Ukraine-Russia war: Which countries have the most nuclear weapons?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
There are nine countries in the world, including Russia, which have nuclear warheads. (Getty)
There are nine countries in the world, including Russia, which have nuclear warheads. (Getty)

Vladimir Putin has stoked fears of nuclear war after announcing that he has put his nation’s deterrence forces, which include nuclear weapons, on “special alert”.

While this does not mean that Russia intends to use its nuclear arsenal, the move was condemned by the US, who called it an “unacceptable escalation”.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace dismissed the move as part of the Kremlin’s “battle of rhetoric”, rather than a real threat.

The Russian president suggested “aggressive statements” from Nato and the financial sanctions prompted his orders to increase the readiness of Russia’s nuclear weapons.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov went further on Monday, blaming the escalation on foreign secretary Liz Truss.

This intervention was widely decried as an attempt to distract from Moscow’s actions during the invasion of Ukraine.

Watch: Putin orders Russia's nuclear forces on high alert

With the threat of nuclear weapons remaining, what is Russia’s stockpile and which other countries have them?

Russia

Nine countries possess nuclear weapons and, according to the latest figures, Russia has the most.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which compiles the list of the world’s nuclear weapons, says Russia has a total inventory of 5,977 nuclear warheads. This includes stockpiled and retired warheads.

Of that figure, 1,588 are deployed strategic warheads on ballistic missiles and at bomber bases.

Another 2,889 of Russia’s warheads are non-deployed or reserve weapons. Added together, this gives a military stockpile total of 4,477 nuclear warheads.

Which countries have the most nuclear warheads? (Yahoo News UK)
Which countries have the most nuclear warheads? (Yahoo News UK)

A further 1,500 Russian nuclear warheads are retired.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Russia is in the “late stages of a decades-long modernisation of its strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces to replace Soviet-era weapons with newer systems”.

The bulletin says this is motivated by the Kremlin’s “strong desire” to match the capabilities of the US.

Russia has conducted more than 25 test launches of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which can be loaded with nuclear warheads, in the past five years, and plans a further 10 test launches this year, a “significant increase in test frequency”, the bulletin said.

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - MARCH 1, 2022 - Damage is pictured after shelling by Russian troops of central Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine. (Photo credit should read Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
Damage in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday after bombing by Russian forces. (Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - The view of military facility which was destroyed by recent shelling in the city of Brovary outside Kyiv on March 1, 2022. - Russian troops will carry out an attack on the infrastructure of Ukraine's security services in Kyiv and urged residents living nearby to leave, the defence ministry said on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Genya SAVILOV / AFP) (Photo by GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)
A military facility which was destroyed by Russian shelling in the city of Brovary outside Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. (AFP via Getty Images)
Armed men stand outside the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv on March 1, 2022, destroyed as a result of Russian troop shelling. - The central square of Ukraine's second city, Kharkiv, was shelled by advancing Russian forces who hit the building of the local administration, regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said. Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city near the Russian border, has a population of around 1.4 million. (Photo by Sergey BOBOK / AFP) (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images)
Armed men stand outside the damaged local city hall of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday after it was targeted by Russian shelling. (AFP via Getty Images)

The US

The US has a total inventory of 5,428 nuclear warheads, according to the FAS, more than 500 fewer than Russia. Of these, 1,720 warheads are retired.

That leaves 1,644 deployed strategic warheads, and another 100 that are deployed non-strategic in Europe.

There are another 1,964 American nuclear warheads that are either reserve or non-deployed.

The total military stockpile of US nuclear weapons is 3,708.

Other countries with nuclear weapons

The next largest nuclear power is China, with a total warhead inventory of 350, all of which are believed to be in reserve or non-deployed.

France has a total inventory of 290 nuclear weapons, 280 which are deployed strategic warheads and 10 that are reserve or non-deployed.

A young refugee girl from Ukraine waits to enter a bus at the Moldova-Ukrainian border's checkpoint near the town of Palanca on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP) (Photo by NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP via Getty Images)
A young refugee girl from Ukraine waits to enter a bus at the Moldova-Ukrainian border's checkpoint near the town of Palanca on Tuesday. (Getty Images)
A woman holds a child, as people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine arrive in Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia, March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Lukasz Glowala
A woman holds a child as people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine arrive in Vysne Nemecke, Slovakia, on Tuesday. (Reuters)

The FAS says the UK has a total inventory of 225 nuclear warheads. Of these, 120 are deployed strategic warheads, 60 are reserve/non-deployed, making a military stockpile of 180. Another 45 warheads are retired.

The remaining nations with nuclear weapons include Pakistan, with a military stockpile of 165 warheads, India (160 warheads), Israel (90) and North Korea (20).

In other developments on Tuesday:

Watch: Ukraine building blown to bits by Russian missile attack

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting