President Donald Trump recognizes the value of a world without nuclear weapons, he told Reuters in an interview published Thursday, but he also knows that we do not live in such a world. And since nations have nukes, he’d very much prefer that the U.S. have the most.
“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,” Trump told Reuters. He added that, when it comes to nukes, “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.”
The U.S. currently has 6,800 nukes, according to the Ploughshares Fund, a group fighting the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. That’s second only to Russia’s 7,000 nukes. Both countries have significantly fewer nuclear weapons deployed, but Russia still comes out ahead with 1,796 deployed nukes compared to the 1,367 in the U.S.
This isn’t the first time Trump has appeared to call for more nuclear weapons. In December, he tweeted a vague call to expand the U.S. nuclear capabilities. Aides said he meant exactly the opposite, claiming Trump was referring to the need to prevent nuclear proliferation.
The “top of the pack” quote in the Reuters interview sure sounds like a call to pursue more nukes though, especially since Trump makes it clear that U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity.” But Trump translator and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made it sound Thursday as if the U.S. is already “top of the pack.”
“What he was very clear on is that the United States will not yield its supremacy in this area to anybody. That’s what he made very clear in there, and that if other countries have nuclear capabilities, it’ll always be the United States that have the supreme — supremacy and commitment to this,” Spicer said.
So once again, the question now is who to believe: Spicer, who claims Trump was saying the U.S. will not “yield its supremacy” on nukes, or Trump, who says the U.S. has “fallen behind” but should be “top of the pack”?