President Donald Trump wasn’t happy with the steady decrease in the US stockpile of nuclear weapons since the 1960s, and asked instead for a tenfold increase in the US’s nuclear weapons, prompting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to call him a moron, NBC reports.
Upon seeing a briefing that charted the huge decline in the number of US nuclear weapons, Trump asked the military officials present to expand the arsenal to nearly ten times its current size, according to NBC.
It was after this meeting that NBC’s sources heard Tillerson call Trump a moron, sparking a news story that would eventually require multiple dismissals and denials from Tillerson, and Trump challenging Tillerson to compare IQs.
“I think it’s fake news,” Trump said of the reported “moron” quip in an interview with Forbes. “But if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests.”
“And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said.
The same day NBC’s original “moron” report broke, Tillerson held a special press conference where he said, among other things, that Trump “is smart.”
Arms control experts maintain that an increase in US arms would bring about another arms race with Russia, most likely China, and could spur other countries to seek nuclear capabilities.
Additionally, they maintain that the US’s arsenal is stronger and safer than ever before due to technological improvements since the 1960s, when the stockpile peaked.
But Trump has ordered the Pentagon to undertake a nuclear posture review, whereby the US reassess its nuclear assets in light of evolving threats. The last nuclear posture review came in 2010 under Obama, which had the express goal of reducing weapons stockpiles.
Preliminary reports indicate that the Trump administration is considering creating smaller, potentially “more usable” nuclear weapons that could increase the likelihood of nuclear war.
Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to “greatly strengthen and expand [US] nuclear capability.” Currently, the US is facing a potential trillion-dollar modernisation effort to update all three legs of the nuclear triad.
The US’s main nuclear rival, Russia, has created newer and in some ways more advanced nuclear weapons and tested them recently.
Throughout his political career, Trump toyed with the idea of allowing South Korea and Japan to build nuclear weapons and has fflirted with possible nuclear war with North Korea.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.