- President-Elect Donald J. Trump, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, could have just had their first standoff on the topic of nuclear warm which both nations seek to bolster their nuclear arsenals.
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prespective missile defense systems,” said Putin, on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2016. This can be considered as a jab on the United States’ plan to strengthen defenses in Europe, which Russia sees as a threat. In response to Putin, President-Elect Trump responded with a Tweet hours after the Russian President’s statement, saying, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capacities until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes..”
A day later, at Putin’s annual news conference, the Russian President decided to downplay the thought of entering another arms race with the United States and said, “During his election campaign, Trump said that the United States needed to bolster nuclear capabilities and armed forces in general and there is nothing new.”
It is unclear whether Trump looks to enforce an entire new nuclear policy when he assumes office in 2017, but he could also be referring to plans of modernizing the United States’ current nuclear arsenal. The Obama administration has outlined a plan to modernize delivery systems, command and control systems, and to refurbish warheads in the US nuclear triad; however, this plan keeps the nuclear force at existing levels. Trump’s tweet had put an emphasize on expanding the US nuclear force, but it is not immediately clear if that’s the case.
With questions being raised of a new arms race between Russia and the United States, Putin had stated that Russia will not be responsible for speeding up or exacerbating the arms race. Trump, however, stated in a phone call to a cable news anchor that if there is an arms race, whomever it is, the US will outmatch and outlast everyone at each and every turn. It is not clear if that was a direct threat to Russia, but Trump’s statement can be considered as a warning to all nations who wish to challenge the United States. This “standoff” between the two nation leaders compared to a boxing scenario in which a the two boxers are examining their opponent to find a weakness.