(Adds comment from Kremlin spokesman and background about U.S.
By Melissa Fares
WEST PALM BEACH Dec 23 U.S. President-elect
Donald Trump sowed more doubt about his position on nuclear
proliferation on Friday, reportedly welcoming an arms race even
as his spokesman insisted that an atomic weapons build-up was
not likely to happen.
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, caused alarm on Thursday
on Twitter, saying the United States "must greatly strengthen
and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world
comes to its senses regarding nukes."
On Friday, he had an off-air phone conversation about the
tweet with MSNBC TV host Mika Brzezinski, who said Trump told
her: "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every
pass and outlast them all." MSNBC did not play his comments on
But Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said in a round of
television interviews on Friday that Trump's comments were meant
to send a general message of strength to countries like Russia
and China rather than indicate the United States planned to
build up its nuclear capabilities.
"He is going to do what it takes to protect this country and
if another country or countries want to threaten our safety and
sovereignty, he is going to do what it takes," Spicer said on
"If another country expands theirs (nuclear capability), the
United States will act in kind ... But I do believe that it
won't happen because I think what they have seen, domestically
and internationally, is this is a man of action," Spicer said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, at his annual news
conference in Moscow on Friday, said he saw nothing new or
remarkable about Trump's tweet on Thursday, and made clear he
did not see the United States as a potential aggressor.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Russia
has never initiated an arms race and never will, the RIA news
In an apparent attempt to calm any tensions about his
nuclear comments, Trump said in a statement on Friday that he
had received "a very nice letter" from Putin earlier this month
calling for stronger relations between the two countries.
A nuclear arms race is diametrically opposed to decades of
Republican orthodoxy that has called for cuts in U.S. nuclear
weapons since the Ronald Reagan White House.
Trump's tweet prompted analysts to question whether Trump
was threatening to abrogate the 2011 New START treaty, which
limits deployed warheads and delivery systems - or would begin
deploying other warheads.
The United States is one of five nuclear weapons states
allowed to keep a nuclear arsenal under the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty. The others are Russia, Britain, France
The United States is in the midst of a $1 trillion, 30-year
modernization of its aging ballistic missile submarines, bombers
and land-based missiles, a price tag that most experts say the
U.S. cannot afford.
Russia, also bound by the treaty limits, is also carrying
out a modernization program but is not expanding its warhead
Twitter is Trump's communication method of choice. But its
140-character limit does not lend itself well to talking about
complex geopolitical issues like nuclear proliferation fraught
with risk, analysts charged.
"He must have leaders around the world trying to guess what
he means," Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms
Control Association, said on Thursday.
Shares of uranium producers and a nuclear fuel technology
company have jumped on Trump's comments with Uranium Resources
Inc, Uranium Energy Corp, Cameco Corp
and Lightbridge Corp all trading higher on
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Susan Heavey, Eric
Walsh and Dan Burns; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill
Trott and Alistair Bell)