Trump wants to ex­pand U.S. nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Carol Morello

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day called for the United States to ex­pand its nu­clear arse­nal, af­ter Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said his coun­try’s nu­clear po­ten­tial needs for­ti­fy­ing, rais­ing the specter of a new arms race that would re­verse decades of ef­forts to re­duce the num­ber and size of the two coun­tries’ nu­clear weapons.

In a tweet that of­fered no de­tails, Trump said, “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 po­si­tion rep­re­sents a rad­i­cal shift in think­ing. Rus­sia and the United States have worked for decades at first lim­it­ing, and then re­duc­ing, the num­ber and strength of nu­clear arms they pro­duced and main­tained un­der a Cold War strategy of de­ter­rence known as “mu­tu­ally as­sured de­struc­tion.” Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic pres­i­dents have pur­sued a pol­icy of nu­clear arms re­duc­tion.

Trump’s tweet came shortly af­ter Putin, dur­ing a de­fense min­istry meet­ing, talked tough on Rus­sia’s stock­pile of nu­clear weapons. Putin said that Rus­sia is the strong­est nation in the world but that it can­not rest.

“We need to strengthen the military po­ten­tial of strate­gic nu­clear forces, es­pe­cially with mis­sile com­plexes that can re­li­ably pen­e­trate any ex­ist­ing and prospec­tive mis­sile de­fense sys­tems,” Putin said in

an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to a planned NATO troop buildup in East­ern Europe.

The Trump camp of­fered only slightly more ex­pla­na­tion of the pres­i­dent-elect’s com­ment later in the day, when com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Ja­son Miller said in a state­ment that 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.”

Miller added that Trump be­lieves in “the need to im­prove and mod­ern­ize our de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity as a vi­tal way to pur­sue peace through strength.”

Trump’s tweet was in keeping with ear­lier com­ments he has made. Dur­ing an October de­bate, he crit­i­cized this coun­try for lag­ging be­hind Rus­sia in its nu­clear pro­gram. “We are old, we’re tired, we’re ex­hausted in terms of nu­clear,” he said. “A very bad thing.”

He also sug­gested that South Korea and Ja­pan de­velop nu­clear weapons to pro­tect them­selves from the threat posed by North Korea.

The United States has just un­der 5,000 war­heads in its ac­tive arse­nal and more than 1,550 de­ployed strate­gic war­heads, a num­ber that fluc­tu­ates, ac­cord­ing to Daryl G. Kim­ball, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion. In an October as­sess­ment by the State Depart­ment Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion and Com­pli­ance, Rus­sia has about 400 more nu­clear war­heads than the United States does. But the United States has about 170 more de­liv­ery sys­tems than Rus­sia.

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 Barack Obama, the pol­icy has been not to pur­sue war­heads with new military ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The U.S. military is in the be­gin­ning stages of up­dat­ing its nu­clear triad, which cov­ers the de­liv­ery sys­tems — bombers, sub­marines and in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

Last year, the Pen­tagon es­ti­mated that it must spend an av­er­age of $18 bil­lion a year over 15 years, start­ing in 2021, to re­place weapons that al­ready have been re­fur­bished and up­graded be­yond their orig­i­nal shelf lives.

But in­de­pen­dent ex­perts have es­ti­mated that the cost of mod­ern­iz­ing the ag­ing nu­clear arse­nal could reach $1 tril­lion over 30 years, ac­cord­ing to the Arms Con­trol As­so­ci­a­tion.

Robert Jervis, a na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy pro­fes­sor at Columbia Univer­sity, said the re­marks by Putin and Trump do not nec­es­sar­ily mean a new arms race is on the horizon.

“Not yet, but we’re see­ing the sorts of dy­nam­ics that could lead to one,” he said. “But we’re umpteen steps away from that.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.