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2021 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending Report

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$82.4 billion. That’s how much the nine nuclear-armed states spent on their nuclear weapons in 2021 during a global pandemic, rising global food insecurity and only months before Russia began assembling troops on the border with Ukraine. This represents an inflation-adjusted increase of $6.5 billion from 2020. 

The report “Squandered: 2021 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending” details the spending of these nine countries on their arsenals, the companies that profited, and the lobbyists hired to keep nuclear weapons in business.

This spending has done nothing to deter the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Instead, the decades-long failure to pursue effective disarmament has put the world into the nuclear chokehold of one country. Meanwhile, nine countries have prioritized spending $156,841 per minute on nuclear weapons, as millions of their own citizens struggle to access healthcare, heat their homes, and even buy food. Spending on nuclear weapons is violence that costs lives. 

The U.S. spent three times more than the next in line- a whopping $44.2 billion. China was the only other country crossing the ten billion mark, spending $11.7 billion.  Russia had the third highest spending at $8.6 billion, though the U.K.’s $6.8 billion and the French $5.9 billion weren’t so far behind.  India, Israel, Pakistan also each spent over a billion on their arsenals, while North Korea spent $642 million. 

Why would these countries spend so much, in the midst of the worst global pandemic in a century? The report shows that it’s not security interests, or even a resumption of so-called great power competition driving this increased spending, it’s business. 

After digging through thousands of contracts, annual reports and lobby disclosures, the report shows a dozen companies got $30.2 billion in new contracts to work on nuclear weapons. Those companies then turned around and spent $117 million lobbying decision makers to spend more money on defense. And they also spent up to $10 million funding most of the major think tanks that research and write about policy solutions about nuclear weapons.

In June 2022, the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will bring together states and civil society to forge a path to the elimination of these weapons and to condemn reckless and dangerous nuclear weapons spending.

Every actor in the circle is complicit. Together, we can use the knowledge we have to call on every elected official, company representative, investor, and researcher to abandon the dangerous ideology of nuclear weapons. 

The first meeting of state parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in June could not come at a better time. As states and activists continue to hear the stories of survivors of nuclear weapons, rally to better support them, and work toward nuclear disarmament, we must remember that the story of nuclear weapons is not only one of hybris and fantasies of military might, it is also one of vested interests squandering taxpayer money. 

Now is the time to act to break this wasteful cycle. 

Read the full report: “Squandered: 2021 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending”