President-elect Donald Trump signaled Thursday, December 22, 2016 that he will look to “strengthen and expand” the US’s nuclear capability, tweeting just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for enhancing his country’s nuclear program.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump tweeted late Thursday morning.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Hours earlier in Moscow, Putin said in a defense speech in Moscow that Russia needs to “enhance the combat capability of strategic nuclear forces, primarily by strengthening missile complexes that will be guaranteed to penetrate existing and future missile defense systems.”
The two leaders’ remarks on the same day raised questions about the future of US-Russia relations and the prospects of the two powerful countries racing to improve their nuclear capabilities. Trump and Putin have suggested Trump’s inauguration next month will ring in closer relations between the two countries, but both Trump and Putin have now each emphasized the need to strengthen their nuclear programs.
Trump’s 140-character proclamation left questions as to whether the President-elect was calling for increasing the number of nuclear warheads in the US arsenal — which would run counter US-led efforts to reduce global nuclear stockpiles — or simply arguing for a modernization of the nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s tweet came less than 24 hours after the President-elect met with three US Air Force generals for a discussion that was expected to include talk of modernizing the US nuclear triad, according to a US military official, meaning the ability to deploy nuclear weapons from land, sea and air.
Trump during the campaign argued that the US needs to modernize its aging nuclear infrastructure.
“Our nuclear program has fallen way behind, and they’ve gone wild with their nuclear program. Not good. Our government shouldn’t have allowed that to happen,” Trump said during his second debate in October against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “We are old. We’re tired. We’re exhausted in terms of nuclear. A very bad thing.”
America’s nuclear submarines are all more than 30 years old and its most dominant long-range bomber remains the 60-year-old B-52s. The Pentagon has also called for upgrading the US arsenal of ICBMs, or intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Pentagon has estimated that it will need to spend as much as $18 billion per year over the next 15 years — for a total of $270 billion — to modernize the nuclear triad.
Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.
This article originally appeared on CNN.