World Spent $73 Billion on Nuclear Arms in 2019; US Spent Half of That

Pandemic may force a rethink of priorities for costly arms

A new ICAN report shows that in 2019, the world spent about $73 billion on nuclear weapons. The US spent roughly half of that by themselves, at over $35 billion. This is an increase of over $7 billion from 2018.

With focus shifting to the coronavirus pandemic, spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons likely is going to make less and less sense going forward, with nations all having budget consequences from the pandemic.

The expectation, with the US and Russia not likely to extend New START, was that there would be increased spending going forward. Budget deficits are likely to force a rethink, on the futility of buying expensive nuclear arms.

No nuclear weapons use in generations means this money is going into a black hole, and US talk of making low-yield nukes with more utility seem unrealistic. This means billions that could be better spent on almost anything, and in the Covid-19 era, no shortage of things to spend it on.

The Pentagon already says it expects its expenses, particularly weapons programs, to come under growing scrutiny, and other nations will probably face the exact same thing. This will certainly put pressure on nations to justify these nuclear expenses.

While it may be years to fully realize, the pandemic may have a positive effect on disarmament internationally, as there is just no justification for spending billions on weapons of mass destruction in an era when people are dying by the thousand to the virus.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.