MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is reporting that President-elect Donald Trump has called for a new nuclear arms race. The comment was allegedly made to Mika Brzezinski in a response to a Trump tweet yesterday.
The original tweet from Mr. Trump read, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
In a “Morning Joe” clip, Joe Scarborough says that they asked Mr. Trump for clarification. Brzezinski responds that Trump told her, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.”
“And outlast them all,” Scarborough adds.
“And outlast them all,” Brzezinski confirms.
“All right, you can put that down as breaking news,” Scarborough quips.
Last month, the Heritage Foundation released a report rating US nuclear forces as “marginal.” Heritage found that US nuclear forces depend on older weapons systems at a time when countries such as Russia and China are upgrading their nuclear forces. Other countries such as North Korea, Iran and India are also building and expanding their nuclear arsenals.
Trump’s original tweet came shortly after a year-end speech by Vladimir Putin in which Putin called upon Russia to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.” The US and NATO have deployed the Aegis Ashore missile defense system to several countries that were formerly part of the Soviet bloc.
Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer during the Cold War, once said that “the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” Many observers believe that Putin’s foreign policy is aimed at restoring the former satellite countries of the Soviet Union into the orbit of the modern Russian Federation. Diplomatic and economic pressure and military attacks on countries such as Georgia and the Ukraine have furthered this goal.
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has been perceived to be a proponent of Putin and Russia. He removed a plank from the Republican Party platform that would have called for lethal military aid to Ukrainians fighting Russia-backed rebel forces. Trump has also signaled a willingness to lift the sanctions imposed on Russia after its invasion of Crimea and possibly even recognize Crimea as part of Russia. Many Trump appointees have strong links to Putin’s Russia.
The hardline response to Russian nuclear sabre rattling may also be linked to the Russian interference in the US election. Trump has been embarrassed by reports that Russia leaked Democratic documents in an attempt to help the Republican win the election. Trump may feel the need to talk tough after Putin’s nuclear comments because the hacking reports made him look weak.
It is too early to tell whether the comments from Trump and Putin will lead to a new arms race and Cold War. It is likely, however, that the Putin’s expansionist aims for Eastern Europe will put the two countries on a collision course that will test President Trump’s foreign policy skill and resolve.