A still image from video, released by the Russian Defense Ministry, shows what it said to be Russia's Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launched during exercises held by the country's strategic nuclear forces at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, in this image taken from handout footage released October 26, 2022

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) issued a chilling warning on Monday as it revealed that the number of operational nuclear weapons had increased slightly in 2022, exacerbating concerns about global security. The estimated count of warheads in military stockpiles for potential use surged by 86, reaching a staggering total of 9,576, according to SIPRI.

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Dan Smith, the Director of SIPRI, expressed grave concern about the current state of affairs, stating, “We are drifting into one of the most dangerous periods in human history.” He urged governments worldwide to prioritize cooperation, emphasizing the need to alleviate geopolitical tensions, curb arms races, and address the escalating consequences of environmental breakdown and rising world hunger.

While Russia and the United States collectively possess nearly 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, SIPRI noted that the sizes of their respective arsenals appeared to have remained relatively stable throughout 2022. However, this stability offers little solace, considering the overall global increase in nuclear armament in recent years.

Despite the alarming growth in operational warheads, the total number of nuclear weapons worldwide has continued to decline due to concerted efforts by the United States and Russia to dismantle retired warheads. Nevertheless, the modest reduction in stockpiles remains overshadowed by the concerning upward trend in operational capabilities.

In a separate report published on the same day, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), based in Geneva, shed light on the exorbitant expenditures allocated to the modernization and expansion of nuclear arsenals. Last year alone, the nine nuclear-armed nations collectively spent a staggering $82.9 billion on enhancing their nuclear capabilities.

The ICAN report highlighted that the United States led the pack in nuclear spending, surpassing all other nuclear-armed states combined, with a budget of $43.7 billion. China and Russia followed suit, with expenditures of $11.7 billion and $9.6 billion, respectively, solidifying their positions as the second- and third-largest investors in nuclear weapons.

As the world witnesses this disconcerting escalation of nuclear armament, international organizations and peace advocates are amplifying their calls for immediate action. The urgent need for disarmament, non-proliferation efforts, and diplomatic initiatives has become more pronounced than ever before. Without effective intervention, the world teeters on the edge of a dangerous precipice, where the consequences of any misstep could be catastrophic.

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