Reading Room

Trump Denounces Nuclear Arms Treaty

February 10, 2017

Author: Marylia Kelley

Jonathan Landay, who has covered nuclear weapons topics for well over a decade, and David Rohde published an exclusive in Reuters that, in his first Presidential phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump denounced the Obama-era New START Treaty limiting a class of long-range nuclear weapons equally in both countries.

The article states that when Putin broached the possibility of extending the 2010 New START Treaty, Trump paused to ask his aides what that was. Trump then rebuffed Putin’s inquiry, saying the treaty was one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama Administration and that it favored Russia. Trump pivoted to talk about his own popularity, multiple sources told Landay and Rohde.

New START gives each country until February 2018 to reduce its deployed, strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550. It also limits deployed land and sub-based missiles and nuclear bombers and establishes important verification and information sharing between the two nations. The treaty can be extended for another 5 years beyond 2021 by mutual agreement. If it merely expires without extension or a new agreement, neither side would be bound after that date.

During a debate leading up to the election, Trump said Russia had "outsmarted" the US with the treaty, which he called "START-Up." He asserted incorrectly then that it had allowed Russia to continue to produce nuclear warheads while the US could not. It is not known if Trump still harbors that totally wrong idea.

According to the Reuters article, the phone call with Putin added to concerns that Trump is not adequately prepared for discussions with foreign leaders.

To read the Reuters exclusive: