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How to save $100 billion per year

June 20, 2011

Bruce Blair of Global Zero has just provided a long-needed estimate of global nuclear weapons spending. We’ve known the US numbers for many years, thanks to Stephen Schwartz’s Atomic Audit and groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and The Western States Legal Foundation. The former has documented some $6 trillion in US spending on nuclear weapons and their infrastructure since 1946; while WSLF estimates that more than $200 billion has been budgeted over the next decade to modernize the US arsenal.

Comparable figures for the other nuclear-weapon states have always been hard to find. According to Blair’s new estimates, the nine nuclear-weapon states—China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States—plan to spend $1 trillion over the next 10 years to acquire new weapons and to update their systems. They will spend $100 billion in this year alone. Blair says that is “more spending on nuclear weapons than at any time since the Cold War.”

We’re often told that nuclear weapons spending is only a fraction of total military spending, but the fraction for these nine countries turns out to be 9 percent on average. That’s pretty substantial, considering the way nearly all of their governments are using the sorry state of the global economy as an excuse to slash spending on education, social services, environmental protection, health care programs, and everything else that people depend on for a decent quality of life.

What this means is that a nuclear weapons convention is good economic policy in addition to all the other reasons it makes sense.

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