Ever since the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis under John F. Kennedy; America’s possession of nuclear weaponry has been a contentious issue amongst politicians. Since Donald Trump’s election to the White House and subsequent feud with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un; many have expressed concern at his fitness to oversee such devastating nuclear weapons. This has come to a head recently as Trump announced his plans to loosen the nuclear constraint and make warheads which are easier to use.
The plan in Trump’s view is to establish a modified version of the Trident D5 Submarine with the intention seemed to be that it would deter Russia from using nuclear arms in Eastern Europe.
In announcing his plans and the creation of the National Security Strategy Trump told his supporters and the media alike: –
“America is coming back, and America is coming back strong.” We are rebuilding our nation, our confidence, and our standing in the world. We will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before”
The worry for American observers is that this a stark change in policy from President Barack Obama who had largely advocated a policy of minimal nuclear arms, with a view to eradicating the nuclear deterrent entirely. He said in 2009: –
“America’s commitment is to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. It is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to be banned”
Even within Trump’s inner circle and cabinet; many are concerned that this is a seemingly legitimate policy acting as a disguise to make war with North Korea easier, should such an eventuality occur. Assistant Secretary of Defence Rob Soofer stated: –
“It’s a taste of what will come in the Nuclear Posture Review. What is interesting is the broadening of the nuclear weapons mission against non-nuclear attacks. The question is – are we creating more pathways to potential nuclear war?”
The most accurate interpretation of this policy comes from Jon Wolfsthal who acted as a special assistant on arms control and nonproliferation to Barack Obama. He argued that the USA will start to look at introducing a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile. This is believed to be in response to the ground-launched cruise missile allegedly developed by Russia in violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
He is of the opinion that whilst the policy has issues and does go overboard, it is largely a much-needed piece of legislation. Wolfsthal stated: –
“What I’ve been told by the people who wrote the thing was what they were trying to do was to send a clear deterrent message to Russians, the North Korean and the Chinese. Where they go overboard, is where they say that to make that credible the US needs to develop two new types of nuclear weapons.”
From the testimony of expert personnel; it is clear that Trump’s policy is necessary to some degree. However, what is not yet clear is whether Trump is hiding behind the said policy to facilitate war with North Korea.