Trump calls for increasing the country's nuclear capabilities
When it comes to nuclear capabilities, president-elect Donald Trump says, "Let it be an arms race."
But while some saw the tweet as a totally new foreign policy mission – one that strays away from decades of bipartisan presidential efforts to reduce the United States', and the world's, nuclear powers – others saw ambiguity.
The New York Times notes the president-elect's tweet could have meant: "Modernize existing nuclear forces, in line with but upgrading President Obama’s plan"; "Expand qualitative nuclear capability by developing faster or more powerful delivery systems, like cruise missiles"; or even "Build and deploy new warheads."
The statement itself caused frenzy throughout the media and the country, not only for its language but for what it could mean for the future. The New York Times pointed out that "strength" has rarely been used as a metric for nuclear power here in the United States.
But even after the interview on MSNBC, Trump's intentions for the country's nuclear capabilities remain unclear.
NBC reports Trump's newly appointed spokesman, Sean Spicer, took to the media circuit Friday contradicting Trump's tweet and interview, saying that "he's going to ensure that other countries get the message that he's not going to sit back and allow that. And what's going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine."
It's still unclear what exactly brought on Trump's nuclear comments, but NBC reports they did come after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced at his annual press conference that Russian warheads could beat out the U.S. defense system.
Some are calling the president-elect out for his tweet. The Chicago Tribune reports former Democratic Massachusetts congressman John Tierney said, "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."
For decades, presidents from both sides of the aisle have worked to keep an arms race from ever happening again. But that doesn't mean nuclear capabilities haven't been maintained.
Under the Obama administration, NBC reports a multibillion-dollar plan was proposed to modernize the aging nuclear triad — meaning nuclear deployment by bomber, intercontinental missile and submarine.
But NBC also says experts told them there aren't "mainstream voices" out there calling to go beyond the 4,500 nuclear weapons the country already owns.
"The thrust of U.S. nuclear policy for decades now has been to trim the fat off the U.S. nuclear arsenal," James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told NBC. "At a certain point, you are just making the rubble bounce higher."