U.S. officials announced on Monday that the U.S. possesses 5,113 nuclear weapons in its stockpile. While the number is nothing revelatory -- nuclear proliferation groups had correctly estimated the arsenal contained 5,100 weapons, down from a 1967 peak of 31,255-- the decision to make the number public for the first time since 1962 is significant. What is the diplomatic logic behind the decision?
- Why It Was Secret The Weekly Standard's John Noonan explains, "There's always been a calculated sense of ambiguity around our nuclear forces and our deterrence strategies, with the logic being that an enemy --if left to speculate about how, when, where, and if we'd use our nukes-- would err on the side of caution and keep his fangs tucked."
- This Is About Iran The Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon writes, "U.S. officials have been working for almost a year to undercut Tehran's charges about Washington's nuclear threat by bringing both transparency to the U.S. program as well as by reducing its numbers. In April, the U.S. and Russia signed a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that lowers the numbers of deployed American and Russian nuclear weapons to their lowest levels since the 1950s. The U.S. also hosted a nuclear security conference in Washington last month."
- Good Move For Everyone Arms control group the Ploughshare Fund's Joe Cirincione tells Politico, "This is a very positive step foward. ... It helps increase global confidence in the new U.S. drive to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. ... It brings some element of democracy to nuclear policy by letting American citizens know a little more about the atomic arsenal. And it helps shatter the myth that secrecy is necessary for nuclear policy. ....The more we know about our own nuclear programs, the more we can control them."
- The Internal Debate The Moderate Voice's Jerry Remmers recounts, "The Obama administration debated the efficacy of releasing the arsenal numbers for months in which some intelligence officials worried it would give clues how much plutonium the U.S. had on hand required for nuclear weapons. Clinton and State Department diplomats won that argument. ... Clinton noted that reliable private estimates of the stockpile were readily available."
- The Real Number Is Higher Sort of, explains the Federation of American Scientists. "The 5,113 warheads in the stockpile do not account for all assembled nuclear warheads currently in the U.S. inventory. We estimate that there is an additional 4,500 retired warheads in storage awaiting dismantlement for a total inventory of approximately 9,600 warheads."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.