Trump proposes another arms race: "If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack"

President Trump reiterates the bellicose theme that worried nuclear arms observers in December

By Matthew Rozsa

Published February 24, 2017 2:26PM (EST)

 (Reuters/Jonathan Drake)
(Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

Two months after then President-elect President Donald Trump infamously told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough "let it be an arms race," Trump is again dangling the prospect of a heated nuclear arms competition with Russia in front of the world.

“I am the first one that would like to see . . . nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power," Trump told Reuters. "It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack."

This statement seems to contradict New START, a strategic arms limitation treaty that requires America and Russia to have an equal number of strategic nuclear weapons for 10 years as of February 2018. It was reported by Reuters earlier this month that Trump denounced that treaty as a bad deal during a Jan. 28 conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear weapons organization, estimates that Russia has approximately 7,000 nuclear warheads while America has 6,800. That said, as Executive Director Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association told Reuters, "Russia and the United States have far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country."

When Trump first raised the specter of a new nuclear arms race in December, he did so with an unexpected tweet that made essentially the same point he repeated to Reuters.

Concerns about Trump's fitness to be in charge of America's nuclear weapons prompted Democratic congressmen Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Ted Lieu of California to propose a bill that would have taken away Trump's ability to launch a nuclear first strike.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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