Donald Trump tweeted something controversial today. After Twitter controversies involving Boeing, terror attacks, and former President Bill Clinton, Trump has directed his attention towards the American nuclear arsenal. Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The impetus behind the tweet is unknown, but Trump may have been responding to the concerns of Boeing and Lockheed Martin executives after a Wednesday meeting, or to a rather similarly-worded statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin early Thursday.
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
The idea and language in Trump’s tweet were hardly unprecedented, given his own history of statements on nuclear weapons, but concerns that a president or president-elect of the United States might spark an arms race or worse with Russia via Twitter are novel at least, and have real basis in his lack of an online filter. And his statements do go against the traditional public positions of recent American presidents on nuclear weapons that tend to display an eagerness to not use nukes, regardless of the policies actually being championed.
But does Trump’s tweet about nuclear weapons offer real cause for concern? I talked to Jeffrey Lewis, adjunct professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, about Trump’s tweets and nukes. The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Vann R. Newkirk II: What should people take from Trump's tweet today?