Donald Trump, Nuclear Weapons and an Unstable World

(United States)

As the dust settles on the United States presidential election, many are asking what the future holds for America and the world. So much of what Donald Trump said on the campaign trail was unorthodox and controversial, especially coming from a presidential candidate; it’s little wonder so many are concerned. Whether it’s defense, trade, climate or any other issue, Mr. Trump’s positions appear to be very different from the established norms.

One topic that has caused great concern is Mr. Trump’s view of nuclear weapons and their use. While campaigning, he made a number of comments that showed his willingness to use nuclear weapons, and to see other nations obtain them as well.

While his opponents in the presidential running and news media tried to use these comments to derail his campaign, he still emerged victorious, causing many to wonder if he really will do what he said he would

Using Nuclear Weapons

During his campaign, Mr. Trump surprised many by openly expressing his willingness to use nuclear weapons. This is a topic that the majority of past presidential candidates have avoided. The Los Angeles Times reported, “Not since Ronald Reagan’s reelection at the tail end of the Cold War have nuclear weapons played so big in a presidential race. Historians have to reach back even further, to decades before Reagan, to find a nominee who has talked about nuclear war as loosely as Trump does.”

This was one topic Mr. Trump did not shy away from. On multiple occasions, he stated his willingness to use these weapons if needed. In one instance, Mr. Trump told MSNBC that the nuclear option would always be on the table. When asked if he would ever use nuclear weapons in the Middle East or Europe, he refused to say that he would never do that. He stated repeatedly that he liked to be “unpredictable” when it came to his policy on using nuclear weapons.

Comments like these caused many in the media to vilify Mr. Trump and label him as a warmonger. In repeated stump speeches, both Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama asked whether Americans could trust a man of his temperament to command America’s nuclear arsenal. In spite of these attacks, Mr. Trump did clinch the presidency, and now many wonder if he will follow through on those statements.

Overall, Mr. Trump believes he needs to talk about using nuclear weapons to send a message to America’s enemies that he means business. In his eyes, America has lost most of its credibility on the world stage and has become a hollow power. In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Trump said, “The first thing you have to do, is get them to respect the West and respect us. And if they’re not going to respect us, it’s never going to work. … I’m never going to rule anything out—I wouldn’t want to say. Even if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t want to tell you that because at a minimum, I want them to think maybe we would use them.”

It is this kind of strong language that helped Mr. Trump captivate large portions of the American public who also believe that the U.S. has lost all respect and credibility in the world. After eight years of an administration that backed away from red lines and withdrew from the world scene, many Americans view Mr. Trump as the man who can make America great again.

While Mr. Trump’s willingness to use America’s nukes has troubled many, his comments regarding nuclear proliferation are what should be most troubling to the world. He may desire to make America great again, but will his policies really do that?

Spreading Nuclear Weapons

While on the campaign trail, Mr. Trump repeatedly expressed his belief that America could no longer afford to police the world. Despite commitments to defend smaller nations, Trump now feels that unless those nations start paying more for American security, America will have to renege on those commitments.

Here is where it gets troubling.

Mr. Trump has called on multiple nations that depend on American security to prepare to pay more. These include nations like Japan, South Korea, Germany and Saudi Arabia. These nations are all on high alert because American security has guaranteed relative stability in these regions. In spite of an ever aggressive and expansionist China, Southeast Asia has been relatively peaceful because of America’s presence. Europe has not seen a major conflict since World War II because of NATO and the restraining force it is to Russia. And while the Middle East has always been volatile, American power in the region has helped prevent greater conflicts.

Now all this could change.

If the United States were to disengage from any of these regions, it would upset the balance of power in all these regions. China could gobble up Southeast Asia; Russia could roll through Europe; and the Middle East could explode into worse violence.

While all of this is troubling news, Mr. Trump’s solution is far more concerning. Knowing that America’s allies would be unable to defend themselves, his solution is simplistic: Give them nukes.

During his campaign, Mr. Trump said he was unopposed to—and even supported—nations such as Japan and South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons. In a town hall meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, earlier this year, Mr. Trump said, “You have so many countries already—China, Pakistan, … Russia— … right now that have nuclear weapons. Now, wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

In his mind, it’s inevitable that these nations will get nukes, so why not let them have access to the weapons now? He told CNN, “It’s going to happen, anyway. It’s only a question of time.” At this time, U.S. policy prevents Japan and South Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons, but Mr. Trump indicated that it might be time to change that. He stated that he would “rather see Japan having some form of defense, and maybe even offense against North Korea, because America’s not pulling the trigger.” Mr. Trump feels that not only should Japan have nuclear weapons as a deterrent, but even as an offensive weapon!

If he does implement this policy, it would kick off a nuclear arms race in some of the most volatile regions of the world. Already China and North Korea possess nuclear weapons. Arming Japan and South Korea would only add to the tensions that exist in the region. Some members of the South Korean parliament have already indicated that they will have little choice but to consider nuclear armament if U.S forces are removed.

The Middle East is already on the verge of a nuclear arms race. Following the Iran nuclear deal signed in January, Saudi Arabia began voicing its desire to start its own nuclear program. If Donald Trump gives it the green light, it would turn the world’s most volatile region into a nuclear powder keg. This would give Iran and Saudi Arabia, two nations bitterly hostile toward one another, nuclear weapons.

Already Europe is scrambling to unify as it faces diminished American support for NATO. The nuclear umbrella, supplied largely by America, has been a strong deterrent to Russian expansion since NATO’s founding. Now European lawmakers out of Germany are saying that Europe needs its own nuclear deterrence plan. Roderich Kiesewetter, foreign-policy spokesman for the conservative bloc in Germany’s parliament, said, “The U.S. nuclear shield and nuclear security guarantees are imperative for Europe. If the United States no longer wants to provide this guarantee, Europe still needs nuclear protection for deterrent purposes.” He believes that Germany could play an important role in convincing the nuclear powers in Europe (France and Britain) to provide security guarantees for all of Europe.

Kiesewetter does not believe that Germany should become a nuclear power itself to prevent nuclear proliferation throughout Europe. But will Germany be able to swing France and Britain to guarantee support? France may guarantee support; Britain, however, is on its way out of the European Union and has been strongly opposed to any kind of military unification with Europe. Whether Britain can pledge support remains to be seen. Germany may have no choice but to secure its own nuclear weapons.

This desire for a new European nuclear protection plan comes just weeks after Russia unveiled its largest nuclear bomb yet. Dubbed the “Satan 2″ by Western security officials, the missile is powerful enough to destroy an area the size of Texas or France. The warhead, reportedly tested in April, is designed to be impossible to intercept.

Where This Is Leading

The number one problem facing the world is that of human survival. Nuclear weapons have proliferated throughout the world, and the spread will intensify. Since the world witnessed the horrific destructive power of nuclear weapons at the end of World War II, the U.S. has taken up the mantle as nuclear watchdog for the world. American leaders recognize that these devastating weapons need to be controlled as much as possible—possessing these weapons greatly tips the balance of power. Mr. Trump seems indifferent to that critical fact.

But what is more troubling is whom Mr. Trump feels has a right to nuclear weapons. It was only 70 years ago that Germany and Japan were mortal enemies of the United States. Now he feels that they are trusted allies who would never turn on America. How can he be so certain?

America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is already strained, yet Mr. Trump feels confident in allowing it to develop its own nuclear weapons. Relations with Saudi Arabia are frosty at best, but Mr. Trump seems willing to let it have nuclear weapons. Can Saudi Arabia be trusted as a nuclear power?

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