Four NBC News reporters aroused Trump's ire with a report bearing this headline: "Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in Nuclear Arsenal, Surprising Military."
Trump and Mattis denied the claim; moreover, Trump has threatened NBC's license -- a threat which should be neither dismissed nor minimized
-- while his followers have targeted the network with the usual Orwellian hate-campaign.
According to NBC, Trump's request for more nukes prompted Tillerson to make that infamous "moron" remark -- which Trump also
says is fake news.
The gist of the NBC piece is substantiated by one of Trump's own tweets
That was in December; NBC spoke of a Pentagon meeting which occurred in July. I don't think that Trump became a peacenik during the intervening months. So the only real question is whether Trump wistfully longed for a tenfold
increase. Is the number in the headline justified by the text?
Trump’s comments, the officials said, came in response to a briefing slide he was shown that charted the steady reduction of U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1960s. Trump indicated he wanted a bigger stockpile, not the bottom position on that downward-sloping curve.
The president’s comments during the Pentagon meeting in July came in response to a chart shown on the history of the U.S. and Russia’s nuclear capabilities that showed America’s stockpile at its peak in the late 1960s, the officials said. Some officials present said they did not take Trump’s desire for more nuclear weapons to be literally instructing the military to increase the actual numbers.
According to Wikipedia
, the number of nuclear warheads in the American arsenal reached a high of 31,139 in 1965 and had been reduced to 7260 as of 2014. But:
They are projected to go down to 3620 by 2022.
A 3620 to 31,139 increase would justify the "nearly tenfold" remark.
Is it believable that Trump would look at a chart similar to this one
and muse about returning to the 1965 level? In my opinion, yes. He always wants to be at the top of any given mountain.
The article makes clear that Trump did not
give an order to that effect, a point reiterated by journalist Courtney Kube (one of the four NBC authors) in this tweet
. Apparently, the president made an impulsive, pie-in-the-sky remark which no-one around him took very seriously.
During the campaign, Trump indicated that he could not define the term "nuclear triad." Therefore, I have no difficulty believing that Trump is also unaware of the history of nuclear arms reductions.
Incidentally, the chart reminds us that the USSR's nuclear stockpile reached its highest point not long before the fall of the Soviet Union. Standing at the top of the mountain isn't everything.