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Policy brief | 1 November 2011

Force Modernisation Trends in Nuclear Armed States

ELN Chief Executive, Dr. Ian Kearns, produced the first analytical paper published by the BASIC Trident Commission. This briefing outlines recent worrying developments in the nuclear force structures of the world’s nuclear armed states. It argues that “the evidence points to a new era of global nuclear force modernisation and growth”.

It presents evidence that:

  • Despite all the recent disarmament rhetoric, there is no evidence that any of the currently nuclear armed states are actively contemplating a future without nuclear weapons;
  • The potential for nuclear weapons use is growing;
  • Major development or nuclear force modernisation programmes are underway in India, China, the US, Russia, and Pakistan. Israel is on course to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile; India is developing a whole suite of new missiles with longer ranges; Several states are trying to build smaller nuclear warheads for tactical use;
  • If anything, the evidence points to new nuclear arms races and a huge amount of money (hundreds of billions of US$) being spent over the coming decade;
  • Despite the need for major powers to cooperatively address the challenges of globalisation, nuclear deterrence thinking is still very evident in the defence policies of all the major powers; and
  • The New START treaty, while a welcome return to arms control, has a number of loopholes meaning that its affect on disarmament is minimal.


The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.