas centrifuges – devices used in enriching uranium – Iran would need to accomplish its nuclear goals.

The scientist also helped develop Iran’s public messaging around the nuclear program, prosecutors said.

Iran reached a deal with the United States and other nations in 2015 to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. U.S. President Donald Trump has criticized the deal and in April ordered that it be reviewed.

Federal guidelines call for a sentence of up to four years and nine months for the crimes Sheikhzadeh pleaded guilty to, but prosecutors on Friday said in their filing that his “brazen” conduct warranted more than that.

Sheikhzadeh is scheduled to be sentenced on July 17 by U.S. District Judge Pamela Chen in Brooklyn. Zissou asked in a letter filed with the court on Friday to postpone the sentencing in light of the new filing.

Authorities originally charged that Sheikhzadeh under-reported his U.N. income on his personal tax returns. They also said he used his bank account to help U.S.-based co-conspirators invest money in Iran, violating sanctions.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; additional reporting by Nate Raymond; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Russia says ready to talk to Trump about nuclear arms, Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia

By Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow was ready to talk to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s new administration about nuclear weapons and Syria, saying the two countries could together solve many of the world’s problems.

Lavrov, speaking days before Trump’s inauguration, used an annual news conference to flag potential areas of cooperation and to belittle what he described as malicious attempts to link Trump to Russia in a negative light.

Trump, who has praised President Vladimir Putin, has signaled he wants to improve strained ties with Russia despite U.S. intelligence agencies alleging the Kremlin chief ordered a cyber campaign to help him beat rival Hillary Clinton to the White House.

Russia denies it tried to sway the U.S. election by hacking or other means. It has also dismissed as a fabrication a dossier written by a former officer in Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, which suggested Moscow had collected compromising information about Trump.

Lavrov dismissed the dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, as “a fugitive charlatan from MI6” and said the dossier looked like part of a campaign to cause problems for Trump and his allies. Putin on Tuesday called the same dossier a hoax.

While cautioning that the new U.S. administration would need to settle in before wider conclusions could be drawn, Lavrov signaled he was encouraged by the tenor of the Trump team’s statements so far which he said suggested it would be possible to have a pragmatic relationship.

“Trump has a particular set of views which differ a lot from his predecessor,” said Lavrov, who accused the Obama administration of wrecking cooperation across a swath of areas and of trying to recruit Russian diplomats as agents.

“By concentrating on a pragmatic search for mutual interests we can solve a lot of problems.”

He said Syria was one of the most promising areas for cooperation, saying the Kremlin had welcomed Trump’s statement that he wanted to make fighting global terrorism a priority.

“What we hear from Donald Trump (on Syria) and his team speaks to how they have a different approach (to Obama) and won’t resort to double standards,” said Lavrov.


On Syria, Lavrov said representatives from the new U.S. administration had been invited to take part in peace talks slated for Jan. 23 in Kazakhstan.

He hoped U.S. officials would attend, he said, as that would be the first opportunity for Moscow and Washington to start talking about closer Syria cooperation.

Moscow backs President Bashar al-Assad in the Syria conflict while Washington supports rebels opposing him, but both have a common enemy in Islamic State militants.

Lavrov questioned however whether Trump, in an interview he gave to The Times of London, had really suggested he would be ready to drop U.S. sanctions on Moscow in exchange for nuclear arms cuts saying his own reading of the interview had not suggested any linkage between the two issues.

But he said Moscow wanted to start talks with the United States on nuclear weapons and on the balance of military power between the two former Cold War foes anyway.

“It’s one of key themes between Russia and the United States. I am convinced we will be able to restart a dialogue on strategic stability with Washington that was destroyed along with everything else by the Obama administration.”

Such talks could cover hypersonic weapons, the U.S. anti-missile shield in Europe, space weapons, and what he said was the U.S. refusal to ratify a ban on nuclear testing. Trump has called for a nuclear weapons build-up.

Some commentators have said Senate hearings for some of Trump’s picks show they will be tough on Russia. But Lavrov said he had been encouraged by Rex Tillerson, the incoming Secretary of State, whom he cited as saying Moscow’s behavior was not unpredictable.

“(That) means that we are dealing with people who won’t get involved in moralizing, but will try to understand their partner’s interests,” Lavrov said.

Tillerson had extensive dealings with Russia when he was the head of Exxon Mobil oil company.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

North Korea says it has resumed plutonium production: Kyodo

North Korean flag

TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korea says it has resumed plutonium production by reprocessing spent fuel rods and has no plans to stop nuclear tests as long as perceived U.S. threats remain, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday.

North Korea’s Atomic Energy Institute, which has jurisdiction over its main Yongbyon nuclear facilities, also told Kyodo it had been producing highly enriched uranium necessary for nuclear arms and power “as scheduled”.

“We have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods removed from a graphite-moderated reactor,” the institute told Kyodo in a written interview.

The institute did not mention the amount of plutonium or enriched uranium it had produced, Kyodo said.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in June North Korea appeared to have reopened the Yongbyon plant to produce plutonium from spent fuel of a reactor central to its atomic weapons drive.

North Korea vowed in 2013 to restart all nuclear facilities, including the main reactor at its Yongbyon site that had been shut down.

North Korea had said in September that Yongbyon was operating and that it was working to improve the “quality and quantity” of its nuclear weapons.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January.

According to Kyodo, the North Korean institute said it had already succeeded in making “lighter and diversifying” nuclear weapons, and that it had no intention of halting nuclear tests.

“Under conditions that the United States constantly threatens us with nuclear weapons, we will not discontinue nuclear tests,” the institute was quoted by Kyodo as saying.

North Korea will also build a 100,000-kilowatt light-water nuclear reactor for experimental use, the institute was quoted as saying, but it did not provide further details.

Little is known about the quantities of weapons-grade uranium or plutonium that North Korea possesses, or its ability to produce either, though plutonium from spent fuel at Yongbyon is widely believed to have been used in its nuclear bombs.

North Korea has come under tightening international pressure over its nuclear weapons program, including tougher U.N. sanctions adopted in March backed by its lone major ally China.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel)