Trump calls for U.S. to boost its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Rus­sia re­sponds with plan to strengthen forces

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump called for the U.S. to ex­pand its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in a sur­pris­ing Twit­ter post Thurs­day that raised ques­tions about what he in­tends to do.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and ex­pand its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity un­til such time as the world comes to its senses re­gard­ing nukes,” he said.

It was not clear what prompted the mes­sage, though the state­ment came soon af­ter Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said his own nu­clear forces needed to be strength­ened.

It’s not clear ex­actly what ca­pa­bil­i­ties ei­ther man had in mind.

But to­gether, they ap­pear to be head­ing for a ma­jor re­ver­sal of bi­lat­eral pol­icy which for decades has seen both coun­tries trim their nu­clear ar­se­nals — even as they un­der­went some ef­forts at mod­ern­iza­tion.

Dur­ing the presidential cam­paign Mr. Trump seemed to sug­gest he saw a world where more nu­clear weapons could aid, not un­der­mine, sta­bil­ity.

“Wouldn’t you rather in a cer­tain sense have Ja­pan have nu­clear weapons when North Korea has nu­clear weapons,” he said at a CNN town hall, touch­ing on a long-stand­ing de­bate about mutual pro­lif­er­a­tion and its ef­fects.

Mr. Trump went on to say that he doesn’t want to see more pro­lif­er­a­tion, and in an in­ter­view with The New York Times called it the world’s “big­gest prob­lem” — but also said it’s dif­fi­cult to pre­vent.

He also said the U.S. arse­nal was in “ter­ri­ble shape” and needed to be up­dated, but said it was “highly un­likely” he would ever see a need to use nu­clear weapons.

Michaela Dodge, a de­fense pol­icy an­a­lyst at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, said she isn’t sure what Mr. Trump had in mind with his call for ex­panded ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but she said if he’s look­ing to re­verse the course un­der Pres­i­dent Obama it would be wel­come.

In par­tic­u­lar, she said, the nu­clear doc­trine laid out in a 2010 pol­icy re­view got many of the as­sump­tions about the nu­clear world wrong.

“For ex­am­ple, we don’t con­sider Rus­sia a threat and think that the po­ten­tial con­flict with Moscow is low,” she said. “We ab­so­lutely need to mod­ern­ize our triad and the in­fras­truc­ture that will sup­port it. Nu­clear weapons are the only weapons that can fun­da­men­tally change, and end, our way of life, which is why we need to pri­or­i­tize them in the fu­ture.”

She has called for a new re­view of nu­clear poli­cies, more fund­ing to up­date the aged U.S. arse­nal and a more care­ful ap­proach to arms cuts. The most re­cent gov­ern­ment data shows Rus­sia has 400 more war­heads de­ployed than the U.S. right now, and she said that trend must be re­versed.

Ms. Dodge also said the U.S. should with­draw from sev­eral in­ter­na­tional nu­clear arms re­duc­tion agree­ments that she said Rus­sia is flout­ing.

Arms-con­trol ad­vo­cates said the pres­i­dent-elect was over­turn­ing decades of bi­par­ti­san con­sen­sus on freez­ing nu­clear devel­op­ment, and de­manded he of­fer more de­tails than his brief Twit­ter post.

“It is dan­ger­ous for the pres­i­dent-elect to use just 140 char­ac­ters and an­nounce a ma­jor change in U.S. nu­clear weapons pol­icy, which is nu­anced, com­plex, and af­fects ev­ery sin­gle per­son on this planet,” said John Tier­ney, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Arms Con­trol and Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion.

He said ex­pand­ing the U.S. arse­nal would breach in­ter­na­tional treaties “and would al­most surely lead to a new nu­clear arms race.”

Mr. Trump’s pen­chant for buck­ing con­ven­tional wis­dom on de­fense and for­eign pol­icy was hotly de­bated dur­ing the presidential cam­paign. His Demo­cratic op­po­nent, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton, sought to por­tray Mr. Trump as an un­sta­ble force in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, in­clud­ing repris­ing the star of the iconic 1964 “Daisy” cam­paign ad that ques­tioned then-GOP nom­i­nee Barry Gold­wa­ter’s abil­ity to han­dle the U.S. nu­clear arse­nal.

In the new Clin­ton ad Monique Luiz, the ac­tress from the 1964 com­mer­cial, said Mr. Trump was re­viv­ing the same ques­tions about nu­clear ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On Twit­ter Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump called on the U.S. to strengthen and ex­pand its nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties, rais­ing ques­tions and con­cerns.

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