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Trump, Putin call for expanding respective nuclear capabilities

Mandel Ngan, Odd Anderson, AFP | These file photos show Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 19 in Berlin and US President-elect Donald Trump in Sioux City, Iowa, on November 6.

US President-elect Donald Trump called Thursday for the US to expand its nuclear capabilities until the world “comes to its senses”, hours after President Vladimir Putin said Russia needed to increase its own nuclear potential.

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“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Trump's call signalled that he may support costly efforts to modernise the ageing US nuclear arsenal. During the next decade, US ballistic missile submarines, bombers and land-based missiles – the three components of the US nuclear triad – are expected to reach the end of their useful lives.

A report by the Government Accountability Office earlier this year cited several worryingly outdated “legacy systems” that are still in use across the US government that are in desperate need of upgrading.

A Pentagon command-and-control system that “coordinates the operational functions of the United States’ nuclear forces, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker support aircrafts” runs on an IBM Series/1 computer and uses 8-inch floppy disks, the report said.

Maintaining and modernising the arsenal is expected to cost about $1 trillion over 30 years, according to independent estimates.

Trump, who is at his Florida resort for the Christmas holiday, gave no details about what prompted his tweet. Representatives for his transition team did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Following Russia's lead?

Trump’s statement came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin called for reinforcing his own country's nuclear arsenal and making sure its missiles can overcome the missile-defence systems of possible targets.

"We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile-defence systems," Putin said at a defence ministry meeting, as quoted by Russian news agencies.

Putin was likely referencing a US-built missile shield over parts of Europe that is now administered by NATO. Touted as a defence against a "rogue state" strike against a European city, it is one of the most controversial aspects of US military support for Europe. The Kremlin says the system is aimed at minimising the reach of Russia’s nuclear capability, something the US denies.

"We must carefully monitor any changes in the balance of power and in the political-military situation in the world, especially along Russian borders, and quickly adapt plans for neutralising threats to our country."

Trump, who takes office on January 20, campaigned on a platform of building up the US military but also promising to cut taxes and control federal spending.

Trump met Wednesday with a dozen Pentagon officials involved with defence acquisition programmes, as well as the chief executives of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the country’s two largest defence contractors.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

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