Even before President Donald Trump took office, there was a fear that the nascent leader of the free world would lead the country into a global nuclear war. That fear reached a high point in December 2016, when Trump — then president-elect — said that he wanted to "strengthen and expand" our nuclear arms (conditionally — "until the world comes to its senses regarding nukes" he explained, in a twist of irony). He followed that up by going on "Morning Joe" — then a TV show he liked — and responded to charges that he was advocating an arms race by replying, "let it be an arms race."
Those words are now more true than ever.
Because, as Trump is trying to bring America back to a golden age, one such age he's trying to emulate is the "duck-and-cover" high-flying 1960s. Per the New York Times:
The Pentagon envisions a new age in which nuclear weapons are back in a big way — its strategy bristles with plans for new low-yield nuclear weapons that advocates say are needed to match Russian advances and critics warn will be too tempting for a president to use. The result is that the nuclear-arms limits that go into effect on Monday now look more like the final stop after three decades of reductions than a way station to further cuts.
In contrast to the president’s address, the report issued on Friday, known as the Nuclear Posture Review, focuses intensely on Russia. It describes Mr. Putin as forcing America’s hand to rebuild the nuclear force, as has a series of other documents produced by Mr. Trump’s National Security Council and his Pentagon.
The report contains a sharp warning about a new Russian-made autonomous nuclear torpedo that — while not in violation of the terms of the treaty, known as New Start — appears designed to cross the Pacific undetected and release a deadly cloud of radioactivity that would leave large parts of the West Coast uninhabitable.
Trump has threatened — or at least teased — that he'd use a nuclear arsenal if given the chance. Last month, he bragged that his "nuclear button" was larger than that of North Korea — a country that is developing its own nuclear arsenal, complete with weaponry that would allow it to strike the United States.
But an arms race with Russia comes with its own big problems. For starters, Russia already has the capability to strike the United States. It's also rebuilding its own nuclear arsenal, the Times noted, in defiance of a number of treaties. But Trump has shown reluctance to act on sanctions against Russia — and he hasn't mentioned the country as a reason to up its nuclear stockpile.
The United States would spend $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years on the nuclear weapons.
Only one country has ever used nuclear weapons against another country. That was the United States, who dropped two such bombs against Japan in 1945.