Us-russia Nuclear Modernization – Possible Threat to Security

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About this sample


Words: 885 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Words: 885|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Feb 8, 2022

Since WWII and the arms race of the cold war, the US and Russia have been fighting to be the nuclear “superpower” of the world. The question of “arm” (continue testing, building, and deploying nuclear weapons) or “disarm” (reduce nuclear stockpiles) has been a point of debate – often using the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a model for the possible gains and losses of arming versus disarming a state. There are four possible options in the game between the US and Russia; either both arm or disarm, the US arms and Russia disarms, or vice versa. Eventually, the model would hit a “steady state” or equilibrium position, in which all other options but one result in a reduced score for all (both) players. Unfortunately, past research has shown that that final decision, the only option for increasing one’s score while in equilibrium, is that of armament. If the political climate is such that game theory predicts it’s in both countries’ interest to arm themselves (as the associated scores in the game are based on collected opinions of officials), it begs the question of how these countries plan on pursuing the disarmament that they speak publicly of supporting.

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Currently, the USA has projected a $1.2 trillion investment into the modernization of their nuclear forces over the next 30 years, with $772 billion allocated for the “operation, sustainment, and modernization of strategic nuclear delivery systems and weapons”, of which $129 billion dedicate specifically to ICBMs (both weapons and delivery systems). It is important to note that this was released prior to the Trump administration, meaning there could be variance in these numbers, however it is currently expected to take up roughly 6% of the total defense budget. Their current inventory consists of an estimated 3,800 stockpiled warheads, however when including reserved and retired warheads (which are set to be disassembled in the 2020s), it totals to an estimated 6,185. Previously, the US had released their stockpile and dismantled warhead numbers, however this practice was recently blocked by the Department of Defense. Additionally, although the US currently complies with the new START, it is believed that it will likely not be renewed in 2021.

Likewise, Russia is also working to modernize their nuclear arsenal, however they are less public with their specific numbers and plans, and it is difficult to understand their intentions due to occasional nuclear threats and military exercises. Russia is estimated to have stockpiled roughly 4,490 warheads, with an additional estimate of 2,000 warheads awaiting dismantling, leaving the estimate total of 6,490. Currently, they are in the middle of a decades-long modernization program that aims to improve upon Soviet-era weapons, however due to the lack of published numbers, most estimates have come from satellite images. Additionally, it is believed that the motivation behind Russian modernization of nuclear weapons is to maintain parity with the US – meaning that although Russia currently complies with the new START limits, that may not continue if it is not renewed. However, due to financial issues, Russian may struggle to maintain the arsenal they currently have, leading to beliefs that it would not drastically increase is START is not renewed.

With obvious and deliberate investments into modernizing nuclear weapons, what does this mean for future nuclear disarmament? The unfortunate truth of the matter is that nuclear modernization does not lead to disarmament. When one country improves on their nuclear weapons capabilities, the possible scores of the prisoner’s dilemma model become more polarized. It becomes increasingly more costly for a country to disarm while the other arms, forcing the country to either relinquish their status as a formidable opponent in a potential conflict, or continue their own modernization efforts to even the playing field.

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However, it is possible to shift the equilibrium state of the game model. Just as the scores were based on the political climate they aimed to describe, a decrease in tensions between the US and Russia could possibly decrease the disparity between scores for arming over disarming. If these countries are truly working towards nuclear disarmament, political stability needs to be achieved outside of the model, independent from nuclear weapons discussions. As it stands, the modernization of nuclear weapons does nothing but continue to escalate the situation under the veil of “decreasing stocks”. Continuing, incorporating the modernization of nuclear weapons into future talks of disarmament treaties would continue to reduce the difference between continuing modernization or gradual disarmament. Only once the scores are stabilized can the model continue to play out to a new equilibrium, hopefully converging on disarmament.


  1. Plous, S. “Perceptual Illusions and Military Realities.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 29, no. 3 (1985): 363–89.
  2.  Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046, Approaches for Managing the Costs of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 to 2046 § (2017).
  3.  Kristensen, Hans M., and Matt Korda. “United States Nuclear Forces, 2019.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 75, no. 3 (2019): 122–34.
  4. Kristensen, Hans M., and Matt Korda. “Russian Nuclear Forces, 2019.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 75, no. 2 (April 2019): 73–84.
  5. Miasnikov, Eugene, Matthew Kroenig, and Lu Yin. “Modernizing Nuclear Arsenals: Whether and How.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Accessed October 22, 2019.
  6. Norris, Robbert S., and Hans M. Kristensen. “Global Nuclear Weapons Inventories, 1945–2010.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 66, no. 4 (2010): 77–83.
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US-Russia Nuclear Modernization – Possible Threat to Security. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“US-Russia Nuclear Modernization – Possible Threat to Security.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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