States spend record sums on nuclear weapons as pandemic spreads

By agency reporter
May 14, 2020

A new report says nuclear-armed states spent a record $73 billion on nuclear weapons in 2019, a $7.1 billion increase from 2018 expenditures. The United States, the centre of the global coronavirus pandemic, accounted for nearly half of that spending.

As the economies of the US, China, France, and Russia all contract, their nuclear spending is expanding. Supplemental research shows yearly expenditure on nuclear weapons in the US alone could pay for 300,000 ICU beds; 150,000 nurses; 75,000 doctors; and 35,000 ventilators to address the COVID19 pandemic.

The report, Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, found that nuclear-armed countries spent $138,699 every single minute of 2019 on their 13,000+ 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.”

The report notes that nuclear weapons were banned by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) at the UN in 2017. The TPNW will enter into legal force soon once 50 states ratify or accede the Treaty, making these expenditures in violation of international law.

Based on best available data, these calculations only include direct spending on nuclear warhead and nuclear-capable delivery systems costs for operation and development. The actual totals are much higher when a full accounting of the cost to remediate the environment and compensate victims are included. They are also obscured by a lack of transparency in government spending on these weapons.  ICAN calls on all nuclear-armed states to provide greater transparency on their total nuclear spending.

Report author Alicia Sanders-Zakre said, “The figures do not include the massive humanitarian costs and the environmental toll from a legacy of nuclear testing and production. Even in the unlikely chance these weapons are never used, governments are paying massive sums to poison their environments and put their people at grave risk.”

The US, China, the UK and Russia had the highest spending in descending order. The US spent more than the next three countries combined and saw a $6 billion increase from 2018 to 2019.

* Read the report Enough is Enough: 2019 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending  here

* The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons


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