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US to Spend $1 Trillion on Nuclear Weapons Over Next 30 Years

By: Zachary Keck /

The U.S. will spend $1 trillion over the next 30 years maintaining and modernizing its nukes, according to a new report.

The United States will spend $1 trillion maintaining and modernizing its nuclear arsenal over the next thirty years, according to a new report from an independent think tank.

“Over the next thirty years, the United States plans to spend approximately $1 trillion maintaining the current arsenal, buying replacement systems, and upgrading existing nuclear bombs and warheads,” according to the report, Trillion Dollar Nuclear Triad:  US Strategic Modernization over the Next 30 Years, which was released by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) on Tuesday.

These costs will not be spread out evenly over the long time period. Instead, the authors of the report — Jon B. Wolfsthal, Jeffrey Lewis and Marc Quint — conclude that “Procurement of replacement platforms and associated warheads will peak during a four to six year window, sometime after 2020.” During this peak period, the United States will have to devote as much as three percent of its annual defense budgets to its nuclear arsenal. This is similar to the percentage of the defense budget that was devoted to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal during Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, according to the report.

The CNS figures are roughly consistent with those of the Congressional Budget Office, which projected last month that the U.S. will spend $355 billion over the next decade on its nuclear arsenal.

The new report is based on a year-long study CNS undertook to estimate the cost of maintaining and modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal. As the author’s note in the report, “The United States government does not know with any accuracy how much it spends annually on its nuclear deterrent, or how much it will cost to replace the current [nuclear] triad.” Because of this, the authors contend, U.S. lawmakers and policymakers have been able to avoid a robust debate on the strategic utility of maintaining and modernizing the nuclear triad amid an increasingly tight fiscal climate.

According to the newly published figures of the Federation of Atomic Scientists (FAS), the U.S. currently has a stockpile of 4,650 nuclear warheads, 2,130 of which are operational. In addition to the 4,650 warheads, Washington has 2,700 retired nuclear warheads that have yet to be dismantled.

The United States also maintains a nuclear triad where it can deliver nuclear warheads via land-based missiles, submarine-based missiles, or from bomber aircraft. According to the FAS estimates, currently “1,620 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles—1,150 on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMS) and 470 on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); roughly 300 strategic warheads are located at bomber bases in the United States; and nearly 200 nonstrategic warheads are deployed in Europe.”

The CNS report estimates that in recent years the nuclear triad has cost around $8 billion annually, which works out to be about $240 billion over 30 years.

The U.S. intends to modernize all three legs of its nuclear triad in the coming decades. This in many cases is likely to impose a taxing burden on the Air Force and Navy, the two services responsible for the three legs of the triad.  As I wrote last May, “The immense cost of the Ohio-class replacement program to build the United States’ next generation ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) threatens to jeopardize the rest of the fleet.” The U.S. Navy currently envisions purchasing 12 new SSBNs to replace the currently 14 Ohio-class SSBNs that will be gradually retired. Each of the new 12 is projected to cost between $4-6 billion, leaving little additional money in the Navy’s shipbuilding budget.

Some in the arms control community also claim modernizing the nuclear triad is unnecessary strategically. Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, writes in his recent book: “The U.S. nuclear arsenal is still configured to counter the Cold War threat of a massive Russian nuclear attack…. Reconfiguring the nuclear force to address the actual twenty-first-century threat environment could reduce force numbers dramatically over the next decade without sacrificing vital military missions.”




Havana Syndrome again? CIA officers are mowed down by a mysterious disease

A CIA officer in Moscow experienced symptoms of the so-called “Havana syndrome” in 2017. This became known to The New York Times with reference to sources in diplomatic circles.

CIA officer Mark Polimepulos, who helped lead covert operations in Russia and Europe, complained about the manifestation of mysterious symptoms. According to the newspaper, in December 2017, he felt severe dizziness, which later developed into a prolonged migraine, forcing him to retire. At that time, Polymerpoulos was 48 years old.

It is noted that such a case was not the only one. Similar symptoms were experienced by the staff of the American ambassadors in Cuba and China in 2016-2018. However, the exact number of cases and the place where this happened is not named. It is alleged that the US diplomats have tried to influence in a similar way around the world.

At the same time, the US State Department was unable to establish an unambiguous reason that caused the “Havana syndrome.” Among other things, it was assumed that the diplomats may have been exposed to an unidentified sound effect.

In 2017, it was reported that, beginning in late 2016, American diplomatic officials and their relatives in Cuba began to complain of symptoms such as hearing loss, nausea, headaches and balance disorder. 

The Associated Press received audio footage of the attack and described the harassing sounds as “the high-pitched sound of crickets combined with fingernails scratching on a board.” Then the American government suggested that Russia or China could be the culprit.

Many victims are still undergoing rehabilitation. Specialists from the University of Pennsylvania performed magnetic resonance imaging and revealed visible changes in the structure of the brain in the diplomatic missions.

Differences were found in 23 men and 17 women who complained of health problems while on diplomatic duties in Havana. Scientists have yet to figure out what causes the unusual symptoms.

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How Russia and the United States nearly started a nuclear war in 1995

The Norwegian meteorological rocket incident remains the only time in history that the Russian president has activated his nuclear briefcase.

On January 25, 1995, Doomsday could have come in the world: the Russian Federation was preparing to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. How did it come about that the states that left the confrontation of the Cold War in the past and had just normalized relations with each other found themselves on the verge of mutual destruction?

The beginning of the war?

The cause of the crisis was an ordinary Norwegian meteorological rocket. Its launch from the small island of Anneia at 7 am local time (10 am Moscow time) towards Spitsbergen caused a stir in Russia. 

Black Brant XII.

Black Brant XII. Legion Media / ZUMA Press

Equipped with scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis, the Black Brant XII was similar in size to the nuclear-powered American Trident D-5 ballistic missile, intended for launch from submarines. In addition, it flew along a trajectory along which, as the Russian Defense Ministry believed, American missiles would fly in the event of a nuclear war. 

In December 1994, Norway informed 28 states, including Russia, about the planned launch, but did not give a specific date, limiting itself to specifying the period: from January 15 to February 10 of the next year. Due to bureaucratic delays, this information did not reach the Russian Missile Warning System, which sounded the alarm.

Decisive minutes

An emergency meeting with the country’s top political and military leadership was convened in the Kremlin. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov and President of the Russian Federation (as Supreme Commander-in-Chief) Boris Yeltsin had three strategic missile forces control terminals activated – the so-called nuclear suitcases.

Vladimir Sayapin / TASS

The military believed the lone missile could have been fired to create an electromagnetic pulse that knocked out Russian radars and communications systems. Following it, a massive blow could be expected.

For several tense minutes, as leaders watched it flight, it was decided whether Russia would launch a nuclear strike against the United States. 

“Little is known today about what Yeltsin said at the time, given that it could have been some of the most dangerous moments in the entire history of the nuclear era,” The Washington Post journalist, David Hoffman wrote three years after the incident : “They make it clear that the Cold War nuclear readiness system continues to operate, and how catastrophic its consequences could be, despite the fact that the feud between the great powers is already over.”   

The situation was discharged only when it became clear that the rocket had gone towards Spitsbergen (not far from which it fell into the ocean). The nuclear cases have been deactivated. Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right).

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right). Igor Mikhalev / Sputnik

The incident with bringing Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces to combat readiness, soon became the property of the world community. When, four years later, the Norwegians were about to repeat their launch of Black Brant XII and reported this to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US additionally warned all key Russian military departments about it through their channels. As a result, this time there were no unpleasant surprises. 


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Germany conducted exercises in case of nuclear war

Bundeswehr / Birthe Brechters

The Bundeswehr with partners in the North Atlantic Alliance ( NATO) trained in operations in a nuclear war.

The German army, together with Italian, Belgian and Dutch colleagues, conducted exercises in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

The location of the exercise “Steadfest Noon” was chosen airbase “Nörfenich”, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 31 “Boelcke” is located. Together with the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr, the air forces of other NATO countries, in particular, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, took part in the exercises.

According to a report by Bild, the exercise scenario involved training procedures for safely removing nuclear weapons from storage, delivering ammunition and installing them on aircraft. The training flights took place without nuclear weapons, and in parallel with the aviation exercises at the Büchel airbase, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 51 Immelman is located, the Resilient Guard air defense systems were trained to protect the airfield from air attacks.

The training sites for the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr were not chosen by chance, since the Nörfenich airbase is a reserve storage site for the B61, a hydrogen bomb that forms the basis of nuclear weapons of the US strategic nuclear forces. 

Some of this ammunition is stationed at NATO bases in Europe. The exact number of hydrogen bombs that are stored at European sites and which ones are not reported. In Europe, the B61 is carried by Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers (pictured) and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.

Recall that the B61 thermonuclear bomb is the main weapon of the US strategic nuclear forces, although it entered service in 1968. Since 2012, a new guided version of the B61-12 has been under development, which will replace all B61 and B83 bombs that have been in service since 1983. It can be used both on strategic bombers and tactical aircraft. About two billion dollars were spent on the development of the 12th modification of the aerial bomb.

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