Former Trump Advisors Want the U.S. to Start Testing Nukes Again


As if there weren’t enough things to worry about when it comes to Donald Trump’s potential future presidency, former advisors of the President say that, should he grace the Oval Office again, the U.S. should break with historical precedent and restart testing of nuclear weapons.

The U.S. has not tested live nuclear weapons since 1992, when the Cold War ended. Since then, the U.S. and other nuclear-armed nations have relied on computer simulations to understand the impacts and stratagems that a nuclear conflict might entail. New nuclear tests would also break a decades-long treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was introduced in 1996, signed by 187 countries, and prohibits “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion” anywhere in the world.

Read more: How Do We Know the Nukes Still Work? (2020)

Well, per the New York Times, former advisors to Trump would like to throw much of that precedent out the window. Instead, they think the U.S. should get back in the business of testing real live nukes again. The article quotes a recent essay written in Foreign Affairs by Robert C. O’Brien, a former U.S. National Security Adviser to Trump who served in his administration between 2019 and 2021. O’Brien writes that “Washington must test new nuclear weapons for reliability and safety in the real world for the first time since 1992—not just by using computer models.”

The essay argues that other adversarial nations, like Russia and China, are currently busy building up their nuclear arsenals and that the Biden administration has not done enough to deter this activity. O’Brien’s argument is that nuclear weapons testing “would strengthen the U.S. arsenal and help deter America’s foes,” as the Times characterized it. O’Brien’s article also claims that newer types of nuclear weapons need real-life testing, not just digital simulation.

The NYT article also quotes Christian Whiton, a former Trump State Department official, who told the outlet that it would “be negligent to field nuclear weapons of novel designs that we have never tested in the real world.” Whiton cast doubt on the idea that new nuclear testing by the U.S. would effectively set off a testing “arms race,” which is one criticism that has been leveled at the policy suggestion.

The Times says that the Trump team itself has characterized these former advisors as “misguided, speaking prematurely, and [that they] may well be entirely wrong” about what a second Trump administration’s policies would be. Gizmodo reached out to the Trump campaign to clarify its stance on nuclear weapons testing and will update this story if it responds.

Even if the Trump campaign has disavowed these suggestions, there’s little guarantee that won’t change in the future. The thought of anybody encouraging Donald Trump to get more involved with anything nuke-related is enough to make large parts of the country (or, probably, the world) shit their pants.

A recent article published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the organization behind the famous “Doomsday Clock,” claims that a “re-elected President Donald Trump’s” nuclear policy would be “much worse” than current President Joe Biden’s nuke policy, which the outlet admittedly describes as “terrible.” The article relies heavily on information in Project 2025, the 900-page manifesto put out by the rightwing Heritage Foundation, the likes of which has been associated with Trump’s campaign, despite the fact that Trump himself has not endorsed it and has no direct ties to it.

Trump recently came out against the Project 2025 agenda, despite the fact that it has ambitions to be Trump’s “presidential transition project” and has been characterized as “the most detailed articulation of what a second Trump term would look like.” Trump addressed the group on his Truth Social platform on Friday morning, saying of Project 2025: “I know nothing about Project 2025. I have no idea who is behind it. I disagree with some of the things they’re saying and some of the things they’re saying are absolutely ridiculous and abysmal. Anything they do, I wish them luck, but I have nothing to do with them.” Trump campaign staffers have previously described the Project as “an unwelcomed distraction” from Trump.


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