Podcast — but there are plenty of other reasons to be scared
by MATTHEW GAULT
A week ago on Jan. 9, 2017, Gizmodo ran a story titled “Trump Just Dismissed the People in Charge of Maintaining Our Nuclear Arsenal.” The article published claims from anonymous members of the National Nuclear Security Administration who said the incoming president had ordered them to clear out their desks before his inauguration.
The Internet melted down as people on Twitter traded speculation about what an empty NNSA might mean for America’s nuclear security come Jan. 21. Within hours, however, Gizmodo updated the story, changed the title and issued a pretty huge correction. The situation, it seemed, was not as dire as everyone suspected.
During the first few hours after the stories publication, U.S. Naval War College professor and nuclear policy expert Tom Nichols took to Twitter to calm everyone down. He urged caution in the face of panic, reminded people that the NNSA wasn’t a very old agency, its role in nuclear security is unclear and that transitions are always messy.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not worried about Donald Trump’s plans for America’s nukes. This week on War College, we sit down with Nichols to discuss the Gizmodo story, the NNSA and Trump’s nuclear ambitions.
Nichols points out that, when it comes to Trump and nukes, it’s hard to pin down a solid policy decision. On Dec. 22, Trump tweeted that “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Later, MSNBC asked Trump if he wanted to clarify his statements. “Let it be an arms race,” Trump said, apparently doubling down on his earlier statements. But on Jan. 15, Trump told European reporters he may lift Russian sanctions in exchange for a reduction in nuclear arms.
For Nichols, when it comes to Trump, you never know until he takes action. When it comes to nukes, that temperament may have dire consequences.