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An ICBM launch control facility in the countryside outside Minot, North Dakota, June 24, 2014 (AP photo by Charlie Riedel).

Demystifying Trump’s Confounding Statements About Nuclear Weapons

Friday, Dec. 30, 2016

The surprising election of Donald Trump as president of the United States has created countless new questions and concerns about the future of U.S. foreign policy. But perhaps nowhere are these concerns more acute than in Trump’s thoughts about nuclear weapons. While often inchoate and contradictory, Trump’s recent comments about strengthening and expanding U.S. nuclear capabilities, apparently welcoming an arms race with Russia, and possibly encouraging allies to develop their own nuclear deterrent have all caused great concern among defense analysts and foreign policy professionals, not to mention many within the U.S. government. Given the enormous stakes involved, it is worth demystifying some of what Trump has said and putting this nuclear debate in context.

First, nuclear modernization was happening anyway. The upgrading of the U.S. nuclear arsenal—and for that matter, Russia’s as well—has already begun. Earlier this year, the Obama administration committed to a $1 trillion overhaul over the next three decades, covering everything from a new stealth bomber to the Department of Energy’s massive research and development program. ...

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