Donald Trump won over enough Americans with his spontaneous mannerisms to become president against all odds. However, his tendency to “go rogue” brings apprehension for those who imagine his fingers on the red button. Further, Trump very quickly showed a fondness for policy reversals once elected, and an inability to stick with a stance on, say, nuclear weapons, could be both disconcerting and deadly. Despite the seriousness of this matter, Trump has issued a number of staggeringly inconsistent statements on nukes, so let’s run through all of the big ones.
Candidate Trump Called Himself “The Last Person” To Use A Nuke: In June 2016, Trump told Bill O’Reilly that although he couldn’t “take cards off the table” when it comes to foreign policy, he couldn’t stomach the thought of using nuclear weapons. Trump declared, “The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible.”
Yet He Ultimately Favored Stockpiling Nukes As “A Necessary Evil”: By February 2017, Trump’s newly presidential rhetoric shifted to doom-and-gloom in a Reuters interview, in which he stressed the importance of staying at the “top of the pack” for nuclear capabilities even though “a dream would be that no country would have nukes.” Trump also vowed, “We’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.”
Trump’s Baffling (And Reported) Confusion: In August 2016, Morning Joe sounded alarm bells from former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, who expressed fear over Trump’s “inconsistency and unpredictability” on foreign policy. Joe Scarborough claimed to have spoken with a foreign-policy expert who relayed Trump bewilderment on the purpose of stockpiling nukes: “Three times, [Trump] asked, at one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?’ Three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?'”
He Called For An “Arms Race” While Swashbuckling With Putin: In December 2016, the president-elect and Vladimir Putin began simultaneously signaling that they wanted to expand their respective country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons. Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” The next day, Morning Joe‘s Mika Brzezinski claimed that Trump provided her with a clarification of his words: “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.”