WASHINGTON (CN) – President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday raised the possibility of the United States ramping up its nuclear arsenal, apparently a response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calls for Russia to do the same.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump said in a tweet Thursday morning.
Approaching five months since his last press conference, Trump’s Twitter post came hours after Putin delivered a speech that included a call for Russia to increase its nuclear capabilities.
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems,” Putin said, according to AFP.
The Arms Control Association counts the United States as having 7,100 nuclear warheads compared with Russia’s 7,300. Both countries far outstrip the next largest stockpile in the world.
Trump’s stances on nuclear weapons throughout the campaign have been inconsistent and difficult to pin down. He once called nuclear proliferation the “biggest problem … in the world,” but later said he would not “rule out anything” when it comes to using such weapons as president.
He also suggested Japan and South Korea might need to develop their own nuclear capabilities to protect themselves from China and North Korea in the event the United States is not able to step in.
“At some point, we cannot be the policemen of the world,” Trump told The New York Times in March. “And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now.”
Trump and Putin’s relationship has been the focus of much speculation, especially in the wake of revelations that the Russian government attempted to influence the 2016 election. Intelligence agencies now believe the hacks from Russia were done with the intent of helping Trump win.
Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, received an award from Putin given to foreign nationals who help further relations with Russia.