- President Donald Trump was apparently incensed by Russia touting its nuclear arsenal, and told the Russian president Vladimir Putin the US would beat in an arms race.
- Putin has boasted about Russia’s new generation of “invincible” nuclear weapons that allegedly cannot be intercepted.
- Since he took office, Trump has been keen to beef up the US’s nuclear-weapons cache, as part of his broader desires to fortify American military firepower.
President Donald Trump has apparently taken notice of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s chest-beating over his country’s nuclear arsenal.
Putin’s actions had “really got under the president’s skin,” according to a White House official cited by NBC News on Thursday.
During his national state of the union speech in March, Putin touted Russia’s new generation of “invincible” nuclear weapons that could not be intercepted.
Trump reportedly responded to Putin’s claims during a phone call with the Russian president last week, according to two officials who spoke to NBC News: “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump allegedly said.
After the conversation, Trump said that he and Putin had “a very good call,” and that they planned to talk about preventing an arms race, NBC News said.
Though Putin mentioned several weapons, including nuclear-propelled cruise missiles that have unlimited range, US officials reportedly said that some of the weapons had failed during the testing process and were not yet operational.
“I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said during his speech.
“You have failed to contain Russia,” Putin added.
Despite Trump’s reported threats to Putin, his public comments on Russia have been decidedly muted, according to officials, in part because he insists that he wants to maintain a reasonably cordial relationship with the Kremlin.
One White House official told NBC News that Trump doesn’t want too much public criticism of the Kremlin from the White House.
“He doesn’t want us to bring it up,” a White House official said to NBC. “It is not something he wants to talk about.”
Trump reportedly told his aides not to publicize his decision to arm Ukraine, Russia’s adversary, with US-made weapons, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles. According to the officials, Trump believed that Putin would be agitated by the moves, NBC reported.
Trump frequently receives criticism for not taking Russia to task as strongly as he has with other countries.
Earlier in March, Trump ignored warnings from his national security advisors and congratulated Putin on his reelection.
The White House was also slow to condemn Putin for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy living in the UK, which is widely believed to have been orchestrated by the Kremlin.