Whether or not Trump and Putin discussed nukes, Trump’s relationship with the Russian president is clearly doing nothing to dampen his militaristic impulses.
This week, we learned that the incident that prompted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call Trump a “f***king moron” was a meeting with the Cabinet on July 20, in which he proposed we increase the nuclear arsenal tenfold.
It was a spectacularly ignorant statement that ignores 50 years of multilateral consensus toward nonproliferation, and the fact that our military strength lies not in our nuclear arsenal but in more conventional measures like our control of shipping lanes.
But Trump’s pronouncement is even more disturbing given its timing.
Only 13 days earlier, on July 7 at the G20 summit, Trump had a secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin behind closed doors.
To this day we have no transcript of that meeting and no indication of what Trump and Putin talked about. But whatever it was clearly did nothing to tamp down Trump’s impulse for military aggression.
The timing is even more suspect considering that as far back as December of last year, per Sarah Kendzior, Trump was eyeing a plan to increase the nuclear arsenal in tandem with Putin.
Trump has long been flippant about not only nuclear proliferation, but the possibility of actual nuclear war. On the campaign trail, he repeatedly asked foreign policy experts why we can’t use nukes to destroy our enemies.
Almost a year in the White House surrounded by military advisers has not moderated his position. At the United Nations, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and mocked dictator Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”
Every president for the last half century understood that a nuclear war is unwinnable, because the “winner” will suffer mass death and destroyed cities just as much as the "loser." Even Ronald Reagan, hardly a pacifist, was committed to the total global disarmament of nuclear weapons.
Trump’s close friendship with his fellow strongman aggressor in Russia is setting America on a dark path. And it is clear that every seasoned foreign policy veteran in his midst knows it.