Will Trump Get Us All Nuked? Or Just Bankrupt Us?
Credit: Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.
December 23, 2016

Are we all going to die in a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia? I don't think so, alarming as this seems:

President-elect Donald Trump signaled Thursday that he will look to "strengthen and expand" the US's nuclear capability hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to enhance his country's nuclear forces....

Trump weighed in with a tweet just hours after Putin spoke following a meeting with his military advisers to review the activity of the past year.

"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," Trump wrote....

Here's what Putin said:

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called for the country to reinforce its military nuclear potential....

"We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems," the Kremlin strongman said.

Does Trump want to arm us in anticipation of possible war with Russia? Hard to believe, consider how fond Trump is of Putin. Putin, for his part, continues trying to sweet-talk Trump -- earlier today he was trolling the Democratic Party:

Russia’s President Vladi­mir Putin has a message for the White House and Democratic leaders who accuse him of stealing their victory: Don’t be sore losers.

That was how Putin answered a question Friday about whether Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump at the Russian leader’s nationally televised annual press conference

“Democrats are losing on every front and looking for people to blame everywhere,” Putin said in answer to a Russian TV host, one of 1,400 journalists accredited to the marathon session. “They need to learn to lose with dignity.”

The Kremlin leader pointed out Republicans had won the House and Senate, remarking “Did we do that, too?”

“Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said, adding with a grin. “Except for you and me.”

Trump won't nuke Russia. He loves that guy.

Sarah Kendzior thinks Trump's vision, if we can call it that, is of the U.S. cooperating with Russia to prevent nuclear proliferation elsewhere (and possibly nuking some of those other countries). She notes that he's talked about this in interviews going back to the Soviet years. One of those interviews was published by Ron Rosenbaum in 1987 and republished by Slate earlier this year. Here's how Rosenbaum summed up what Trump told him:

So what is the deal Trump thinks can be done? What is the Trump Plan?

It’s a deal with the Soviets. We approach them on this basis: We both recognize the nonproliferation treaty’s not working, that half a dozen countries are on the brink of getting a bomb. Which can only cause trouble for the two of us. The deterrence of mutual assured destruction that prevents the United States and the USSR from nuking each other won’t work on the level of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange. Or a madman dictator with a briefcase-bomb team. The only answer is for the Big Two to make a deal now to step in and prevent the next generation of nations about to go nuclear from doing so. By whatever means necessary.

I'm sure Putin loves Trump's deep, abiding faith in Russians' goodwill.

The other issue here is that Trump is parroting a call from groups such as the Heritage Foundation for significantly renewed nuclear arms spending. I'm not sure that's about pushing us to the brink of Armageddon so much as it's about lining the pockets of arms contractors. Yes, we see Trump questioning the costs of certain weapons programs. But that raises a question:

Well, for Trump it's win-win. Trump challenges the cost of military contracts and heartland America thinks he's draining the swamp. Trump gets us into an arms race and it's the classic right-wing move of distracting the public with fear of a foreign enemy while the government enriches the rich. Oh, and once he's driven up the debt with military spending, the only possible way to get our fiscal house in order will be cuts in social programs, right? That's the cycle we're entering, I think.

Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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