The president-elect has upended long-held conventions on nuclear proliferation and relations with Russia.
President-elect Donald Trump is alarming critics by not only threatening to dispatch with political correctness but also disregarding the basic tenets of world order surrounding nuclear weapons.
With a single tweet Thursday and then a follow-up chat with a television broadcaster on Friday, Trump entered the holiday weekend shaking up global affairs by stating an interest in vastly expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, even if it means restarting an arms race with Russia.
While Trump’s statements so far lack much by way of detail, his staff have tried to walk them back, and he also hasn’t said how he’d get a Republican-controlled Congress to go along with him. The president-elect has nonetheless alarmed skeptics who warn of a possible major reversal ahead on decades-old U.S. nonproliferation policy.
“This form of nuclear saber rattling could represent the most dangerous turn in global nuclear weapons policy since the end of the Cold War,” said John Tierney, a former Massachusetts Democratic congressman now serving as executive director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
Tierney called on Trump to “immediately disavow his own statement for the sake of U.S. and international security.”
Trump’s top staffers have been trying to parse their boss’s remarks since his initial tweet Thursday afternoon stating the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Kellyanne Conway, the incoming White House counselor, said during an MSNBC appearance Thursday night that Trump was “not making policy on Twitter” and she tried to clarify that he was talking about modernizing the nuclear arsenal, rather than increasing its size.