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Trump wants to expand US nuclear arsenal to be ‘top of the pack’

Oliver Douliery/Pool-Getty Images

President Donald Trump says he would like to see the U.S. expand its nuclear arsenal to ensure the country is at the "top of the pack."

Trump made the comment Thursday during an interview with Reuters, marking a shift from his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who just days before exiting the White House made cuts to the United States' nuclear stockpile, according to Popular Mechanics.

Former Vice President Joe Biden announced in January that the U.S. had cut its nuclear arsenal by 533 weapons, bringing the new total to 4,018, representing both deployed and non-deployed warheads. Those cuts began in September 2015.

At this point, it is not clear where the recent cuts were made, though they likely came from the non-deployed stockpile.

According to recent data from the Federation of American Scientists, the U.S. has roughly 1,590 strategic warheads "deployed on intercontinental missiles and at heavy bomber bases" and 150 nonstrategic warheads deployed "on bases with operational short-range delivery systems." And the country's non-deployed reserves include an estimated 2,110 strategic and 150 nonstrategic warheads in storage.

A small number of warheads are believed to have been retired since Biden made the announcement, according to FAS. By comparison, that same analysis showed that Russia has a slightly larger nuclear arsenal, with 1,950 strategic warheads deployed along with 2,350 non-deployed warheads.

According to the New START Treaty, a nuclear arms reduction agreement signed by the U.S. and the Russian Federation in 2010, both Russia and the United States are allowed to have up to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads each.

When the treaty was signed, Foreign Policy reported, the Heritage Foundation put pressure on Republican lawmakers to vote against the Obama-era agreement, even though it had the support of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Heritage Action for America, the foundation's lobbying arm, argued that the U.S.-Russia agreement "severely weakens our national security." But the Senate ultimately approved the treaty in a 71-26 vote, with 13 Republicans voting in favor.

New START requires each party to implement the necessary reductions no later than seven years after the agreement was signed.

FAS data shows the U.S. is just slightly above the agreed upon number, but Russia is over the limit by 400 warheads — an issue Trump told Reuters he plans to address when he formally meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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