Donald Trump on Nukes: 'Let It Be an Arms Race'

Image: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump talks with the media at Mar-a-Lago estate where Trump attends meetings, in Palm Beach, Florida
President-elect Donald Trump talks with the media at Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on Dec. 21.Carlos Barria / Reuters

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By Carrie Dann

President-elect Donald Trump suggested Friday that he is willing to engage in "an arms race,” insisting that the United States will surpass its rivals and “outlast them all” in a push for global weapons dominance.

"Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all,” Trump said in a statement to "Morning Joe" host Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC.

Trump’s assertion comes the day after he tweeted that the United States "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

It also continues Trump’s apparent rejection of four decades of U.S. policy advocating for the reduction of the emphasis on nuclear weapons as a part of America’s defensive systems.

Newly-minted Trump press secretary Sean Spicer appeared to try to clarify Trump's remarks on NBC’s TODAY show Friday, saying the president-elect's statements are meant as a “warning” to other nations not to undermine U.S. sovereignty.

"There’s not going to be [an arms race] because he’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that," Spicer said. "And what’s going to happen is they will come to their senses and we will all be just fine."

Also Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at his lengthy annual press conference that Russia’s weaponry is capable of penetrating the missile defense system of the United States.

"It's not us who have been speeding up the arms race," Putin added.

It’s not clear that Trump’s statement to Brzezinski was a response to Putin’s comments.

During his presidential campaign, Trump said he could not rule out the possibility of using nuclear weapons, although he acknowledged the “horror” they unleash.

The United States currently has an arsenal of 4,500 nuclear weapons. President Barack Obama has put forward a plan to modernize those systems, but a proposal to expand the number of nuclear weapons would represent a break with a U.S. defense strategy dating back to the Nixon era.