Half a dozen newsrooms visited coast to coast. Meetings with professors at several universities. Multiple conversations with consultants and political experts. They all have something in common when speaking about the current presidential race: it is exceptional and different from all previous campaigns. The central reason for this coincidental evaluation is a candidate. A very particular one. Mr. Donald Trump.
The real estate mogul, reality TV star, and current Grand Old Party presidential candidate is a game changer at different levels. One, in particular, relates to another issue discussed in several meetings, from Minnesota to California: the future of the US nuclear arsenal. The perspective of a Trump presidency inspires concerns. If he is appointed as Commander in Chief, he will hold the trigger of a formidable nuclear arsenal, capable of obliterating life on earth.
According to Erika Gregory, NSquare director, “a positive outcome of this camping is that the issue of nuclear weapons it’s again on the table after a long time”. This San Francisco-based think tank is pushing for a complete nuclear ban on 2048. It seems like a utopian goal, but it might be a useful way to keep the conversation going. Gregory insisted that the perils of the use of nuclear weapons “is greater than ever, but the public attention to the issue it’s lower than ever”.
According to Arms Control Association (ACA), the US Government has declared an arsenal of 4,717 active nuclear warheads as of September 30, 2014. According to US latest START treaty declaration, ACA report indicates, “1,597 strategic nuclear warheads are deployed on 785 intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and strategic bombers”. Furthermore, the President of the United State has the authority to immediately order the use of this formidable arsenal, unilaterally. Out of his own volition.
Strange as it may sound, while the President is incapable of imposing restrictions on the use of military weapons by civilians, it can, without Congress authorization, destroy the world. Literally. The previous statement has been valid for all past authorities of the Executive US Government brunch for the last 50 years.
Nonetheless, the issue has rarely come up in recent debates or campaign coverage. It is often regarded as a Cold War era subject. But, according to a report by Nsquare, the peril is now greater than ever: “Increasing geopolitical instability and the rise of global terrorism are amplifying the risk of both accidental and intentional nuclear disaster.
This has changed, as many other things had, with the irruption of the Trump phenomena. At the first presidential debate the republican candidate stated: “I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table.”
Previously, he criticized Hillary Clinton for the state of the nuclear arsenal and Barack Obama’s administration stand vis à vis Vladimir Putin’s Russia expansionism. On the other hand, he sustained that he would “certainly do not the first strike”.
Clinton campaign has made extensive use of a negative caracterización of his opponent. The nuclear Trump danger was one of the issues used on this effort. A spot compiling all Trump's opinions on the use of atomic arsenal during the Republican Primaries debates was extensively aired on TV and distributed through social media. One of the most memorable moments is when the candidate didn’t understood a question referred to the nuclear triad (i.e. the sea, land and air nuclear vectors that integrate USA nuclear transport).
This is a clear proof that Trump irruption has in deed brought the US nuclear arsenal issue to the agenda. During past campaigns, the focus was on proliferation elsewhere. Like North Korea or Iran. Now, as an unexpected outcome of the first reality TV star running for the presidency, the issue is once again part of the public debate.
This fact by itself, unfortunately, offers no hope for a fundamental change on this delicate policy field. Obama administration started with early promises of a fundamental change -notably during his 2009 Prague Speech. It ends with no news. That's not a good news.