Friday, 9 March 2018

Why we should not be surprised Trump could do a deal over nuclear weapons with North Korea



“I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially” Donald Trump, interview, 16 January 2017  

The world has woken to the apparently astonishing news that President Trump is due to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, to discuss nuclear disarmament and other security issues on the Korean peninsula. (


But should the world really be astonished at this atomic breakthrough coming under a Trump presidency?


On15 December 2015 Donald Trump said “The biggest problem we have is nuclear—nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That's in my opinion that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.”


Just before Christmas in 2016, he tweeted, as President–elect: “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 Twitter comments came the same day that Vladimir Putin said Russia needs to ‘strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces’

Later Trump spokesman Jason Miller issued a statement to NBC News, ( did not add much clarity, referring “to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it, particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes,” the Washington Post reported on 23 December. (

 As he cranked up his campaign for the United States Presidency, Donald Trump uttered many things that have left not just the US electorate, but the wider world watching, gasp in near disbelief

  At the end of March 2016 he came up with one of his biggest shock statements, stressing to popular supermarket checkout PEOPLE  magazine his caution at pushing the nuclear button should he be elected to the White House. “That would be such a last resort … “Nobody is going to mess with us. But I would be very, very slow on the draw.”

"The depth and gravity of the responsibility of the office seem to elude Trump so far," Mark Pfeifle, former deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush told PEOPLE. "No one knows if reading the [CIA's daily terror-threat briefing] would sober him." (

  Should the World breathe a sigh of collective relief he is not trigger happy?

As the Huffington Post headlined the story: ‘President’ Donald Trump Would Only Turn To Nuclear Annihilation As A ‘Last Resort; I would be very, very slow on the draw’”(

 Yes, but Trump’s views on nuclear weapons are maverick, like many other of his policies.

  But what do we know about Trump’s thinking on nuclear weapons? Even Trump’s former Republican rival for the Presidency, Marco Rubio, said in the Presidential campaign trail  the US shouldn’t  "the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual."

As with his predecessors, Trump’s power over the life and death of entire nations is practically unbounded. Today, the nuclear deluge he could command would consist of thousands of weapons, each 10 or 20 times more deadly than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Nearly 2,000 U.S. strategic nuclear weapons aimed primarily at Russia and China (at a ratio of roughly 2 to 1), with additional dozens aimed at each of several other nations—North Korea, Iran and Syria—would be at a President Trump’s disposal from his first minutes in office.

On 23 November 2015 Trump opined: “I would be somebody that would be amazingly calm under pressure.”

So where can we look for any proof of this big boast? An article published in US news web site, Slate, provides an extraordinary insight.(Trump’s Nuclear Experience: In 1987, he set out to solve the world’s biggest problem
Written by senior Slate writer, Ron Rosenbaum -  author of  The Shakespeare Wars, Explaining Hitler, and How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III the article resurrects an interview originally given to the author  nearly three decades ago for the now defunct magazine, Manhattan Inc., held in Trump’s glitzy office – it featured a golden mirrored ceiling-  in his eponymous New York HQ, Trump Tower.

Rosenbaum recalled:  “Trump is not new to nuclear matters. He has been thinking about how he’d handle nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation for more than a quarter-century, at least since 1987, when he claimed to me that he was “dealing at a very high level” with people in the White House (that would have been the Reagan White House) on doomsday questions.

It seemed like a joke, when I first heard of it back then. But at the very peak of the Cold War, when the U.S. and the then Soviet Union had an estimated 25,000 nukes to target at each other, thousands of them on hair-trigger alert (no Trump jokes about “hair trigger” please), Donald Trump announced that he had the know-how to solve the world’s nuclear problems.”
 Rosenbaum explained the context of his interview, reminiscing that his “gig” was to take the loudest, glitziest luminaries of the loudest, glitziest era of Manhattan, the power brokers and power lunchers, out to lunch and turn on a tape recorder, and then to profile their self-importance. Not just the rich and famous of biz, but politicos like Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo. Zeitgeist promoters like Robin Leach. Sometimes politics got me kicked out of lunch.

Trump revealed he had grander ambitions than being a very successful international business guru. Perhaps the grandest; Rosenbaum records, was “saving the world.” Before lunch he confided that he was talking to “people in Washington,” even “the White House”; he was on the verge of breaking through. Even then he wanted to be viewed as something more than a glam real estate speculator, someone of substance politically.

Even then, nearly three decades ago, Trump demonstrated Trumpian impatience with “defense intellectuals,” exemplified in his contempt for then-fashionable nuclear-deterrence theories like “dense pack,” a plan to group our nuclear silos so close together that attacking missiles would destroy each other by means of “fratricide”—crashing into each other over the desolate Great Plains.

Even Trump saw how dense this plan was. He knew about the dangerous reality of a “hair trigger” nuclear “posture.” He said he had an uncle who was a nuclear scientist who made him aware of the all-too-easy proliferation of nuclear weapons. He had read Deadly Gambits, the sagacious history of the START nuclear reduction talks penned by nuclear negotiator, Strobe Talbott, a former Time magazine senior reporter, now President of the prestigious Brookings Institution think tank in Washington DC.

Trump wanted to begin a crusade to find a way to halt  a national security policy based on nuclear mutually assured destruction (MAD)  “before a wild-card nuke deals death to millions.”

Trump believed he had some real personal insight into the nuclear nexus, telling Rosembaum:  My uncle who just passed away was a great scientist.He was a professor at MIT. Dr. John Trump. In fact, together with Dr. Van de Graaff they did the Van de Graaff generator. He was the earliest pioneer in radiation therapy for cancer. He spent his whole life fighting cancer and he ended up dying of it.”

 “He told me something a few years ago,” Trump recalled“ He told me, ‘You don’t realize how simple nuclear technology is becoming.’ That’s scary. He said it used to be that only a few brains in the world understood it and now you have a situation where thousands and thousands of brains can easily understand it, and it’s becoming easier, and someday it’ll be like making a bomb in the basement of your house. And that’s a very frightening statement coming from a man who’s totally versed in it.”

 Rosenbaum opined: “if Trump gets his way with this, the way he does with other deals, it’s not inconceivable that history will look back on the Trump Plan’s acceptance as one of the few hopeful developments in the course of a miserable century. In any case, you read it here first.

Trump told his interviewer those three decades ago: 

 “There is a vast, vast amount of difference between somebody who has consistently made great deals—and I don’t say me, by the way—of whatever nature, and there aren’t that many of those people, by the way; you have maybe a roomful of them in the whole country. There’s a vast difference between somebody who’s been consistently successful and somebody who’s been working for a relatively small amount of money in governmental service for many years, in many cases because the private sector, who have seen these people indirectly, didn’t choose to hire these people, any of them, because it didn’t find them to be particularly capable. But then, years and years later they get slightly promoted, promoted, promoted. The private sector has passed them by and all of a sudden these people are negotiating the lives of you and your children, your families, and I tell you there’s a tremendous amount of difference.”
 Trump foresaw a situation soon when “hair-trigger” heads of state will have their hands on multiple nuclear triggers. And, Rosembaum observed, it drives him crazy that nobody in the White House senses the danger.

 But Trump has now put himself in a position to do something about it himself with his unlikely atomic summit with the little ‘Rocket Man’.

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