$72.9 billion. That’s how much nine countries spent on nuclear weapons in 2019. In a just-released report, ICAN produced the first estimate in nearly a decade of global nuclear weapon spending, taking into account costs to maintain and build new nuclear weapons.
That amounts to $138,699 spent in the world on nuclear weapons per minute. Global nuclear spending rose $7.1 billion from 2018, in line with total military spending which rose dramatically from 2018 to 2019. The research pulled from dozens of different sources on each country’s military and nuclear spending, making an educated estimate when exact budget data was not available.
In 2019, China spent $10.4 billion, France spent $4.8 billion, India spent $2.3 billion, Israel spent $1 billion, North Korea spent $0.6 billion, Pakistan spent $1 billion, Russia spent $8.5 billion, the United Kingdom spent $8.9 billion and the United States spent $35.4 billion on nuclear weapons. ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn stated, “It is absurd to be spending $138,700 every single minute on weapons that cause catastrophic human harm rather than spending it to protect the health of their citizens. They are abdicating their duty to protect their people.”
These countries continue to waste billions every year on weapons of mass destruction that will soon be illegal. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which bans the development, production and manufacture of nuclear weapons, now has 36 ratifications or accessions and 81 signatures and will enter into force once it reaches 50 ratifications or accessions.
The billions thrown away on nuclear weapons could instead be funding supplies and research needed to help people around the world fight COVID-19. ICAN research showed that in France, the United Kingdom and the United States, each country’s spending on nuclear weapons could instead pay for at least 100,000 intensive care unit beds, tens of thousands of ventilators and tens of thousands of annual salaries for nurses and doctors.
ICAN would like to thank experts from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Fudan University, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sciences Po, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and Women Cross DMZ for reviewing the estimates and offering comments and critiques, in addition to the many ICAN partner organisations that provided research and insights.