Trump vows to take US to top of nuclear pack

The US president says he would like to see a nuclear-free world, but his country will not "fall behind" anyone with its nuclear weapons cache. Trump's rhetoric is out of step with a Pentagon assessment of US strategic capability.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Last year Trump tweeted his support for a stronger US nuclear programme.

The United States will ensure that the country's nuclear arsenal is at the "top of the pack" as it has fallen behind in its capacity, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday.

"I am the first one that would like to see ... nobody have nukes, but we're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power."

It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we're going to be at the top of the pack - Donald Trump, US president

Despite Trump's claims, the US and Russia, its chief rival in the nuclear stakes, have relative strategic parity. In 2012 the Federation of American Scientists said that any numerical imbalance with Russia was irrelevant, given the total number of weapons in play. In the words of the Pentagon, even a total surprise attack from Russia would have "little to no effect" on US nuclear retaliatory capabilities.

Russia has 7,000 warheads and the United States, 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund report, 93 percent of the world's 14,900 nuclear weapons.

Not all of the nine countries identified as being nuclear capable even admits they have weapons of mass destruction. (ACA graphic)

"Russia and US have far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country," said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the independent Arms Control Association non-profit group.

TRT World'Lorna Shaddick has more details from New York. 

One-sided treaty?

Trump's target is the new strategic arms limitation treaty, known as New START, which former US and Russian presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed on April 8, 2010, committing the two countries to half their number of strategic nuclear missile launchers and keep levels at relative parity.

Trump called New START "a one-sided deal."

"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it's START, whether it's the Iran deal ... We're going to start making good deals," he said.

Trump has been under fire over leaks from US intelligence sources that showed his campaign aides were in contact with Russian officials during the election campaign, and that they had discussed sanctions on Russia put in place by the Obama administration.

The United States is in the midst of a $1 trillion, 30-year modernisation of its aging ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles.

TRTWorld and agencies