The world will remember Donald Trump for his extraordinary stupidity. But, Tony Burman writes, historians will remember him most for re-igniting the nuclear arms race:
Like so many bizarre moments in Trump’s reality show, most of his theatrics will be dismissed in history as mere distractions created to blind us to what really matters.
What really matters is the survival of the planet, and there have been events in recent days that indicate we now have genuine reason to worry.
In addition to the deepening climate crisis, the world appears — without much fanfare — to have stumbled into the start of a full-blown nuclear arms race that may make the Cold War of the last century a relic of a less threatening past.
But, this time around, things are more ominous:
In both the United States and Russia, there are signs that uncontrolled global nuclear tensions have returned, and the risk of nuclear warfare in other dangerous parts of the world is at an all-time high.
Last Monday, the Pentagon confirmed that the U.S. had just tested a cruise missile that would have been banned in a 1987 nuclear arms treaty with Russia that recently collapsed after Washington withdrew from it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the U.S. test as evidence of “new threats” to Russia and promised that “we will react accordingly.”
But Putin has been having trouble himself dealing with the nuclear issue. In what some Russian media outlets are describing as “Putin’s Chernobyl,” he has been vague about a mysterious nuclear explosion inside Russia earlier this month.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un successfully duped Trump during their face-to-face summits and is gradually building up his country’s nuclear arsenal, threatening South Korea and Japan.
India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed rivals, are threatening war if the explosive issue of Kashmir is not resolved.
And the Middle East — no longer restrained by the United States — is on the brink of a potential nuclear arms race involving Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.
The wider context for these new nuclear threats is that worldwide military spending last year underwent a boom — particularly by Trump’s America.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the U.S. in 2018 raised its military expenditure for the first time in seven years, spending almost as much on defence as the next eight countries on the list combined.
Trump’s administration has been particularly focused on ripping up any agreement concerning nuclear arms control.
The U.S. has pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and abandoned the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. This leaves only one major treaty — which expires in February 2021 — providing formal restraint on the world’s major nuclear arsenals.
And John Bolton, Trump's national security advisor, says it's unlikely the United States will remain a party to that agreement.
The crazies, like Yeats' rough beast, are slouching toward Bethlehem.