Strategic Weapons: The Incredible Shrinking Balance Of Terror

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October 31, 2011: Two decades of budget cuts and disarmament treaties have changed the "balance of terror" between the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia). Back in 1991, the U.S. had 1,947 delivery systems (ICBM, SLBMs and bombers) and 9,745 nuclear warheads. The Soviet Union had 2,483 delivery systems and 11,159 nuclear warheads. Back then, the recently negotiated START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement called for each side to reduce this to 1,600 delivery systems and 6,000 warheads. Twenty years later, the U.S. has 822 delivery systems and 1,790 warheads. Russia has 516 delivery systems and 1,566 nuclear warheads.

START came into force in 1994, and brought with it on-site inspections of Russian and American nuclear weapons and delivery systems, to insure that everyone was in compliance. This allowed the U.S. to shift its spy satellites away from watching Russian nuclear weapons, to other tasks. This became critical after September 11, 2001, when satellite recon was much in demand to track down terrorists. The START 1 agreement expired in December, 2009, and a new one was signed in April, 2010. The new agreement requires Russia and the U.S. to each have no more than 1,550 nukes, and no more than 800 delivery systems to carry them.

 


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