The end of the Cold War brought relief to much of the world. The imminent threat of thermonuclear disaster disappeared overnight with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This international sense of believe is clearly reflected in the fact that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ infamous Doomsday Clock was set to its highest (safest) level since 1947. The largely bipartisan desire for nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation within America’s body politic has resulted in tremendous progress made by the United States and its international partners in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. However, this very bipartisan agreement on the nuclear question is being challenged by one of the loudest voices in America today; Donald Trump.
Few issues are so crucial for a President to understand than the most destructive weapon at his or her disposal. Estimates today place the nuclear arsenal of the United States at slightly under 7,000 warheads. Whoever is elected President of the United States on November 8, 2016 will inherit this arsenal, and it is critical that this individual appreciate the need for continued disarmament and non-proliferation to further decrease the possibility of a nuclear strike.
Donald Trump has clearly shown that he has no appreciation for this fact, or for the destructive potential of America’s nuclear arsenal. And even though the man is only a candidate for President, his words may already be having an impact. Specifically, when asked about North Korean nuclear aggression against neighboring South Korea and Japan, Trump seemed to encourage both South Korea and Japan to develop nuclear weapons programs of their own. For a major party candidate seeking the highest office in America to openly support nuclear proliferation is unprecedented. Perhaps this is one reason that Trump being elected President has been ranked by the Economist as one of the top ten current threats to the world.