Yesterday, on the topic of nuclear armament, there was an impromptu exchange between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Putin’s commentary on the current state of Russia and global affairs was planned. Trump’s response was not. Putin believes that Russia is now THE world’s superpower, and apparently that means building more nuclear weapons. Trump surely wanted to play his cards close to his chest. However, like a child on Christmas morning, revelry took over.
Trump, without hesitation, took to Twitter, the new home of POTUS’ policy: the US “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” When asked to further clarify that remark, Trump pushed right through the sober-second-thought phase of a reasoned mind and unequivocally stated, “Let it be an arms race.” Well played, Sir. Nailed the sneak attack.
Honestly, Putin would not go down this road. It makes little sense. Russia doesn’t have the money for another arms race (neither does the US). And the last one didn’t end so well for the USSR. Putin is an astute, seasoned politician schooled in KGB-esque brinksmanship. In a world that has been working toward nuclear disarmament for decades, it is more likely that Putin is goading the president-elect, and sharing some hearty laughs with his Kremlin cronies.
In this potential missile crisis, Trump is the USSR’s Nikita Khrushchev. I can see him banging his shoe on the table to make a point, or wearing a sombrero at Disneyland. I just hope Trump turns out to be a rational actor in nuclear brinksmanship, and is willing to back away from his arms race comments.
Between the two countries, Russia retains the majority share of a combined 14,000 or so nuclear weapons. Under the guidance of the United Nations, both Russia and the United States first agreed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968 and then ratified it in 1970. Of course, that did not stop either country from continuing to stockpile warheads with the combined total reaching for 80,000. Insane. Asinine. Since Ronald Reagan defeated the Evil Empire in the late ’80s (🤔🙄), both countries have been steadily working toward lowering that number, although the collective arsenal remains absurdly high. And while a majority of UN nations adopted a resolution to ban nuclear weapons in 2017, the US and Russia stayed the course and voted against it.
To put it into perspective, the western world is deeply concerned about North Korea or Iran acquiring just one nuclear weapon. Why? Not only because of the geo-political issues it would create (potentially tipping the balance of power to NK, Iran or their friends), but the wonton devastation wrought by that weapon. Complete destruction. Nuclear winter. Darkness and death. It would trigger a Total War, and likely kill every last one of us. No Mutually Assured Defence. Just MADness.
It is absolutely astounding that the world is discussing this topic in 2016. Much to the delight of Doomsday Preppers, their absurd quest for non-perishable food items and building impenetrable basement shelters might have been worthwhile. Just kidding. It’s never been worth it. Except if the zombies come …
This was a calculated risk Putin was willing to take to demonstrate to the world how easily Trump is goaded into making terrible, policy- and world affairs-altering decisions. Likely, while he was sitting on a toilet. Trump must suspend his Twitter account. Like Bush, Jr., he needs his Dick Cheney. Mike Pence won’t cut it. Trump turned the slightest Putin provocation into a ridiculous pissing contest. His response was daft, irresponsible, and childish; a conversation normally relegated to the playground between 8 year-olds gathering troops for an after-school snowball fight. The stakes might be high for those children, but life would go on.
Both international actors were careless in this situation: Putin for playing the nuclear card with the president-elect when he knows Trump has a hair-trigger, and Trump for falling for the embarrassing ruse. Putin understands what he is doing; Trump, seemingly has yet to grasp the value of his words now that he sits in the waiting room of the Oval Office. It might have been worth a few laughs this time, but next time it could spell war.