It’s just over 30 years since the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) came into force, signed by the US' Ronald Regan and USSR's Mikhail Gorbachev. But now, US President Donald Trump has said the time may have come for the US to pull out of the INF Treaty.

The treaty was designed to limit the two countries’ capacity to strike each other directly with land-based missiles – those with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometres. Since its implementation, the INF Treaty led to the elimination of 2,692 missiles.

However, according to Trump, Russia has not stuck by the treaty’s terms and he is ready to scrap America’s involvement in it. This is a claim that Russia denies, but it may be the opening salvo in a new Cold War, with the US gearing up to rebuild its nuclear arms stockpile.

The world’s nuclear weapons landscape has changed, but it’s still dominated by two major players
Image: SIPRI

With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 a lot has changed. The bilateral dynamic of the Cold War has given way to a multilateral world where the geopolitical arena is no longer dominated by two global superpowers.

China is now a major player on the international scene, and while some nations have scrapped their nuclear arsenals completely – some former Soviet republics in particular – others have joined the nuclear club.

According to the Stockholm International Research Institute (SIPRI), nine nations hold a stockpile of approximately 14,935 nuclear warheads: USA, Russia, UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.

Around 4,150 are believed to be operationally deployed. The total number of nuclear warheads is down slightly on the SIPRI estimate of 15,395 in early 2016.

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