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Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: Russia
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Updated: November 2016

This profile summarizes the major arms control agreements, regimes, initiatives, and practices that Russia subscribes to and those that it does not. It also describes the major weapons programs, policies, and holdings of Russia, as well as its proliferation record. This profile is one of a series focused on the arms control record and status of key states, all of which are available on the Arms Control Association’s website at http://www.armscontrol.org.

Major Multilateral Arms Control Agreements and Treaties




Biological Weapons Convention



Chemical Weapons Convention



Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty



Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)

-Recognized as one of five nuclear-weapon states.



Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons

-Party to four of the five protocols. [1]



Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty



Outer Space Treaty



Ottawa Mine Ban Convention

-Stockpiles some 26.5 million antipersonnel landmines. [2]

- - -

- - -

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)



CPPNM 2005 Amendment

- - -


International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism



Export Control Regimes, Nonproliferation Initiatives, and Safeguards

Australia Group: Not a member, but Russia claims to adhere to the group’s rules and control list.

Missile Technology Control Regime: Member.

Nuclear Suppliers Group: Member.

Wassenaar Arrangement: Member.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Additional Protocol: Signed in 2000, entered into force in 2007.

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism: Co-founder with the United States.

Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation: Participant.

Proliferation Security Initiative: Participant.

UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1673: Russia has filed reports on its activities to fulfill the resolutions and volunteered to provide assistance to other states.

Major Weapons Programs, Policies, and Practices

Biological Weapons:

Despite ratifying the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), the Soviet Union apparently maintained an extensive offensive germ weapons program, including research into plague, anthrax, smallpox, tularemia, glanders, and hemorrhagic fever. In an August 2005 report, the U.S. Department of State asserted that “the United States is concerned that Russia maintains a mature offensive [biological weapons] program.” [3] The report noted that “a substantial amount of dual-use research conducted in recent years has legitimate biodefense applicability, but also could be used to further an offensive program.” Russia has disputed the allegations.

In its 2011 compliance report, the State Department said that it had no indications that Russian activities “were conducted for purposes inconsistent with the BWC.” However, it also stated that it could not confirm that Russia had fulfilled its obligations under the BWC. The lack of transparency surrounding this program prevents the U.S. from reaching more concrete conclusions. Russia claims that it is in compliance with the BWC, and the reports notes that the two countries were involved in discussions over this topic. [4]

Chemical Weapons:

Upon entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Russia declared that it possessed approximately 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents, the largest amount in the world. As of July 2010, Russia had destroyed roughly 48 percent of this stockpile, and is required under the CWC to eliminate the rest by 2012. However, Russia has stated that it will miss this deadline and is currently aiming to complete elimination by 2015. At the December 1, 2011 meeting of the states party to the CWC reaffirmed the April 2012 deadline, but did not specify that countries that failed to meet it would be found in violation of the pact. [5]

A dispute lingers over whether Russia has fully declared all of its chemical weapons-related facilities and past production. The State Department’s 2011 Condition Report on the Compliance With the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction stated that it was “unable to ascertain whether Russia has met its obligations for declaration of its CWPFs, CW development facilities, and CW stockpiles, and whether Russia is complying with the CWC-established criteria for destruction and verification of its CW,” although the report also noted that the US has “ascertained that Russia is now destroying CW agenty hydrolysis reaction masses at its operating CWDFs.” [6]

Conventional Weapons Trade:

Russia trails only the United States in supplying conventional arms abroad. Between 2002 and 2009, Russia committed to selling approximately $74 billion in weapons to other states. [7] In 2010, Russia made $7.8 billion in global arms transfer agreements, which was a decline from 2009 when they made $12.8 billion in such agreements. [8] The leading long-term purchasers of Russian arms are India and China. In addition, in 2006 Algeria and Venezuela sealed multi-billion dollar weapons deals with Russia. Russian arms sales to Venezuela increased further in 2009, after Russia agreed to loan $2.2 billion to Venezuela for the purchase of tanks and advanced anti-aircraft missiles. Western governments have often criticized Russia for not being discriminating enough in its arms transactions, citing the dramatic increase in sales to Venezuela, in addition to transfers to Iran and Sudan. In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Russia to stop selling arms to the Assad regime in Syria, which the international community has condemned for its brutal crackdown on protests calling for reform. [9]

Russia is participating at the negotiations at the UN in July 2012 to draft an Arms Trade Treaty, which aims to regulate arms sales.

The Nuclear Arsenal, an Overview:

According to the September 2016 New START declaration, Russia has 1,796 strategic warheads deployed on 508 ICBMs, SLBMs, and strategic bombers. In 2016 the Federation of American Scientists estimated that Russia possesses a nuclear arsenal consisting of a total of 7,300 warheads. According to the March 2015 New START declaration, Russia has 1,582 strategic warheads deployed on 515 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), and strategic bombers. In 2015 the Federation of American Scientists estimated that Russia possesses a nuclear arsenal consisting of a total of 7,700 warheads, including approximately 700 strategic warheads in reserve, roughly 2,000 tactical warheads, and approximately 3,200 warheads that have been retired and awaiting dismantlement [10]

Delivery Systems


  • Ballistic Missiles: Russia has an extensive, albeit aging, force of silo- and mobile-land based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As of 2012, Russia’s ICBMs include three variants of the RS-12M, carrying a single 800 kt warhead; the RS-18 carrying six 400 kt multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV); the RS-20 carrying ten 500-800 kt MIRV warheads; and the RS-24 carrying six 100kt MIRV warheads. All of Russia’s ICBMs were developed and entered service from the 1980’s to the 1990’s with the exception of the RS-24 which entered service in 2010. Russia’s land-based strategic missile force consists of 322 missiles capable of delivering up to 1,087 warheads. In 2011, Russia planned to buy 36 strategic ballistic missiles. [11] Russia also possesses mobile, tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missiles that have a range of up to 200 miles. This includes Scud-B/SS-1c Mod 1, Scud-B/SS-1c Mod 2, SS-21, SS-21 Mod 2, and SS-21 Mod 3, SS-26/Iskander, and SS-26 Stone/Iskader-E. In 2012 Moscow announced the successful test of an ICBM capable of penetrating the U.S.’ missile defense programs. This response came after news of NATO’s planned missile shield in Europe. [12]

  • Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles: Russia’s other long range missile systems are the RSM-50, RSM-54, and RSM-56 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). The RSM-50 was deployed in 1978, and the RSM-54 was deployed in 2007. The next-generation RSM-56, also known as the Bulava missile, completed a successful flight test in December 2011. This was the 18th test of the Bulava missile, and former Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said the Bulava’s cycle of flight testing was complete and the missile was ready to be put into service.[13] The RSM-50 missile is equipped with three 50 kt MIRVs. The RSM-54 missile is equipped with four 100 kt MIRVs. The RSM-56 missile is equipped with six 100 kt MIRVs. As of 2012, Russia possessed 48 RSM-50 missiles with 144 warheads, and 96 RSM-54 missiles with 384 warheads. Russia plans to produce 32 RSM-56 missiles with 192 warheads for a total of 144 SLBMs capable of delivering 528 warheads.[14]

  • Cruise Missiles: The Russian military possesses three types of air-launched cruise missiles and two submarine-launched cruise missile systems. In 2011, Russia planned to purchase 20 strategic cruise missiles. [15] In 2012, Russia and India announced plans to work together to build a hypersonic cruise missile. [16]

Under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Moscow is barred from possessing ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Russia has abided by this prohibition, but the Kremlin also has suggested it might withdraw from the accord because its neighbors are acquiring types of missiles that are forbidden to Russia. In October 2007, the United States and Russia called upon other countries to forswear missiles banned by the INF Treaty. Russia has not withdrawn from the INF Treaty.


  • Russia’s strategic submarine force has is now undergoing significant upgrades. The core of the force is comprised of seven Delta IV submarines armed with 16 RSM-54 missiles each. They are part of Russia’s Northern Fleet based at Yagelnaya Bay on the Kola Peninsula.[17] Russia also has three Delta III submarines as part of the Pacific Fleet based on the Kamchatka Peninsula.[18] Each vessel is armed with 16 RSM-50 missiles. As part of Russia’s military rearmament program, the Russian Navy will take delivery of three Borey class, and five upgraded Borey-A class submarines by 2020. These eight vessels will serve as the backbone of Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent, eventually allowing the Delta III’s to be retired. The first Borey class submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, entered service on January 10, 2013 as part of the Northern Fleet. The third and last Borey vessel will start sea-trials during the summer of 2013; while the first of the improved Borey-A class, the Knyaz Vladimir, was laid down in July 2012 and is still under construction.[19] Once completed, the eight Borey vessels will each carry 16 RSM-56 Bulava missiles capable of delivering up to 768 warheads.

Strategic Bombers

  • The Russian Air Force currently operates 28 Tu-95 MS6 long-range bombers, 31 Tu-95 MS16 long-range bombers, and 13 Tu-160 supersonic long-range bombers. All three aircraft are categorized as strategic heavy bombers and are limited by the New START treaty. The Tu-95 MS6 is capable of carrying 6 nuclear Kh-55 strategic cruise missiles, while the Tu-95 MS16 is capable of carrying up to 16 nuclear Kh-55 strategic cruise missiles. Alternatively, either version of the Tu-95 can be armed with over 25,000 pounds of bombs. The Tu-160 can carry up to 12 Kh-55 cruise missiles, which are configured slightly differently than the Tu-95’s cruise missiles.[20] The 72 strategic bombers do not regularly carry nuclear payloads. Combined, the bombers can deliver up to 820 nuclear weapons. The Russian Air Force also operates a multipurpose medium-range supersonic bomber, the Tu-22M, which is considered a tactical nuclear delivery platform of various types of cruise missiles. The Tu-22M is not limited by the New START treaty. Russia has begun studying designs for a next-generation strategic bomber meant to replace the entire fleet of Tu-95’s, Tu-160’s, and Tu-22M’s. The new bomber program is expected to develop a prototype by the early 2020’s.[21]

Nuclear Doctrine

Under Russia’s standing Military Doctrine, published in February 2010, “The Russian Federation reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, as well as in response to aggression against the Russian Federation that utilizes conventional weapons that threatens the very existence of the state.”

All told, the Soviet Union conducted 715 nuclear tests. The first test occurred Aug. 29, 1949, and the last test took place Oct. 24, 1990. Russia has not conducted any tests since it inherited the Soviet Union’s nuclear stockpile following the Soviet breakup.

Fissile Material

Russia has publicly declared that it no longer produces fissile material (highly enriched uranium [HEU] and plutonium) for weapons purposes. The Kremlin announced a halt to HEU production for weapons in 1989 and the cessation of plutonium production for weapons in 1994. In April 2010 Russia closed its last plutonium production facility, although it has not discounted a return to producing separated plutonium for fast-breeder reactors in the future. As with Russia’s warhead stockpile, there is a great deal of uncertainty about its holdings of fissile material. According to an independent report released in early 2012, Russia’s HEU stockpile is estimated at 737 tons, with a margin of error of 120 tons. Approximately 20 tons are designated for civilian use. The plutonium stockpile is estimated at 176 tons, with an 8 ton margin of error. The weapons stockpile is estimated at 128 tons and 48 tons are declared for civilian use. [22]

Russia is implementing a program to downblend 500 metric tons of Russian excess weapons grade HEU into a reactor fuel unsuitable for bombs that it will then sell to the United States for light water reactor fuel. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2013. As of September 2011, 433 of the 500 tons have been blended down. A second program that the United States funds will cover the downblending of 17 tons of non-weapons HEU by 2015. As of early 2011, Russia completed the blending down of 13 tons.

In addition, under a separate agreement with the United States, Russia is committed to disposing of 34 metric tons of excess plutonium. The project was delayed for several years, but in April 2010 the two nations signed a protocol that amended and updated the 2000 agreement. Both countries now aim to begin disposition in 2018.

Proliferation Record

The United States and independent analyses have long cited Russia as a key supplier of nuclear- and missile-related goods and technology to a variety of countries, including states of proliferation concern such as Iran and Syria. In response, the United States often levied sanctions on Russian entities believed to be involved in such proliferation activities. [23] Beginning in the mid-2000s, however, the number and frequency of Russian entities placed under U.S. proliferation sanctions declined, possibly as a result of increasing Russian commitment to controlling sensitive exports. Moreover, in recent years, U.S. officials have also cited Russian cooperation addressing proliferation concerns, in particular Iran. [24] In spite of this cooperation, Russia still remains a source of illicit sensitive technology, particularly in regard to missile proliferation. According to a 2010 State Department Report, Russian entities “continued to supply sensitive missile-related items, technology, and expertise to several programs of concern” from 2004-2008. [25] The report added, however, that “available information” did not indicate that Russia “acted inconsistently with the MTCR.”

The vast former Soviet biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons complexes, including their former scientists, are also seen as a potential source of arms, materials, and know-how for other regimes or non-state actors. Consequently, the United States and other countries have many programs dedicated to mitigating this potential threat by helping Russia, as well as other former Soviet states, secure or destroy facilities, materials, and weapon systems, as well as gainfully employ former scientists in non-arms related work.

Other Arms Control and Nonproliferation Activities

In 2002, the United States and Russia concluded the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT). Under SORT, the two countries are supposed to reduce their operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads by Dec. 31, 2012. However, the treaty expires that same day, freeing up both countries to expand their arsenals afterwards if they so choose. In February 2009, the U.S. government completed its reductions to 2,200 strategic deployed weapons, meeting the upper limit under SORT over three years early.

In addition, SORT did not include verification measures. Instead, it relied on the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty’s (START) verification regime, which provided for the United States and Russia to exchange information, visit, and monitor each other’s nuclear weapons complexes. START expired in December 2009.

In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed a successor to the original START accord. The new treaty, known as New START, entered into force on February 5, 2011 and requires that both sides reduce their arsenals to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear weapons on no more than 700 ICMBs, SLMBs, and bombers, within seven years. In addition, it would restore many of the verification measures from the original START accord. [26]

The Russian government officially suspended its implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty on December 12, 2008. Moscow contends that NATO countries, led by the United States, are unjustifiably delaying ratification of the 1999 Adapted CFE Treaty and thereby endangering Russian security. NATO members have stated that they will not ratify the Adapted CFE Treaty until Russia withdraws its military forces from Georgia and Moldova; the Kremlin contends that these issues should not be linked. Meanwhile, Russia continues to implement another European security instrument, the Open Skies Treaty, which facilitates unarmed reconnaissance flights over the territories of all states-parties.

The Russian government has signed and ratified protocols stating its intent to respect and not threaten the use of nuclear weapons against states-parties to the Latin America and South Pacific nuclear-weapon-free zone treaties. Russia has signed and ratified in 2011 Protocol I and II for the African zone. It has neither signed nor ratified the protocols for the Central Asian and Southeast Asian zones.

At the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD), Russia has supported negotiation of a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) and a treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Russia and China jointly submitted the Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) to the CD on February 12, 2008. Under the Bush administration, the United States opposed any negotiation on an outer space treaty and dropped its support for an “effectively verifiable” FMCT, which prevented the CD from forming a work plan. The Obama administration changed this policy, and has actively pursued the negotiation of a verifiable FMCT. These efforts resulted in the adoption of a work plan at the CD on May 28, 2009 which included discussions of both an FMCT and a PPWT. Despite some initial progress, negotiations on these issues broke down – principally due to Pakistan – and show no immediate prospect for improvement. In August 2011, the P5 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met in Geneva to discuss how to break the stalemate at the CD over a FMCT, however no agreement was reached on to pursue negotiations outside the CD. [27]

Within the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), Russia has resisted a U.S.-sponsored initiative to negotiate restrictions on the use of anti-vehicle landmines, but reluctantly consented to CCW negotiations on cluster munitions. Russia has neither signed nor ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).

Russia participated in both the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, DC and the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, South Korea.

Russia supported six UN Security Council Resolutions as part of international efforts to encourage Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program. In 2011,however, Russia blocked further UN sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. Russia also participates in the ongoing P5+1 talks with Iran, which hope to resolve international concerns over its nuclear program. These negotiations are ongoing and have not yet produced an agreement. Russia has stated its support for Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear energy.

In 2010, the first international nuclear fuel bank opened. It is located at a uranium enrichment facility in Angarsk, Siberia. [28] Russia supported the creation of a fuel bank and offered to host it to help persuade countries to forgo development of their own national nuclear fuel production capabilities, which also could be used to produce nuclear-bomb material.


1. Russia has not ratified Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War. It also has not approved an amendment that extends the convention’s application beyond just interstate conflicts to intrastate conflicts.

2. International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Landmine Monitor Report 2009, October 2009, 1,253 pp. According to this report, Russia was one of only two states to use antipersonnel land mines in 2008-2009, the other being Myanmar.

3. U.S. Department of State, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments,” August 2005, 108 pp.

4. U.S. Department of State, 2011 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, August 2011, 35 pp.

5. Horner, Daniel. “Accord Reached on CWC’s 2012 Deadline.” Arms Control Today, January/February 2012, p. 38.

6. U.S. Department of State, Condition (10) (C) Report: Compliance With The Convention On The Prohibition Of The Development, Production, Stockpiling And Use of Chemical Weapons And On Their Destruction, August 2011, 16 pp.

7. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009, Congressional Research Service, September 10, 2010, 84 pp.

8. Grimmett, Richard F., Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2003-2010, Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2011, 89 pp.

9. Lakshmanan, Indira A.R. and Nasseri, Ladane. “Clinton Calls On Russia To End Arms Sales To Syria.”Bloomberg News, June 13, 2012. http://origin-www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-06-13/russia-rejects-clinton-accusation-of-arms-for-syria-repression.html

10. Kristensen, Hans M and Robert Norris. “Russian nuclear forces, 2015.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2015. http://bos.sagepub.com/content/71/3/84.full.pdf+html

11. “Russian military to buy 36 ICBMs, 2 missile subs in 2011.” RIA Novosti, March 3, 2011.http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110318/163075432.html

12. Kramer, Andrew E. “Russia Tests New Missile to Counter U.S. Shield.” The New York Times, May 24, 2012, p. A10.

13. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 87 (2012): 92, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

14. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 87 (2012): 89, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

15. “Russian military to buy 36 ICBMs, 2 missile subs in 2011.” RIA Novosti, March 3, 2011.http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110318/163075432.html

16. “India and Russia to Develop Hypersonic Cruise Missile.” RIA Novosti, March 30, 2012.http://en.rian.ru/world/20120330/172478672.html

17. Kristense, Hans, and Robert Norris. "Russian nuclear forces, 2012." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. no. 87 (2012): 91. 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

18. Ibid

19. “Later Borey Class Subs to Carry Only 16 Missiles” RIA Novosti, February 20, 2013.http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20130220/179588098.html

20. Podvig, Pavel “Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces,” 2001

21. Robert Norris, and Hans Kristensen, "Russian nuclear forces, 2012," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 68, no. 93 (2012): 92, 10.1177/0096340212438665 (accessed June 3, 2013).

22. International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Material Report 2011, January 2012, 49 pp.

23. “Nonproliferation Sanctions,” U.S. Department of State, page visited July 2012.http://www.state.gov/t/isn/c15231.htm

24. Nikitin, Mary Beth, U.S.-Russian Civilian Nuclear Cooperation Agreement: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, July 9, 2010.

25. U.S. Department of State, Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, July 2010, 95 pp.

26. “U.S. Lowers Nuclear Deployments Under Treaty,” Global Security Newswire, June 4, 2012,http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-slashes-nuclear-deployments-under-new-start/

27. Collina, Tom Z. “P5 Struggles to Unblock FMCT Talks.” Arms Control Today, October 2011, p. 33

28. “First International Atomic Fuel Bank Opens in Russia,” Global Security Newswire, December 2, 2010, http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/first-international-atomic-fuel-bank-opens-in-russia/

Posted: April 1, 2014