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Trump launches into error-laden boast about US nuclear weapons in new RNC video

The Independent logo The Independent 09/03/2022 Andrew Feinberg
Donald Trump - Getty Images © Getty Images

Donald Trump

- Getty Images

The former US president who was once entrusted with the sole authority to order America’s nuclear weapons arsenal into action is now falsely claiming the United States is a “bigger nuclear power” than Russia despite a 549-warhead deficit between the two.

During an appearance on the Republican National Committee’s Real America YouTube show, former president Donald Trump raised the relative strengths of the two largest nuclear powers while mocking his successor, President Joe Biden, as being “pushed around” because he has kept US forces from directly engaging with Russia’s invasion force in Ukraine for fear of inciting an atomic confrontation.

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“I don't think the country's ever been at a lower point than it is right now – we're being pushed around, “ said the twice-impeached ex-president. “Even the way Putin talks to Biden, about Ukraine”.

Referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear sabre-rattling, Mr Trump said: “[Putin] says ‘don’t get involved, don't get near the fly zone, we’re nuclear power – don't get near us, we’re a nuclear power’”.

“Well, we’re a nuclear power, too – we’re a bigger nuclear power,” Mr Trump added.

Mr Trump’s claim regarding the strength of America’s thermonuclear capabilities may have been intended to echo a more infamous boast on the same subject.

In 2018, the then-president responded to a statement from North Korean dictator (and future pen-pal) Kim Jong Un about the authoritarian leader’s “nuclear button” by tweeting: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Such braggadocio might have had some grounding in fact when directed at North Korea – which the Arms Control Association estimates as holding roughly 40 usable nuclear warheads – but as it relates the arsenal under control of Mr Putin, it’s simply not true.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, the United States possesses an estimated 5,428 nuclear weapons, including those that are stockpiled in reserve or retired as well as those that are actively deployed.

While that number is more than the combined strength of nearly every other nuclear power, it’s several hundred fewer than the total number of warheads possessed by Russia.

In estimates published by FAS earlier this year, Russia is believed to own a total of 5,977 nuclear warheads across actively deployed weapons systems and reserved or retired stockpiles.

Mr Trump also told RNC chair Ronna Ms McDaniel that he was responsible for having “all the nukes” – the entirety of the American nuclear arsenal – “redone and modernised and renovated,” but that, too, is false.

While Mr Trump’s budgets did increase the amount appropriated for nuclear weapons modernisation and development, the Trump administration’s 2018 nuclear posture review continued a modernisation programme that had commenced under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The ongoing Defence Department plans to replace the delivery systems in the US nuclear triad – B-2 stealth bombers, Ohio-class submarines, and Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles – with the B-21 Raider bomber, the Columbia-class submarine, and the Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent missile programme – also commenced under Mr Obama’s leadership, as did the Air Force’s Long-Range Stand-Off Weapon cruise missile project.

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