12:40 GMT06 March 2021
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    US President-elect Donald Trump has indicated that Washington needs to invest in nuclear weapons even if this sparks an arms race, but Michael O'Hanlon, Director of Research for the Foreign Policy program at Brookings Institution, told Radio Sputnik that Trump's comments should not be taken seriously just yet.

    "The US already has plans to replace existing systems for bombers, submarines and eventually ICBMs or land-based missiles. Russia is doing the same kind of thing a little ahead of us, probably because their previous generation systems have worn out a little sooner than ours. So if you want to call that a big expansion of the arsenal, I suppose you could. Although I don't think either country is numerically expanding. I think this is something we don't want to take quite as literally as some of Trump's critics have assumed," he said.

    O'Hanlon explained that Trump is trying to "project an image of strength." If this is a correct assessment that US president-elect's remarks on military issues serve a purpose of "creating that image [of strength], that vibe, that momentum, not so much literally weighing in on each and every concrete decision."

    On Thursday, Trump tweeted that the US "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses" regarding weapons of mass destruction. "Let it be an arms race," the president-elect told a morning news show a day later. "We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all," he added, without specifying who he was referring to.

    ​The analyst said that Trump could have meant "numerically increasing" the US nuclear arsenal, but he could have also used the word "expand" to remind "people that we have a nuclear weapons capability that is a pretty good deterrent."

    "As you know there are also tactical, surplus and extra weapons in both countries' arsenals and these are currently not constrained by treaty. So you could always modestly increase that number as sort of a symbolic move. That's possible as well, but I don't take any of it too seriously," the analyst said.

    O'Hanlon pointed out that Trump is currently not in a position to expand the US nuclear arsenal and his remarks do not necessarily mean that he will pursue these policies after January 20.

    "There are all sorts of possible interpretations but I think that we are getting into a lot more detail in discussing the possible interpretations than Trump has even contemplated in his own thinking or briefings. I would not take any of this literally yet," he noted. "Before we worry too much about this word 'expand,' I think we should see if he repeats it and certainly see if he repeats it as president."

    On Friday, President Vladimir Putin made it clear that Russia was not the one to spark a new arms race and that Moscow will not spend more than it can afford on defense even if it were involved in an arms race.

    "The definition of an arms race is somewhat subjective. If what you mean by that is will we see Russia and the United States both increase their nuclear weapons spending, I think they have been doing that," he said. "If what you mean is that we will throw away arms treaties and start to build up the numerical size of our forces as well as capabilities then I think that the odds are low."

    During the annual press conference President Putin said that Russia will cut military spending from 4.7 percent of GDP in 2016 to 2.8 percent in 2019 since the country has largely modernized its weapons systems and does not need to spend as much on defense as in recent years.


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    nuclear arsenal, military modernization, defense spending, nuclear weapons, arms race, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, US, Russia
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