In an obvious reference to the European missile defense system operated by the US and NATO, Russian president Vladimir Putin made a chilling statement during his annual press conference on December 22: “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.” In other words, he wants nukes that can get through our shields.
A couple hours later, president-elect Donald Trump tweeted that America “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” It is unclear at this time whether or not he intends to add to the 4,500 nuclear devices that we currently have, but he means business.
While this kind of saber rattling is not uncommon in the world, it is important to note that Trump does not seem averse to actually using nuclear weapons. He has said that the nuclear option should not be discounted in the fight against ISIS, and he is supportive of countries like Japan’s nuclear ambitions.
Would expanding our nuclear arsenal in response to this thinly veiled threat from Putin be a waste of money better spent on infrastructure, or would it be a response that is unfortunately necessary for the survival of our country?