Donald Trump’s Twitter account is dangerous. His recent tweet about wanting to “greatly strengthen and expand” the “nuclear capability” of the United States was reckless. Trump doesn’t think before he tweets and he lacks critical thinking skills. Nuclear arms experts are now warning that tweets from Trump could bait countries with nuclear weapons.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post spoke with several nuclear experts who suggested that Trump’s willingness to Tweet about arms raises the possibility of the president-elect doing the same once he’s sworn into office and that there’s the possibility of him doing so during a time of international crisis or escalation.
Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, points out that in peacetime, any belligerent Trump Tweet about nuclear weapons might not appear as alarming, simply because “confirmation bias” might lead key actors not to interpret it in its most frightening light at that moment. Amid rising international tensions, though, that confirmation bias might work in the other direction, he says.
“Imagine we’re in a crisis — if he recklessly Tweets, people could read these things in the worst possible light,” Lewis said. “The North Koreans have a plan to use nuclear weapons very early in a conflict. They’re not going to wait around. If they think we are going, they’re going to use nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan.”
As a potential example, Lewis points out that earlier this year, Trump said he would handle the North Korean nuclear threat by getting China to make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “disappear.” Lewis notes that imprecise language in an errant, bellicose Trump Tweet — particularly amid rising tensions — could conceivably amount to an “accidental assassination threat.”
“Imagine if the North Koreans are looking for any signs that we’re about to attack as their signal that they have to go,” he said, adding that if Donald Trump “says the wrong thing” and “gives the impression that we’re about to act,” the North Koreans might “decide not to wait around to find out if that’s true or not,” and might hit “targets throughout South Korea and Japan where U.S. military forces are stationed.”
Twitter “is a tool of provocation and belligerence in the hands of Donald Trump,” said Bruce Blair, a nuclear policy specialist at Princeton University. He told the Post that it’s easy to envision Trump tweeting a warning to another world leader that “if you do this or that, you’ll be sorry.”
It is frightening to watch his Twitter feed as he sounds off about nuclear weapons while praising Russian president Vladimir Putin. Just before the election, Trump’s aides took away his Twitter account. He was not allowed to access it. The man-baby president-elect cannot even maintain his Twitter account without lashing out at others. It’s going to be a long four years unless he gets us all killed in a nuclear war before his first term ends.
Featured image via Andrew Burton/Getty Images