After being shown an image charting the steadily falling size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal since the height of the Cold War during a meeting with top national security officials in July, President Donald Trump reportedly expressed support for a tenfold expansion of America's stockpile of nukes—a move critics said would spark a "global arms race" and dramatically increase the threat of a nuclear catastrophe.
First reported by NBC News on Wednesday, Trump's remarks apparently "surprised" military officials, who had to explain to the president "the legal and practical impediments to a nuclear buildup."
Some officials present said they did not take Trump’s desire for more nuclear weapons to be literally instructing the military to increase the actual numbers. But his comments raised questions about his familiarity with the nuclear posture and other issues, officials said.
Two officials present said that at multiple points in the discussion, the president expressed a desire not just for more nuclear weapons, but for additional U.S. troops and military equipment.
Any increase in America's nuclear arsenal would not only break with decades of U.S. nuclear doctrine but also violate international disarmament treaties signed by every president since Ronald Reagan. Nonproliferation experts warned that such a move could set off a global arms race.
It was after this meeting, NBC notes, that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "fucking moron." Though the State Department later claimed Tillerson never used that type of language and denied it was said, the Secretary of State himself did not deny it when asked by reporters.
Trump's "comments raised questions about his familiarity with the nuclear posture and other issues." AKA MORON https://t.co/Jme6QI8ece
— John Schindler (@20committee) October 11, 2017
Now we know why Tillerson called Trump a moron. Trump proposed increasing our nuclear arsenal by 10 times. Moron? How about Madman?
— Vic Conrad (@pubman51) October 11, 2017
Trump's reported desire for a dramatic expansion of America's nuclear arsenal comes at a time of heightening tensions between the United States and North Korea. The U.S. added to these tensions late Tuesday by flying two strategic bombers over the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that fell on the same day as the anniversary of the founding of North Korea's ruling party.
Paul Kawika Martin, senior director of policy and political affairs at Peace Action, told Common Dreams that any expansion of America's already "excessive" nuclear arsenal would "take funds away from true security needs and other taxpayer priorities like job creation, education, and infrastructure."
If implemented, Trump's proposal would "make Americans less safe, could cause another nuclear arms race, and would inflame tensions with North Korea and other countries," Martin concluded.