President-elect Donald Trump is doubling down on a statement that alarmed non-proliferation experts around the globe, essentially saying he’s cool with a nuclear arms race. “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski when she asked him to clarify comments about expanding the country’s nuclear weapons capabilities. In the off-air conversation with the co-host of Morning Joe, the president-elect expressed confidence that the United States would come out on top anyway so there’s nothing to fear. “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump reportedly said.
Trump’s statement came a day after the president-elect shocked the world by writing on Twitter that the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
The president-elect’s team, meanwhile, tried to play down all the nuclear arms race talk with spokesman Sean Spicer saying there wouldn’t be one anyway because other countries would decide it would not be worth it. “He’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that,” Spicer told NBC. “And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses, and we will all be just fine.” The Washington Post points out there seems to be some contradictions in Spicer’s statement: “This is, by definition, an arms race. We will match what others do in terms of developing nuclear arsenals. That’s it. Arms race.”
The New York Times agrees there seems to be little doubt that at least based off on Trump’s statements, the president-elect seems willing to “restart the costly and dangerous Cold War-era nuclear weapons competition between the United States and the old Soviet Union.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t seem too concerned about this though when he spoke to reporters at his annual end-of-year news conference, saying the president-elect’s statements shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who followed the campaign. He also denied Russia was trying to launch an arms race. “As for Donald Trump, there is nothing new about it, during his election campaign he said the U.S. needs to bolster its nuclear capabilities and its armed forces in general,” Putin said. The Russian leader said that his country’s military is stronger than any potential aggressor, even if he recognized the United States has a larger military. “Of course the U.S. has more missiles, submarines and aircraft carriers, but what we say is that we are stronger than any aggressor, and this is the case,” he said, adding that Russia has weapons that can penetrate U.S. defense systems.