As much as I don't like the New START data exchange rules that keep almost all the data secret, on some level the uncertainty feels right. Indeed, why would anybody seriously care if there are, say, 55 or 50 SS-18 missiles? There is no military significance in these numbers anymore. They do matter, of course, but only from the point of view of accountability - it is a good idea to know how many missiles and nuclear warheads are out there.

As a result of the New START lack of transparency, the only data on the Russian strategic forces that we have is the aggregate number of deployed launchers and warheads associated with them. We also know the total number of deployed and non-deployed launchers. Not much, but it's better than nothing.

Parsing these numbers is somewhat difficult, since there are quite a few unknown parameters - for example, some missiles could be deployed with fewer warheads than their maximum load, throwing off any attempt to reconstruct the original data. But an estimate can be made nonetheless, even though an imperfect one. Below is what I believe is a reasonable fit.

First, the numbers. According to the most recent data exchange, as of March 1, 2012 Russia had 494 deployed launchers that carried 1492 warheads. The total number of launchers, deployed and non-deployed, was 881.

One possible fit for these numbers is the following breakdown by services - 332 ICBMs with 1092 warheads, 96 SLBMs with 336 warheads, and 66 bombers counted as one warhead each. These numbers produce the correct number of deployed launchers, but two extra warheads - 1494, indicating that there is a problem somewhere. But it's probably close enough.

In this estimate, the Strategic Rocket Forces have 55 R-36M2 missiles with 10 warheads each, 35 UR-100NUTTH with six warheads, 150 Topol missiles, 74 single-warhead Topol-M (56 in silos and 18 road-mobile), and 18 RS-24 missiles that carry six warheads each. It appears that the number of RS-24 launchers that are counted as deployed is actually higher than 18 - at least 18 are in Teykovo and probably three more have been already delivered to Novosibirsk. But since only 18 appear to be on combat duty, I'll keep that number for the moment.

There is a bit more certainty with submarines - out of six Project 667BDRM submarines three - Novomoskovsk, Verkhoturie, and Ekaterinburg - are in overhaul. None of the two Project 955 submarines has missiles on board, so their tubes would be counted as non-deployed launchers. If we count three Project 667BDR submarines and their missiles as deployed, we'll get 96 SLBMs and 336 warheads.

Finally, I estimate that 55 Tu-95MS and 11 Tu-160 bombers are counted as deployed - this adds another 66 warheads.

There are also 387 non-deployed launchers. At first, this number seems a bit high, but it is not - it includes almost 90 UR-100NUTTH silos, about 50 R-36M2 silos, 60 launchers on three Project 941 submarines, 32 Bulava launchers on two Project 955 submarines, and 48 tubes on Project 667BDRM submarines in overhaul. There are also test and training launchers, test bombers, etc. It all adds up to about the right number.

Still, this is only an estimate and should be taken as such. I hope that a few more bits of information and maybe a better analysis of the data could produce a better picture, but I don't think the difference would matter very much.