You can add one more thing to all of the uncertainties and causes of concern in twenty-first-century life: countries are spending more on nuclear weapons.
That’s according to the latest annual reportfrom the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which found that in 2021, nine states spent $82.4 billion on nuclear weapons, an inflation-adjusted jump from the year before. According to the report, the world spent more than $156,000 on nuclear weapons every minute.
The nine nuclear states studied were: the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea.
The report also analyzes companies involved in the purchase of such weapons, including Bechtel, Boeing, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, as well as several think tanks.
“This report shows that nuclear weapons don’t work. Nuclear-armed states increased spending by $6.5 billion in 2021 and couldn’t prevent a nuclear-armed aggressor from starting a war in Europe,” Alicia Sanders-Zakre, policy and research coordinator at ICAN, said at the report’s announcement. “This is why we need multilateral disarmament more than ever. The first meeting of states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons … in June could not come at a better time.”
Nuclear weapons spending in 2021 was split between countries and the private sector. Companies based in the United States, the United Kingdom, and France were awarded $30 billion in new contracts in 2021, twice as much as the previous year.
“The nuclear weapons industry received at least $32 billion for nuclear weapons-related work in 2021. A couple dozen companies, and their boards, have a vested interest in keeping nuclear weapons around forever,” Susi Snyder, financial sector coordinator at ICAN, said in the same release.
“That’s why they spend millions on lobbyists, funding think tanks, and their board members sit in on elite foreign policy discussions so that the contracts will continue to 2070, and beyond. Fortunately, not everyone is buying what they’re selling, and investors are coming together to support the [Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons] at the upcoming meeting of States Parties, because they know an industry that profits from weapons of mass destruction is not a sustainable or secure investment.”
As the report only covers 2021, it does not discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which served to upend geopolitics.
“As companies throw money at lobbyists and researchers to assert the continued relevance and value of nuclear weapons, the record shows the inutility of weapons of mass destruction to address modern security challenges—and the legitimate fear that they can end civilisation as we know it,” the report argued.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.