WATCH | Experts weigh in on what Trump might do about America's nuclear posture
When it comes to nuclear weapons, Trump has been all over the place.
In an interview with Times of London, he said, “Nuclear weapons should be way down." That sentiment differed from late last year when he tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”
Trump hasn’t commented on our nuclear arsenal since becoming president, but last week, he did order his military brass to review the U.S. nuclear posture.
As a businessman, Trump leveraged his unpredictability to his advantage. But when it comes to nuclear weapons, unpredictably may not be advantageous.
“He has cultivated this unpredictability as a strategy, and I would say when it comes to nuclear weapons, I think we need to inject a little more predictability into US plans and postures,” Sharon Squassoni of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told Circa.
The unpredictability caused the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move the Doomsday clock 30 seconds closer to midnight -- it's now at 2 minutes 30 seconds. The clock is an indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe.
Experts agree the US needs to have a clear posture, and that it needs to continue the modernization of its arsenal that was started under former President Obama.
“We have to get back into the business of having the best nuclear weapons we can. The best deterrent we can," Michaela Dodge of the conservative Heritage Foundation said.
And with the increased capabilities of nations like North Korea, the global nuclear order is less stable.
“The Trump administration could increase nuclear instability either by antagonizing countries like Russia or China," Squassoni said. "By taking a more aggressive stance, by putting nuclear forces, by increasing the alert status, by creating fears that the United States won't come to the aid of its allies.”
Currently two major nuclear treaties help provide stability: the New START Treaty that limits the number of warheads the United States and Russia control and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty which limits the midrange nuclear missiles we can have. However, both nations accuse the other of breaking the treaty.
But the best path forward in regards to the treaties is disputed.
“At the Heritage Foundation we recommended that the United States withdraw from both treaties," Dodge stressed.
Dodge explained that she believes the treaties undermine U.S. security while allowing Russia to benefit. The more moderate CSIS puts more faith in the current treaties.
“I would recommend what Mr. Trump do is immediately sit down with the Russians and negotiate an extension, a five year extension to the New START Treaty," Squassoni told Circa. "The Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty which was signed 30 years ago... it would be really a shame, and actually dangerous if that treaty were to be abrogated.”
In the end it's really hard to predict, at the very least, we can hope that the Trump administration doesn't rock the boat too much.
More clarity on what Trump will do with U.S. nuclear arsenal will come once the nuclear posture review is completed. But until then it’s anyone’s guess.