Nuclear nonproliferation groups are sounding the alarm after President Trump in an interview Thursday said he thinks an arms control treaty with Russia is a "bad deal" and that the United States should build up its nuclear arsenal to be the "top of the pack."
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation issued a press release "correcting Trump’s alternative facts."
"President Trump’s assertions about nuclear weapons policy conveniently ignore the facts," former Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), the executive director of the center, said in a statement. "Every world leader on Earth except for President Trump knows that the United States already has the ‘top of the pack’ nuclear arsenal. No U.S. military leader would trade our nuclear weapons for the Russian stockpile, let alone any other nuclear power’s arsenal."
"Once again, President Trump has called for a new nuclear arms race – signaling a dangerous turn for global security," Bruce Blair, a former nuclear launch officer and co-founder of Global Zero, said in a separate statement Thursday. "This would be an alarming reversal of decades of nuclear weapons reductions that should scare everyone."
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Trump said that while it would be "a dream" for other countries to be without nuclear weapons, since they have them, the United States should be "at the top of the pack."
He also claimed the U.S. has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity," according to Reuters.
Further, he said the New START Treaty with Russia that caps the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. and Russia can deploy is "a one-sided deal."
"Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal," he said. "We’re going to start making good deals."
The interview follows a tweet in December in which Trump said the U.S. should "greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability."
That tweet also prompted alarm in the arms control community, which said existing warheads and modernization efforts are more than enough.
In response to Thursday’s comments, Blair said a buildup of the kind Trump is proposing would lead to a "nightmare scenario."
"The use of even a single nuclear weapon, anywhere in the world, would be a global humanitarian, environmental and economic disaster," he said. "A nuclear build-up in the U.S., which would be followed by similar build-ups in other countries, only makes that nightmare scenario more likely."
Blair also said it’s worrying that Trump "understands so little" about New START.
"New START imposes equal obligations on both the United States and Russia," Blair said. "The idea that it’s one-sided is one more ‘alternative fact’ from this administration that must be loudly rejected."
The Arms Control Association said Trump needs to "get smart and avoid reckless statements" about nuclear weapons.
"The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on ‘top of the pack’ of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship," the group said in a post on its website. "President Trump needs to work with Russia’s President Putin to build down, not build up their excessive nuclear arsenals and stop stirring up nuclear tensions."