WASHINGTON — America must massively boost its nuclear capability until the "world comes to its senses," President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday, hours after a similar vow by Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Trump made the statement on Twitter, without providing details or context, a day after meeting a group of Pentagon top brass, and shortly after Putin called for Russia to reinforce its own nuclear capabilities.
"The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," Trump tweeted.
The open talk of ramping up nuclear capabilities -- reminiscent of Cold War pledges -- marks a jarring departure from the stance of President Barack Obama, who in a famous speech in Prague in 2009 called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
In 2010, Obama and Russia’s then president Dmitry Medvedev signed the so-called New START treaty that calls for a significant reduction in the nuclear weapons arsenals of both countries.
Trump’s remark came after Putin declared, "we need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces," while boasting about the Russian army’s performance in its Syria campaign.
Russia’s focus should be on "missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems," the Kremlin strongman added.
On Wednesday Trump met with a group of Pentagon brass including Vice Admiral James Syring, who heads the Missile Defense Agency.
Their conversations centered on cutting costs to various military programmes, and it was not known if Trump’s tweet was triggered by information the incoming president gleaned from the US officials, or by Putin’s comments.
America currently has an estimated arsenal of about 7,000 nuclear warheads, second only to Russia, which has a few hundred more. — AFP