Experts: Trump’s Claims About Nuclear Arsenal Are 'Absurd'
Trump’s recent claim on Twitter — that his “first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal,” and that the arsenal is now “stronger and more powerful than ever before” — is baseless, according to U.S. nuclear experts. Several say that the president’s tweets indicate that he does not understand the status of the nuclear arsenal and that a significant advance at this point in his presidency would have been impossible.
Reports The Washington Post:
“It’s absurd; this is like — you have to be the biggest hayseed in America to believe this,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “There’s no point at which this statement touches reality.”
Others were more measured but were clearly skeptical of Trump’s contention.
“Any decision that the president were to take now, or that he took in January, would take years to implement,” Jon Wolfsthal, a former Obama administration official at the National Security Council, told The Post’s Philip Rucker and John Wagner. “I’m very skeptical of the idea that Trump believes that he has modernized or adjusted our arsenal because there have been no visible changes to it.”
When White House representatives were asked to justify Trump’s claim of a stronger arsenal, they spoke of a January 27 executive order, which called for a “Nuclear Posture Review” — but this is a study that each of the last four presidents have conducted as well. Lewis said there is no reason to believe that Trump has even completed it, and that these kinds of studies often slow progress by delaying decision-making.
Continues the Post:
Just as important, there is also no public indication that the nuclear arsenal is suddenly more advanced or stronger than it was decades ago. And even if it were, experts say, it’s because of a “very aggressive” $1 trillion modernization plan that was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
“The U.S. has strengthened missile defenses against North Korea during [Trump’s] watch notably by deploying a group of interceptors in South Korea, but that plan was set in motion by Obama,” said Bruce Blair, a nuclear security expert at Princeton University.
Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser for the Obama administration, tweeted on Wednesday morning that it was “literally impossible” for Trump to have changed the nuclear program in so little time. Rhodes also commented that it was an “alarming thing to lie about”:
It’s literally impossible for Trump to have changed our nuclear arsenal in 6 months. Alarming thing to lie about. https://t.co/9cizhVLJAU
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) August 9, 2017
It also seems extremely unlikely that nuclear advancements have been made given that in January, Trump declined to ask Obama’s nuclear security head Frank G. Klotz to remain in his position until a replacement could be found (as is customary with appointees in key positions, like those who control our nuclear arsenal), but Klotz is still at his post as under secretary, as indicated by the a NNSA website.
In an age where the president feels he can address volatile international diplomacy issues by tweeting, it is also concerning that Trump a has not filled many North Korea-related executive posts, while former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had hand-picked leaders for these roles by June of their first term. The ambassadorship to South Korea also remains vacant.