The United States already has more nuclear weapons that every other nation outside of Russia. Together, they control 93 percent of all warheads.
The former Soviet Union holds a slight numerical edge over the United States in total warheads, but has slightly fewer counting stockpiles held by U.S allies.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
@realDonaldTrump Our best case scenario is for you to remain a silly, national embarrassment and not the man who started World War III.
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) December 22, 2016
Maybe Trump's thinking if he incinerates the US before he takes office, we'll never know how incompetent he really is. (Spoiler: We know.)
— shauna (@goldengateblond) December 22, 2016
The U.S. has roughly 7,200 weapons compared with 7,300 Russian warheads, according to the Federation of Nuclear Scientists, which tracks nuclear weapons.
But should the United States begin to add to its nuclear arsenal, Russia will more than likely do the same. Other nations, notably China with 260 weapons, and the other big five nuclear powers, England and France, may be compelled to add weapons as well.
India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea are junior members of the nuclear club with smaller arsenals of varying sophistication and efficacy. Iran has also been working to develop a bomb.
It agreed to halt development under the Iran nuclear deal in an exchange for lifting sanctions against the country, but Trump has also vowed to tear up the pact.
About 2,000 U.S. nuclear weapons are deployed and ready to be fired. They include 1,900 strategic nuclear weapons and 180 non-strategic weapons.
The latest U.S. weapon under development is considered the most dangerous and most destructive in the world. Known as the B61-12, it’s America’s first nuclear-guided bomb. It can deliver a low-yield warhead (50,000 kilotons) with remarkable precision.
“Making a weapon twice as accurate has the same effect on lethality as making the warhead eight times as powerful,” according to Robert C. Aldridge, author of the book “First Strike!: The Pentagon’s Strategy for Nuclear War.”
“A lower-yield and more accurate bomb can be used without having to fear the mass, indiscriminate killing of civilians through explosive force or radioactive fallout,” he adds.
“This makes using nuclear weapons thinkable for the first time since the 1940s,” notes writer Zachary Keck.
During the campaign Trump would not rule out using nuclear weapons, including a first strike, anywhere in the world including the Middle East.
Since World War II, one of the biggest deterrents to another all out war has been the concept of “mutually assured destruction.” It means any nation that launches a nuclear first strike would be assured of mutual annihilation.
Every presidential administration in the Atomic Age has pledged to never launch a first strike and use nukes solely for deterrence.
But with the latest weapon, the United States could launch a first strike. Hypothetically, it could take out China’s nuclear missile silos and limit surrounding destruction.
A few thousand people might die in the attack, not millions who would be killed using older technology weapons that rely on brute, destructive power.
While the weapon has the ability to alter the calculation of a nuclear first strike, it would still take someone crazy enough to order a launch.
Enter Donald Trump.
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he Tweeted this morning.
Trump’s Tweet is all the more baffling since the Obama administration proposed rebuilding the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal at a cost of $348 billion over the next 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate released in February.
The National Defense Panel, a watchdog group appointed by Congress, reported that the cost could be as much as a $1 trillion over the next 30 years, according to Defense One, a defense industry newsletter.
The New START agreement with Russia will reduce the number of long-range warheads each country deploys to 1,550 by 2018. The Defense Department has already concluded that the United States does not need more than 1,000 weapons.
With Trump’s election, the world has suddenly become a much more dangerous place.