Voicing his thoughts on Twitter, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted out on Thursday that he believes "the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump’s nuclear weapons expansion plans, as summarized in 140 characters, appear to echo Vladimir Putin's recent statements. Putin, using remarkably similar language, announced at an end-of-year defense ministry meeting that very same day that "[Russia] need[s] to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems." Though there's been no explicit connection between the two men's statements, both are suggesting that nuclear weapons be strengthened, which appears to run counter to the past few decades of nuclear weapon minimization efforts. Though both statements require a bit more clarification, their implications are deeply concerning. Romper has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment but has not heard back.
A spokesman for Trump, when asked about Trump's message, emphasized the latter half of the tweet, claiming that its initial intention was to address "the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it - particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes," according to Reuters. Regardless, Trump's primary call for the expansion of U.S. nuclear capability is alarming. The original spokesman, Jason Miller, did not follow up with NBC News when asked explicitly whether Trump was advocating for an increase in nuclear weapons.
Currently, Russia and the United States have 7,000 nuclear weapons each, with provisions written in a treaty to continually decrease these amounts. In total, the two countries possess more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons. Many fear that these vague pledges by Trump and Putin could induce another arms race, increasing both nation's nuclear weapon amounts along with the countries' proportional, global control of nuclear weapons.
Seeing as decisions regarding the specific amount of nuclear weapons for both countries remain unclear, Trump's tweet could more specifically be speaking to "plans to modernize the current US nuclear arsenal that are currently underway and will cost hundreds of billions of dollars," CNN reported. Within the next 30 years, the United States will spend an estimated $1 trillion to keep its existing amount of nuclear weapons intact, and Trump could be speaking to his proposed updates for the country's arsenal.
Trump's willingness to expand nuclear weapons runs counter to President Obama's efforts to decrease nuclear weapons on a global scale. Throughout his campaign, Trump spoke often about nuclear weapons, even saying that, if faced with a perceived need to use nuclear weapons, he would "never, ever rule it out." It appears that, going forward, these types of conversations will only continue to increase.