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Media reveals how much nuclear weapons Russia has and who controls them

Media reveals how much nuclear weapons Russia has and who controls them Photo: The media have revealed how many nuclear weapons Russia has and who gives the order to use them (Getty Images)
Author: Liliana Oleniak

The Russian Federation has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear warheads. Their number is about 5,580 units, according to Reuters.

Among the 5580 nuclear warheads:

  • 1200 are decommissioned but mostly intact;
  • 4380 are stored for use by long-range strategic missiles and shorter-range tactical nuclear forces.

In particular, Russia has deployed about 1710 strategic warheads, including

  • about 870 on land-based ballistic missiles;
  • about 640 on submarine-launched ballistic missiles;
  • perhaps 200 on heavy bomber bases.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union possessed a peak number of nuclear warheads of about 40,000, and the United States of America (US) had about 30,000.

In what cases can Russia use nuclear weapons?

According to Russia's nuclear doctrine until 2020, a terrorist country may use nuclear weapons:

  • in response to an attack on the country with the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
  • in the event of the use of conventional weapons against Russia, when the very existence of the state is threatened.

"While Russia’s nuclear statements and threatening rhetoric are of great concern, Russia’s nuclear arsenal and operations have changed little since our 2023 estimates beyond the ongoing modernization," the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) notes.

At the same time, it is added that in the future, the number of warheads destined for Russian strategic forces may increase as single-warhead missiles are replaced by missiles equipped with multiple warheads.

Is Russia planning nuclear tests?

According to dictator Vladimir Putin, Russia will consider testing nuclear weapons if the United States conducts similar tests.

Last year, Putin signed a law revoking Russia's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, only a handful of countries have tested nuclear weapons:

  • The United States in 1992;
  • China and France - in 1996;
  • India and Pakistan - in 1998;
  • North Korea - in 2017.

The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed by Russia in 1996 and ratified in 2000. The United States signed the document in 1996 but has not yet ratified it.

Who gives order to use nuclear weapons?

The Russian dictator is the final decision maker on the use of nuclear weapons. The so-called nuclear suitcase is always with him. It is also believed that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov have such suitcases.

"Essentially, the briefcase is a communication tool that links the president to his military top brass and thence to rocket forces via the highly secret "Kazbek" electronic command-and-control network," the agency explains.

How the nuclear suitcase is equipped

According to footage from a Russian TV channel, the suitcase has many buttons. The section called "command" has two buttons: "start" and "cancel". The suitcase is activated by a special flash card.

"If Russia believed that it was threatened by a strategic nuclear attack, the president would give a direct order to launch through the briefcases to the General Staff Command and the reserve commands that have nuclear codes. Such orders are quickly transmitted through various communication systems to strategic missile forces, which then open fire on the United States and Europe," Reuters adds.

Putin's nuclear threats

French President Emmanuel Macron has not ruled out the possibility that NATO could send troops to help Ukraine. The main problem, he said, is that there is currently no consensus on this issue.

Several NATO countries opposed this idea, including Germany, Czechia, Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, and Italy. At the same time, some countries are ready to consider such a possibility, such as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

According to Putin, Russia is technically ready for a nuclear war, and if the United States sends troops to Ukraine, it will be seen as a significant escalation of the war.

As of May 2023, according to a Levada Center poll, about 30% of Russians expect the dictator to launch a nuclear strike on Ukraine.