Earlier today Donald Trump launched yet another tweet that has caused an instant boom in revenue for companies that can pressure wash liberal brain matter from walls.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
That’s it. If you are reading this in English you are probably wondering what, if anything, this means. If you are at all familiar with our nuclear weapons program you’re probably thinking about this, or something like it:
The U.S. nuclear arsenal, patched, welded, and re-skinned countless times, was built between 25 and 62 years ago when the United States found itself locked in an arms race with a rival superpower, the Soviet Union. Now, its future is an issue in the campaign for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has said she would call for a nuclear posture review, last completed in 2010, as one of her first acts upon taking office. Republican candidate Donald Trump has said he would be open to reversing decades of U.S. policy and allowing allies such as Japan and South Korea to acquire their own nuclear weapons to deter a strike from North Korea, which carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test this month.
On Monday, in his first visit to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota as U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter said America’s nuclear deterrence was the “bedrock” of its security, and the Pentagon’s No. 1 priority.
“If we don’t replace these systems, quite simply they will age even more, and become unsafe, unreliable, and ineffective,” Carter said, speaking at a lectern in front of a B-52 bomber loaded with cruise missiles.
“The fact is, most of our nuclear weapon delivery systems have already been extended decades beyond their original expected service lives. So it’s not a choice between replacing these platforms or keeping them – it’s really a choice between replacing them or losing them,” Carter said.
Russia, he said, had built new nuclear weapons systems, raising questions as to whether its leaders were cautious enough when it came to atomic weapons. And North Korea presents a sustained threat, Carter said.
However the left is making this out to be some kind of a new arms race:
Donald Trump stunned nuclear experts Thursday by proclaiming in a tweet that the U.S. should “expand its nuclear capability,” something no president has called for in decades.
While President Barack Obama has proposed a $500 billion plan to modernize the aging U.S. nuclear triad, no mainstream voices are arguing to increase the numbers of nuclear weapons beyond the 4,500 the U.S. currently possesses, several experts told NBC News.
“The thrust of U.S. nuclear policy for decades now has been to trim the fat off the U.S. nuclear arsenal,” said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “At a certain point, you are just making the rubble bounce higher.”
See what they did there. “Expand” and “capability” are not the same as more. Modernization, which is what Obama was in favor of and what Ashton Carter talked about in the pull quote, is also expanding capability. They are creating a strawman to flog without any real idea what they are talking about. Having said that, if Trump does want to build more nukes and Congress funds it, I fail to see what grounds there is to object other than from efficiency.
You have utter douchenozzles like this particular MSNBC variety making claims that are so wrong they don’t even qualify as wrong:
Trump wants to violate The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons—that could be cause for concern. https://t.co/Pk0HkQHSaV
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 22, 2016
We already have nuclear weapons. We can’t “proliferate” weapons to ourself. Non-proliferation means that you agree not to give nuclear weapons technology, or weapons themselves, to a non-nuclear power. If you want to look for violations of the NPT, just look at our deal with Iran.
Random, unimportant and unintelligent senators jumped into the fray:
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) December 22, 2016
This is so stupid it beggars the imagination. Nixon aside, Reagan proved that expanding out nuclear capability via nuclear cruise missiles and theater nuclear missiles like the Pershing II, could bring the USSR to the bargaining table and it could bankrupt them as well. Russia is not the USSR. It is not fiscally capable of engaging in a new arms race with the United States and Putin’s statement of increasing Russia’s nuclear arsenal is probably more accurately viewed through the lens of Russian domestic politics.
The Washington Post has this to offer:
Under the New START Treaty, the main strategic arms treaty in place, the United States and Russia must deploy no more than 1,550 strategic weapons by February 2018. Kimball said both countries appear to be on track to meet that limit, which will remain in force until 2021, when they could decide to extend the agreement for another five years.
Since President George H.W. Bush’s administration, it has been U.S. policy not to build new nuclear warheads. Under President Obama, the policy has been not to pursue warheads with new military capabilities.
Except that we know for a fact that Russia is currently in violation of the START (denouncing Russia’s breach of the treaty is something that will probably happen in the near future if for no other reason than Trump won’t want to be seen as having been snookered on a treaty), this is true. What policies put in place by Bush and Obama have to do with anything remains a puzzler as no president may bind his successor to anything.
Oddly enough, the New York Times does the most thoughtful coverage:
Mr. Trump’s midafternoon post may have been a response to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who in a speech to his military’s leadership in Moscow earlier on Thursday vowed to strengthen Russia’s nuclear missiles.
Mr. Putin said nuclear forces needed to be bolstered so they could “reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” apparently a reference to the Pentagon’s efforts to develop systems capable of shooting down nuclear-armed rockets.
Shortly after Mr. Putin’s comments were reported by the news media, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the United States must “strengthen and expand” its nuclear forces “until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” He did not elaborate.
Jason Miller, the incoming White House communications director, said in a statement that Mr. Trump was referring to “the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it — particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes.”
Mr. Miller added that the president-elect had in the past “emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength.”
We can be really sure that a new nuclear race is not in the offing and it seems like we can be equally sure that Trump is in favor of modernizing our nuclear forces. This is good. And if a few leftwing loons squirt brains out of their noses, so much the better.