Russia's Nuclear Stockpile
the end of the Cold War, a pledge of new cooperation between Russian and American
authorities and a strengthened treaty aimed at reducing the number of nuclear
warheads, information on Russia's current nuclear stockpile remains spotty and
largely unconfirmed by officials at the Kremlin.
The most comprehensive survey of Russia's nuclear
array comes from the annual Nuclear Notebook published by the Natural Resources
Defense Council. In its 2004 report on Russia, authors Robert Norris and Hans
Kristensen project Russia has approximately 4,400 strategic nuclear warheads distributed
across a multitude of delivery systems, including intercontinental ballistic missiles
(ICBMs), submarines and strategic long-range bombers.
The largest portion
of its nuclear force continues to be its ICBMs. According to Norris and Kristensen,
Russia maintains more than 600 missile launchers that can deliver nearly 2,500
nuclear warheads to any spot on the globe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
outlined as late as November 2004 a plan to expand and deploy new mobile ICBMs,
called SS-27s, that would allow the next generation of Russian missiles to avoid
an American missile defense system.
"We are not only conducting research
and successfully testing new nuclear missile systems, I'm sure that they will
be put into service within the next few years. And what's more, there will be
developments. There will be systems of the kind that other nuclear powers do not
have and will not have in the near future," Putin said.
submarine force appears to have stabilized at 14 subs capable of launching nuclear
missiles, so-called Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). This is a far
smaller force than the 62 the Soviets had at sea in 1990, but at least three new
subs are under construction, the first scheduled to be ready in late 2005 or 2006.
14 subs carry some 232 SLBMs, each carrying approximately four to five warheads,
giving Russia's navy a stockpile of approximately 1,072 warheads, according to
the Nuclear Notebook.
Although Russia has radically scaled back its nuclear
submarine force, it resumed submarine patrols in 2003, after not conducting any
in 2002 and only one in 2001, according to the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence.
final component of Russia's triad of nuclear forces is made up of 78 strategic
fighter/bombers capable of launching nuclear-tipped cruise and short-range missiles
and dropping nuclear bombs. Russia has assigned some 870 nuclear bombs and missiles
to this aircraft force.
Although the Russian Federation continues to maintain
an active stockpile of some 4,400 strategic warheads ready to be launched at any
time, the complete Russian stockpile of nuclear warheads is reportedly much larger
according to the Federation of American Scientists and NRDC.
"Based on the
best available information, we estimate that the total current arsenal of intact
warheads is around 17,000," Norris wrote. "Of those, almost half (7,800) are considered
active and operational; the balance occupies an indeterminate status. Some may
be officially retired and awaiting disassembly; others may be in short- or long-term
The remaining 3,400 warheads are tactical warheads, smaller nuclear
weapons intended for use on the battlefield.