Nuclear Weapons and the Trump Administration

Hannah Shabb
March 18, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: Nuclear Posture Review. [1] (Courtesy of the Office of the President of the United States)

Under the Obama administration, nuclear weapons were only to be used in extreme circumstances, and never as a tool to assert dominance through force over weaker countries. Donald Trump plans to contradict these ideas and has created more flexible regulations, including nuclear retaliation and expansion. [1] Presented in the 2010 nuclear review, Obama wished that there would be a world without nuclear weapons, while Trump states that there should be peace through strength. [2] A new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was released February 2, 2018, outlining the Trump Administrations updated policies on nuclear weapon usage. [3] The president highlighted the importance of the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons, but until that time, there should be flexible and modern regulations for the creation and moderation of such arms. [1]

The Nuclear Posture Review

The NPR (see Fig. 1) is a 64-page document that mentions making nuclear weapons easier for military use, embraces the weapons use as a deterrent, and mentions a budget to modernize the current arsenal. The maintenance of the nuclear weapons is projected to cost more that $1.2 trillion in roughly the next thirty years. [4] The NPR includes the modifications of several missiles, as well as the creation of a new nuclear- armed sea-launched cruise missile, in an attempt to update the nuclear triad deployed in the 1980s. [5] The review states that nuclear weapon funding has fallen short in the past, and that the United States is in dire need of updating our weaponry. [1] The Presidents 2018 Budget requests $28.0 billion from the Department of Energy, allowing for an 11 percent increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration to work with. Adam Smith, a ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, stated that congress still doesnt seem to have any answers as to how we will pay for this effort, or what the trade-offs with other national security efforts will be if we maintain an arsenal of over 4,000 nuclear weapons and expand our capacity to produce more. [4]

Implications in the United States

With the creation of the NPR, Donald Trump has diverted from previous U.S. views on nuclear weaponry, which creates an uneasiness for some. The President has written several Tweets that have exacerbated this fear for many Americans. One Tweet he directed at Kim Jong Un, taunted the dictator and was evidence to many of Trumps instability:

"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' 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 and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" - Donald J. Trump. [3]

This statement is an example that insinuates fear for the future of the United States, and for the world. With the current excessive presence of nuclear weapons in the world, there is no need to encourage the creation of more. However, Donald Trump seems to think otherwise.

© Hannah Shabb. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Nuclear Posture Review," Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, February 2018.

[2] M. T. Klare, "Trump's Pentagon Wants to Make Nuclear Weapons More 'Usable'," The Nation, 20 Nov 17.

[3] A. Vitali, "Trump's 'Nuclear Button' Tweet Sparks Backlash," NBC News, 3 Jan 18.

[4] K. Reif, "CBO: Nuclear Arsenal to Cost $1.2 Trillion," Arms Control Today, December 2017.

[5] P. Stewart, "New Trump Policy Could Strengthen Role of Nuclear Weapons," Reuters, 12 Jan 18.