How Will Trump Wield Obama’s Modernized Nukes?

The President-elect’s off-the-cuff, ignorant and inconsistent remarks suggests he’s either a cynical war profiteer or a true believer in the American myth that more militarism leads to fewer wars, says Noble Prize nominee David Swanson

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Story Transcript

KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.

Well, Donald Trump set off alarms across the Internet on Thursday morning, when he sent this Tweet, which read, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Oh, okay. Well, as is Trump’s way he did not offer specifics, but the idea of expanding the world’s nuclear arsenal, or worse, restarting an arms’ race is disconcerting to many.

And to discuss this we’re joined with David Swanson, David is an author, activist, journalist and radio host. He is the director of, World beyond War.org, and the campaign coordinator for, Roots Action.org. David’s books include War is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He blogs at David Swanson.org, and War is a Crime.org, and he hosts Talk Nation Radio and he’s also a 2015, and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee. David, thank you so much for being here.

DAVID SWANSON: Glad to be here.

KIM BROWN: Well, David first, let’s start with Donald Trump’s Twitter feed.

DAVID SWANSON: Yeah.

KIM BROWN: It is highly unusual for any leader of any nation, even though he is the President-elect, he has not been formally inaugurated, but the fact that he will be President, and that he is taking to his Twitter feed to discuss his nuclear policy, is unusual, to say the least. What are your thoughts?

DAVID SWANSON: It is bizarre and it is dangerous, and words are actions and words have an impact. You already have India and Pakistan and China and other nations looking at increases in nuclear weaponry, and a half dozen, you know, oil-soaked, sunbathed Middle Eastern nations, developing nuclear power, which is even more ludicrous for them than anywhere else, in order to move towards nuclear weapons. And the same guy who says, “Let’s kill their families. Let’s steal their oil,” sending out this sort of message is extremely dangerous.

But, you know, to put it in perspective, the arms’ race is well underway. Under President Obama, you’ve had the plans put in place to build more nuclear submarines, more nuclear missiles, more of every kind of inter-continental, ballistic missile. You’ve had the continued expansion of NATO right up to Russia’s borders, new missile bases in Romania and Poland. More nukes in Europe. You know, the expansion of, and modernization and descaling of the nuclear weapons. So, the talk is of making them more usable. I mean, all of this predates Donald Trump, and all of my liberal friends, who you know, never as far as I could tell, lifted a finger, the slightest disturbance when this was Obama’s policy, are now in an absolute outrage because apparently, Donald Trump wants to build nuclear weapons.

So, you know, there’s a good side to that. You know, I think this single Tweet from Donald Trump does more good for the “Ban Nuclear Weapons Movement” in the world, than all the conferences and all the petitions and all the films and documentaries, you know, of the past several years. But we should, you know, keep it in perspective, and wait to see exactly what it’s going to mean.

KIM BROWN: Yeah, let’s talk about that, because President Obama began his administration in 2008, 2009, 2010, on one side of the nuclear discussion, wanting to draw down our nuclear arsenals, and reduce the number of warheads that America has. But as his Presidency went on, he definitely abandoned that without saying it aloud, but as you mentioned, in some of the policy proposals that he put forth, including a $1 trillion investment in strengthening, revamping America’s nuclear warhead arsenal. Is that exactly what you’re speaking of?

DAVID SWANSON: Well, that figure of $1 trillion is spread over 30 years. So, that’s not an investment in a given year of President Obama’s presidency, but you know, I think his transformation during his Presidency has been less dramatic than is put forth by the White House. When you go back and look at what he said in Prague, what he said in Oslo, it’s not that different than what he said in Hiroshima more recently, that is, “We’ll get rid of nukes, maybe in some distant future generation after a dramatic transformation of human nature.” You know, it’s not a realistic thing now. We must have wars. We must arm ourselves.

You know, not in quite the same tone and not exactly the same rhetoric as Donald Trump, “We must do it to defend ourselves,” rather than, “We must do it ’til the rest of the world comes to its senses.” But pretty darn close and so, you have a President who, yes, did make one small treaty with Russia and has eliminated nuclear weapons, but fewer than any of his predecessors, and has put in place this plan, whether it’s… you know, his initiative or the Pentagon’s or the profiteers, it’s under his leadership, that this plan has been put in place to build new, more modern and “more useable” nuclear weapons.

And you know, the claim put forth by the White House and its supporters, is that the change came, whatever the change was, when Russia invaded Crimea, which of course, is not an invasion in the sense of invading Iraq. I mean, the casualties added up to a grand total of zero and in fact the people of Crimea held a vote, but you know, this is the story that you get from the White House. And if you read the White House proposals year after year, for funding for the Department of so-called Defense, it’s all about you know, weapons with which to defend ourselves against the Russian enemy.

And you know, the same with the Department of Energy, which, you know, by the way, is where the nuclear weapons are — 60% of the Department of, so-called, Energy is nuclear weapons. And Donald Trump has put a guy in charge of it who, although he couldn’t remember the name of it, wanted to abolish it. Now, they’re figuring out what’s actually in the Department of Energy.

They may eventually figure out, what’s actually in the existing plans for nuclear weapons. So, we don’t know whether Donald Trump’s tweet is a proposal for more or less or exactly the same as what the Pentagon now has planned. We just know that his rhetoric sounds different to the world. And I think that has good and bad ramifications.

KIM BROWN: Well, Donald Trump has no public service experience. He’s never held elected office before being elected to be President of the United States, so we kind of have to go back and look at his comment on nuclear weapons and how and when to use them. And during the campaign trail, he did make a comment that he believed that some of our allies, including South Korea and Japan, should be allowed to acquire and gain nuclear weapons. And that runs obviously counter to what he tweeted about on Thursday morning, alluding to that the world needs to come to its senses regarding nukes.

Now, this is not the first time that Donald Trump has stood on both sides of a given issue, so what are we to make of this, in terms of what he said before about, you know, allowing more of our allies to have nukes, when he was even quoted, somewhat off the record saying, or questioning, how come we are not able to use nuclear defenses when it comes to dealing with, you know, rogue nations? So, how can we… what can we glean from his previous comments on the nuclear issue at all, as to how he would wield this weapon, so to speak, once he enters the Oval Office?

DAVID SWANSON: Uh, not that much, I think, because he is so off the cuff, outspoken, ignorant and willing to blurt out what pops into his head, and ends up with contradictions. But he did also say he would not launch a first strike, which when Jeremy Corbyn said that, in the United Kingdom, he was hit with, holy hell of outrage, from across the political spectrum. “How dare you say you would not launch a first strike? What good is the deterrent then?” Whereas, Donald Trump initially at least, said, “Oh no, I wouldn’t launch the first strike.” And that was okay.

You know, the reaction to Donald Trump is all from the US media, is always going to be on the side of, “What are you going to do, get us all killed?” Whereas, you know, Obama went to Hiroshima and said in effect, “We’re going to have to keep arming and keep fighting wars forever and ever because we must for our defense.” The reaction from the US media was, “How dare you almost threaten to apologize for nuking Japan.”

You know, so there’s a different perspective. There’s a different reception to anything that Donald Trump says. But you know, I think he’s responding now, to weeks of being bashed as Putin’s puppet. You know, of allegations yet to be proven in the slightest, of Russia having manipulated the U.S. elections. And outrage at his, yes, unconstitutional and corrupting investments, but dealing with Russians, as with anyone else on the Earth, while Russia is being demonized, you know, Donald Trump would have had to be someone of much stronger character than Donald Trump is, to expect him not to have responded in any way to that kind of, you know, ongoing attack as, you know, a treasonous puppet of a foreign leader.

KIM BROWN: Talk about that, if you would for a moment, because as you said, you know, Russia has been in somewhat of a defensive posture, when it comes to what they perceive to be NATO aggression. NATO wanting to expand, you know, the missile defenses into Poland, which you know, is in close proximity to the Russian border. Russia taking that somewhat as an act of aggression and now this seemingly chummy relationship between the President-elect and President Vladimir Putin, who Donald Trump says he received a letter from, a very nice letter, in the mail, I suppose, congratulating him on his win.

So, given the United States and Russia are the two biggest nuclear powers in the world — what can we take away from the surface appearances of the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump?

DAVID SWANSON: Well, probably less than we try, I say. I’m old enough to remember when we would have all thought it was a wonderful thing, for there to be any signs of friendship or respect between US and Soviet leaders. Now it’s taken as, you know, as a sign of evil corruption and foreign influence and yes, Donald Trump probably admires Vladimir Putin for all the wrong reasons, you know, just as he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the IMF for all the wrong reasons.

Well, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad policy, and it’s worth understanding, here in the United States, that the United States has broken its promises, expanded NATO right up to Russia’s borders. Put a missile base in Romania, building a missile base in Poland, engaged in the biggest military exercises since World War II, in Europe, in close proximity to the border of Russia, with Russia, openly protesting all of this as threatening, and seeing it as threatening.

I watched a panel with Vladimir Putin and the former… the last US Ambassador to the Soviet Union on the stage together, and Vladimir Putin objecting to all the militarism and increased military spending. And this former Ambassador saying, “Oh, no, no, no, you don’t understand, it’s not threatening Russia, it’s all just a jobs program for jobs back in the US.” And Putin saying, “Well, why didn’t you invest in something peaceful for jobs. You get more jobs that way.”

This is, you know, Donald Trump is either the most cynical profiteer ever, or he is a true believer in this American myth that more militarism gets you fewer wars, because here he comes into the White House saying, “We’re going to stop the wars of overthrow. We’re not going to have all these wars, but we’re going to have more weapons, more militarism, more military spending.” That doesn’t work, it’s a contradiction that, you know, you invest in the military, you get more wars. Donald Trump either honestly doesn’t know that, or cynically doesn’t care and wants all the money flowing to his friends. Either way, it puts us all… our entire species and many other species at risk.

KIM BROWN: Indeed. We’ve been speaking with David Swanson. He is an author, activist, journalist, radio host, and two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. We’ve been speaking about President-elect Donald Trump taking to his Twitter page once again, to discuss that the United States should be expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal. David, we appreciate your time today, thank you so much.

DAVID SWANSON: My pleasure, thank you.

KIM BROWN: And thanks for watching The Real News Network.

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