Trump says US is ending decades-old nuclear arms treaty with Russia

President Donald Trump announced Saturday that the US is pulling out of the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a decades-old agreement that has drawn the ire of the President.

“Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One to leave Nevada following a campaign rally.

“And I don’t know why President Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we’re not allowed to,” he said. “We’re the ones that have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement.

“But Russia has not, unfortunately, honored the agreement. So we’re going to terminate the agreement. We’re gonna pull out,” he said of the agreement, which was signed in December 1987 by former President Ronald Reagan and former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Following the announcement, Russia’s state-run news agency, RIA Novosti, reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to discuss the decision with US national security adviser John Bolton when he visits Russia this week.

According to the report, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said, “It’s likely that an explanation from the US will be required following the latest scandalous statements.”

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty?

The treaty forced both countries to eliminate ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between approximately 300 and 3,400 miles. It offered a blanket of protection to the United States’ European allies and marked a watershed agreement between two nations at the center of the arms race during the Cold War.

Former State Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, explained that the treaty “wasn’t designed to solve all of our problems with the Soviet Union,” but was “designed to provide a measure of some strategic stability on the continent of Europe.”

“I suspect our European allies right now are none too happy about hearing that President Trump intends to pull out of it,” he said.

Why leave the agreement now?

The Trump Administration has said repeatedlythat Russia has violated the treaty and has pointed to their predecessors in the Obama administration who accused Russia of violating the terms of the agreement.

In 2014, CNN reported that the US had accused Russia of violating the INF Treaty, citing cruise missile tests that dated to 2008. CNN reported in 2014 that the United States at the time informed its NATO allies of Russia’s suspected breach.

However, it wasn’t until recently that NATO officially confirmed Russia’s activity constituted a likely violation.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month that the military alliance remained “concerned about Russia’s lack of respect for its international commitments, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF Treaty.”

“This treaty abolishes a whole category of weapons and is a crucial element of our security,” Stoltenberg said, speaking at a defense ministers’ meeting. “Now this treaty is in danger because of Russia’s actions.”

He continued, “After years of denials, Russia recently acknowledged the existence of a new missile system, called 9M729. Russia has not provided any credible answers on this new missile. All allies agree that the most plausible assessment would be that Russia is in violation of the treaty. It is therefore urgent that Russia addresses these concerns in a substantial and transparent manner.”

Moscow’s failure to adhere to the agreement was also addressed in the most recent Nuclear Posture Review published by the Defense Department in February, which said Russia “continues to violate a series of arms control treaties and commitments.”

“In a broader context, Russia is either rejecting or avoiding its obligations and commitments under numerous agreements and has rebuffed U.S. efforts to follow the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with another round of negotiated reductions and to pursue reductions in non-strategic nuclear forces.”

What does this mean for US security?

Pulling out of the treaty could provoke a similar arms race across Europe akin to the one that was occurring when the agreement was initially signed in the 1980s.

“I don’t think we’re at the stage right now that if we pull out of the INF Treaty, you’ve got to go sort of build a bunker in your backyard,” Kirby said.

“I don’t think we’re at that stage at all,” he said. “But I do think, if we pull out, we really do need to think about how we are going to, right now because we don’t have the same capability as the Russians have with this particular missile. How are we going to try and counter that? How are we going to try and help deter use of it on the continent of Europe?”

How does China work in all of this?

Administration officials believe the treaty has put the US at a disadvantage because China does not face any constraints on developing intermediate-range nuclear missiles in the Pacific and it does not allow the US to develop new weapons.

Trump, speaking with reporters on Saturday, referenced China when explaining his reasoning for pulling out of the agreement.

“Unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons.’ But if Russia’s doing it and if China’s doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” Trump said.

In 2017, the head of US Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, told Congress that approximately 95% of China’s missile force would violate the INF Treaty if they were part of the agreement.

“This fact is significant because the U.S. has no comparable capability due to our adherence to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia,” Harris said in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

National security adviser John Bolton is expected to discuss the treaty with Russian officials on his trip to Moscow next week.

Kirby said he thinks the Russians will be OK with the decision.

“This gives Putin an excuse to just continue doing what he’s doing, only doing it more blatantly,” Kirby said.

Outspoken Russian senator Alexey Pushkov tweeted Sunday that the “United States is bringing the world back to the Cold War” in reaction to Trump’s decision, which he called a “massive blow to the entire system of strategic stability in the world.”

Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev warned on his Facebook page that “the consequences would be truly catastrophic.” However, he said it’s not official that the US has pulled out of the INF, saying “it’s still possible to consider Trump’s statement as continuous blackmail rather than a completed legal act.”

[CNN]

Trump Mistakenly Claims North Korea Has Agreed to “Denuclearization”

President Donald Trump took yet another shot at the media on Sunday, this time aiming his fire toward “sleepy eyes” Chuck Todd from NBC. A day after he criticized the New York Times and the Washington Post, the president was mad Sunday morning after Todd said, according to Trump, “we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing.” The truth, Trump went on to write on Twitter, was exactly the opposite. “We haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” Trump said.

Does Trump know something the rest of us don’t? Or is he just confused about what denuclearization means and what North Korea has said? On Friday, North Korea said it would suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests before a planned summit with South Korea. But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un never actually pledged to get rid of the country’s existing nuclear weapons and missiles.

Analysts have struck a cautious tone over the promises precisely because North Korea has made similar promises in the past and they never amounted to much. “North Korea has a long history of raising the issue of denuclearization and has committed to freeze its nuclear weapons programs in the past. We all remember how those pledges and commitments went down over past decades,” Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University in Seoul, told Reuters.

Trump’s tweet is also a reminder that North Korea’s Kim often means a very different thing when he refers to denuclearization than South Korea or the Western world in general. Whereas the United States and South Korea have long said denuclearization means dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program, North Korea’s Kim has talked about denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula.

When Trump criticized Todd, he appears to have been referring to this segment:

With his response, Trump makes it clear he doesn’t think he has given up anything to North Korea seemingly without realizing that sitting down for talks in and of itself is a victory for Kim. With his seeming concessions, Kim will be heading to the summits with a recognition from global powers that North Korea is a nuclear nation, which is something the country has long wanted. As one analyst told Axios on Saturday, the issues North Korea says it is willing to discuss, “amounts to “all the trappings of a ‘responsible’ nuclear weapons state (which is what they ultimately wanted to be accepted as).”

In a second tweet Sunday, Trump made clear he knows the North Korean nuclear issue is a long way from being resolved, in a rare note of caution for the commander in chief. “We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t—only time will tell,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

[Slate]

Nuclear Bombers Poised to Return to 24-Hour Alert After Trump Recalls Retired Pilots

The U.S. Air Force is preparing for nuclear armed B-52 bombers to be put back on 24-hour alert for the first time in 25 years as tensions rise between North Korea and President Donald Trump.

“I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward,” General David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, told Defense One in an interview Sunday.

While the order to have the bombers on alert hasn’t been given by the heads of U.S. Strategic Command or U.S. Northern Command, Gen. Goldfein—a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—said that in the current political climate the Air Force anticipates that it might come. “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” he said of the preparations.

The last time the bombers were on 24-hour alert was during the Cold War. About 40 strategic bombers armed with nuclear weapons were ready to take off at a moment’s notice from the president from 11 Strategic Air Command bases around the world. The alert was ended in 1991 by the then President George H.W. Bush after the end of the Cold War.

The prospect of returning to 24-hour alert worried former diplomats. “Very hard to understand what would justify returning to costly practice of keeping B-52s on alert, a practice abandoned by GHW Bush in 1991,” wrote Steven Pifer‏, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and foreign service diplomat in Moscow on Twitter.

“Something’s brewing & it makes me queasy,” wrote Adam Blickstein, a former public affairs strategic planner for the Secretary of Defense, online, noting that last Friday President Trump signed an executive order so the Air Force could bring 1,000 pilots out of retirement.

On Sunday a spokeswoman for the Air Force said there are no plans to “recall retired pilots to address the pilot shortage.”

Over the summer President Trump threatened military action and “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea after a series of tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by Pyongyang. The regime has also conducted underground nuclear weapons tests.

In early October Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that while the U.S. needed to “ensure we have military options,” that Trump told him and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to pursue diplomatic efforts.

Yet during an interview with the Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday Trump said “you would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are” for military action against Pyongyang. “Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows,” he said.

“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” Goldfein said. “It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”

[Newsweek]

 

Trump reportedly wanted nearly 10 times more nuclear weapons

President Donald Trump wanted to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal by nearly 10 times, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The president brought up his desire for a buildup during a meeting with top national security advisors in July, according to the report, which cited three officials at the gathering. Advisors told Trump about treaties that would be endangered and other hurdles preventing such a move. There is no planned expansion of nuclear weapons, NBC reported.

After the meeting ended, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was heard calling Trump a “moron.” That comment reportedly sparked more tensions between Tillerson and Trump following an NBC News report last week. Tillerson denied the piece of the report that said he was close to resigning this summer, but did not refute calling the president a “moron.”

The report on the July meeting comes as the U.S. pushes for the denuclearization of North Korea.

Trump has made public statements before about boosting the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In December, he 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.”

The White House and Pentagon could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a Wednesday morning tweet, the president claimed “fake” NBC “made up” the story. He called it “pure fiction, made up to demean.”

In a second tweet, he suggested that the NBC coverage is “bad” for the country. He asked: “At what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?”

Trump is apparently referencing the licenses granted to individual television stations by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC does not license news originations or television networks.
NBC Universal, through its television stations division, owns 28 NBC and Telemundo local television stations.

The licensing of television stations dates back to the early days of radio, when the government set regulations based on the idea that the spectrum belonged to the public. Radio and television stations are required to renew their licenses periodically, and those licenses can be revoked if the station’s owner violates FCC regulations or other laws.

But as recently as December, the commission made clear that individual broadcasters have “broad discretion” in what they choose to air.

“The Commission will not take adverse action on a license renewal application based upon the subjective determination of a listener or group of listeners that the station has broadcast purportedly inappropriate programming,” the FCC commissioners wrote in a recent decision challenging a local radio station license.

[CNBC]

Sarah Sanders Defends Trump’s ‘Destroy North Korea’ Remarks by Taking Obama Way Out of Context

President Donald Trump set the international community ablaze today by saying America could destroy North Korea if the rogue nation continues its international aggression. The president’s debut before the United Nations is drawing massive intrigue from the media and political worlds, and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is justifying Trump’s remarks by saying they’re not so different from what predecessor Barack Obama has said.

There’s a slight problem though: the context and framing of the remarks are quite different.

Sanders was referring to an interview Obama gave to CBS last year, where the former president talked about the reasons why North Korea is a major diplomatic challenge.

Here are Obama’s remarks, emphasis ours:

“It’s not something that lends itself to an easy solution. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, Republic of Korea. One of the things that we have been doing is spending a lot more time positioning our missile defense systems, so that even as we try to resolve the underlying problem of nuclear development inside of North Korea, we’re also setting up a shield that can at least block the relatively low-level threats that they’re posing right now.”

In this sense, Obama was giving a matter-of-fact statement about what America is capable of in terms of military might. He did not, however, recommend the destruction of the Hermit Kingdom as a viable resolution to the crisis.

When Trump delivered his speech today, he indicated that America is “ready, willing, and able” to attack the rogue nation if they continue their weapons testing and the U.N. cannot bring the Kim regime under control.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able. But hopefully, this will not be necessary.”

[Mediaite]

Trump Review Leans Toward Proposing Mini-Nuke

The Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.

A high-level panel created by President Donald Trump to evaluate the nuclear arsenal is reviewing various options for adding a more modern “low-yield” bomb, according to sources involved in the review, to further deter Russia, North Korea or other potential nuclear adversaries.

Approval of such weapons — whether designed to be delivered by missile, aircraft or special forces — would mark a major reversal from the Obama administration, which sought to limit reliance on nuclear arms and prohibited any new weapons or military capabilities. And critics say it would only make the actual use of atomic arms more likely.

“This capability is very warranted,” said one government official familiar with the deliberations who was not authorized to speak publicly about the yearlong Nuclear Posture Review, which Trump established by executive order his first week in office.

“The [nuclear review] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies,” added another official who supports such a proposal, particularly to confront Russia, which has raised the prominence of tactical nuclear weapons in its battle plans in recent years, including as a first-strike weapon. “Are [current weapons] going to be useful in all the scenarios we see?”

The idea of introducing a smaller-scale warhead to serve a more limited purpose than an all-out nuclear Armageddon is not new — and the U.S. government still retains some Cold War-era weapons that fit the category, including several that that can be “dialed down” to a smaller blast.

Yet new support for adding a more modern version is likely to set off a fierce debate in Congress, which would ultimately have to fund it, and raises questions about whether it would require a resumption of explosive nuclear tests after a 25-year moratorium and how other nuclear powers might respond. The Senate is expected to debate the issue of new nuclear options next week when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act.

The push is also almost sure to reignite concerns on the part of some lawmakers who say they already don’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes and believe he has dangerously elevated their prominence in U.S. national security by publicly dismissing arms control treaties and talking opening about unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea.

“If the U.S. moves now to develop a new nuclear weapon, it will send exactly the wrong signal at a time when international efforts to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons are under severe challenge,” said Steven Andreasen, a State Department official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who served as the director of arms control on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. “If the world’s greatest conventional and nuclear military power decides it cannot defend itself without new nuclear weapons, we will undermine our ability to prevent other nations from developing or enhancing their own nuclear capabilities and we will further deepen the divisions between the US and other responsible countries.

The details of what is being considered are classified and a National Security Council spokeswoman said “it is too early to discuss” the panel’s deliberations, which are expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

But the review — which is led by the Pentagon and supported by the Department of Energy, which maintains the nation’s nuclear warheads — is undertaking a broad reassessment of the nation’s nuclear requirements — including its triad of land-based, sea-based and air-launched weapons.

The reassessment, the first of its kind since the one completed for President Barack Obama in 2010, is intended “to ensure that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” Trump directed.

The United States has long experience with lower-yield nuclear devices, or those on the lower range of kilotons. For example, the bombs the United States dropped on Japan in World War II were in the 15-20 kiloton range, while most modern nuclear weapons, like the W88 warhead that is mounted on submarine-launched missiles, is reportedly as large as 475 kilotons. The device tested by North Korea earlier this week was reportedly 140 kilotons.

So-called mini-nukes were a prominent element of the American arsenal during the early decades of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union’s conventional military capabilities far outstripped the United States and military commanders relied on battlefield nuclear weapons to make up for the vulnerability.

In the early 1950s, the Pentagon developed a nuclear artillery rocket known as the “Honest John” that was deployed to Europe as a means of deterring a massive Russian invasion. The Pentagon later introduced the so-called Davy Crockett, a bazooka with a nuclear munition in the range of 10 to 20 kilotons.

“We even had atomic demolition munitions,” said Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester in the 1990s who also managed nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy. “They were made small enough so that U.S. Army soldiers could carry them in a backpack. It was a very heavy backpack. You wouldn’t want to carry them very far.”

More recently, during the administration of George W. Bush, the Pentagon sought to modify one of its current warheads — the B61 — so it could be tailored to strike smaller targets such as underground bunkers, like the type used by North Korea and Iran to conceal illicit weapons programs. The so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator was intended to rely on a modified version of the B-61, a nuclear bomb dropped from aircraft. But that effort was nixed by Congress.

The nuclear review now reviving the issue is taking some of its cues from a relatively obscure Pentagon study that was published in December, at the tail end of the Obama administration, the officials with knowledge of the process said.

That report by the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, set off what one Pentagon official called a “dust up” when it urged the military to consider “a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear options for limited use should existing non-nuclear or nuclear options prove insufficient.”

But the finding “emerged from a serious rethinking about how future regional conflicts involving the United States and its allies could play out,” John Harvey, who served as adviser to the secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological programs between 2009 and 2013, recounted at a Capitol Hill event in June.

“… There is increasing concern that, in a conventional conflict, an adversary could employ very limited nuclear use as part of a strategy to maximize gains or minimize losses,” he explained. Some call this an “‘escalate to win’ strategy.”

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at an appearance before an defense industry group last month, described the rationale this way: “If the only options we have now are to go with high-yield weapons that create a level of indiscriminate killing that the president can’t accept, we haven’t provided him with an option.”

But critics question the logic of responding to Russian moves in kind.

“[Vladimir] Putin’s doctrine and some of his statements and those of his military officers are reckless,” said Andrew Weber, who served as assistant secretary of Defense responsible for nuclear policy in the Obama administration. “Does that mean we should ape and mimic his reckless doctrine?”

“The premise that our deterrent is not credible because we don’t have enough smaller options — or smaller nuclear weapons — is false,” he added in an interview. “We do have them.”

For example, he cited the B61, which recently underwent a refurbishment and can be as powerful as less than a kiloton up to 340 kilotons, and the W80, which is fitted to an air-launched cruise missile that can deliver a nuclear blast as low as five kilotons or as high as 80, according to public data.

A new more modern version of a low-yield nuke, he added, would “increase reliance on nuclear weapons. It is an old, Cold War idea.”

Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that advocates reducing nuclear arms, also took issue with argument for more nuclear options.

“They decry the Russian argument,” he said of the proponents, “but it is is exactly the policy they are now favoring: advocating for use of a nuclear weapon early in a conflict.”

“It is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which we would need a military option in between our formidable conventional capabilities and our current low-yield nuclear weapons capabilities,” added Alexandra Bell, a former State Department arms control official. “Lawmakers should be very wary of any attempt to reduce the threshold for nuclear use. There is no such thing as a minor nuclear war.”

Others also express alarm that depending on what type of device the review might recommend, it might require the United States to restart nuclear tests to ensure its viability. The United States hasn’t detonated a nuclear weapon since 1992.

“If we actually started testing nuclear weapons all hell would break loose,” said Coyle, who is now on the board of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, a Washington think tank. “In today’s environment, if the U.S. were to test low-yield nuclear weapons others might start testing. Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, India. It would certainly give North Korea reason to test as often as they wanted.”

In Cirincione’s view, the idea is fueled by economic, not security reasons.

“This is nuclear pork disguised as nuclear strategy,” he said. “This is a jobs program for a few government labs and a few contractors. This is an insane proposal. It would lower the threshold for nuclear use. It would make nuclear war more likely. it comes form the illusion that you could use a nuclear weapons and end a conflict on favorable terms. Once you cross the nuclear threshold you are inviting a nuclear response.”

But others involved in the deliberations contend that if the administration seeks funding for a new tactical nuke it might get a far more receptive audience in Congress.

Already Republicans are pushing to build a new cruise missile that some say would violate the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia — a direct response to Moscow’s violations of the arms control pact. The Senate is expected to debate the issue next week when it takes of the defense policy bill, which includes a controversial provision similar to one already passed by the House.

[Politico]

No, Trump Did Not ‘Modernize’ U.S. Nukes

Amid growing anxiety about North Korea’s nuclear weapon capabilities, President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that one of the first things he did on assuming the presidency was to “modernize” the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

But there’s no evidence that the president has upgraded the nation’s nuclear arsenal in his mere seven months in office.

What’s more, because of how Congress works, any changes the president could have made to the nuclear arsenal could not take effect before next year anyway. In fact, the arsenal Trump is boasting about is the one maintained by President Barack Obama.

Let’s break it down and review the facts.

Trump ordered a rebuilding of the American military and assessing its readiness on January 27th, a week into office. In that order, Trump called for a “Nuclear Posture Review,” an analysis designed to help the new administration understand its existing arsenal and how it meets strategic needs.

Neither have any direct effect on the nuclear arsenal that the nation has today.

“Under the Constitution, Congress controls nuclear modernization as part of its power to organize, equip, and fund of our armed forces. President Trump’s requests related to nuclear weapons modernization have not yet passed Congress, and nothing he has done would even begin to take effect until 2018,” said Rep. Adam Smith, ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, in an email.

“The only thing he has done so far is sign a presidential memorandum requiring a nuclear posture review, but the review is nowhere near complete,” he added.

Col. Jack Jacobs, an NBC News military analyst and Medal of Honor recipient, likened the president’s order to Obama’s efforts to close the prison Guantanamo Bay, which were ultimately unsuccessful.

“In order to make something happen, Congress has to approve it and approve an authorization bill that authorizes the expenditure of the money and, separately, an appropriations bill that directs the government to write the check for it,” he said. “Neither one of those things have occurred.”

Obama undertook gradual upgrades to the nuclear arsenal and he supported a $1 trillion process for modernization last year. Trump has requested a huge uptick in nuclear spending — a 11 percent increase over the current year’s appropriation. But for now those plans are simply that.

[NBC News]

Reality

Trump’s first order as president was on Obamacare, not the nuclear arsenal.

The Trump administration just quietly admitted that the Iran deal is working

In February, President Donald Trump said that the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran was “one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen.” His comments were a direct echo of candidate Trump’s rhetoric: In one 2016 speech, he said, “My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

While Trump refused to commit to tearing it up on day one, he repeatedly suggested that the deal was a “disaster” and that his administration would enforce it more harshly or perhaps seek to renegotiate its terms and make it a “totally different deal.”

Tuesday night, the Trump administration quietly took a very different line.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that “certifies” Iran is complying with the terms of the deal, including the terms that place strict limits on its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. The deal, Tillerson said, was working.

Tillerson was careful to note that Tehran was “a leading state sponsor of terror,” and announced that Trump was initiating a review that will “evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the [Iran deal] is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

But that kind of high-level review of major policy initiatives is actually quite normal for new administrations. According to experts across the political spectrum, the clear upshot of this letter is that the Iran deal is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

“My sense is the deal will be left largely intact,” Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow in the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy says. “[Tearing it up] is more trouble than it’s worth.”

That’s not to say that the US and Iran will be on good terms. The Trump administration is likely to take a more confrontational line on Iran when it comes to other issues, like Tehran’s support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian ballistic missile program.

But it does mean that US-Iran relations, which focused on the nuclear standoff for years, won’t be changing as much under Trump as the president’s own words had suggested.

(h/t Vox)

Trump Calls for Building Up Nuke Arsenal To Be ‘Top Of the Pack’

President Trump said Thursday he wants to build up the U.S. nuclear arsenal so that it is at the “top of the pack.”

“I am the first one that would like to see everybody — nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country, even if it’s a friendly country. We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

“It would be wonderful — a dream would be that no country would have nukes — but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

The interview also touched on Russia’s violation of an arms control treaty, North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and China’s ability to pressure Pyongyang.

Trump also claimed the U.S. has “fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity,” according to Reuters.

Trump previously called in a December tweet for the U.S. to “greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

The December comment drew consternation from arms control advocates, who said the U.S.’s current 30-year, $1 trillion nuclear modernization efforts and 7,000 existing nuclear warheads are already more than enough.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Trump was “very clear” that the U.S. cannot “yield its supremacy to anybody.”

“That’s what he made very clear in there in that if other countries have nuclear capabilities, it will always be the United States that has the supremacy and commitment to this,” Spicer said at Thursday’s press briefing.

“The question that was asked was about other people that were growing their stockpiles.”

In the Reuters interview, Trump slammed the New START Treaty with Russia that caps the number of nuclear warheads the U.S. and Russia can deploy, calling it “a one-sided deal.”

“Just another bad deal that the country made, whether it’s START, whether it’s the Iran deal,” he said. “We’re going to start making good deals.”

Trump also reportedly called the New START Treaty a bad deal in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

A separate treaty with Russia, known as the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, bans ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. Russia has violated the treaty by deploying a cruise missile within its borders.

Trump called the violation a “big deal” in the Reuters interview. He said he would bring it up with Putin “if and when we meet.”

Trump also said that “we’re very angry” at North Korea’s ballistic missile tests. Accelerating the deployment of a missile-defense system in South Korea was among many options available, he added.

As he has in the past, Trump pointed at China as being able to curb North Korea’s provocative behavior, saying Beijing could do so “very easily if they want to.”

“There’s talks of a lot more than that,” Trump said when asked about the missile defense system. “We’ll see what happens. But it’s a very dangerous situation, and China can end it very quickly in my opinion.”

(h/t The Hill)

Trump Claims NBC ‘Purposely’ Misquoted Nuclear Comments

President-elect Donald Trump claimed Saturday that NBC News “purposely” misquoted his call for an expansion of the U.S. nuclear program last week, despite reports to the contrary.

Trump on Thursday said the United States “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” Saturday he accused NBC of intentionally leaving out the latter, more measure portion of his statements.

“.@NBCNews purposely left out this part of my nuclear qoute: ‘until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.’ Dishonest!” the president-elect tweeted Saturday afternoon.

Trump did not specify when NBC supposedly left out a portion of his comments.

NBC News’ initial report covering Trump’s comments on nuclear expansion, however, cited his comments in full. And the Thursday broadcast of NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt” displayed his comments in their entirety.

Trump’s claim of dishonesty in media coverage has been a calling card of his ascendance to the White House. Since winning the presidency, Trump has repeatedly attacked the media, broadly accusing them of inciting violence against him, singling out individual reporters and blasting the news media as “crooked.”

(h/t Politico)

Reality

Just by watching the NBC report shows Trump was intentionally lying.

Media

http://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/840644675837

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