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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Donald Trump’s most alarming statement so far - from Russia’s point of view

U.S.-Russia relations

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - Trump's recent assertions of putting the United States at "the top of the pack" in terms of its nuclear arsenal could trigger an arms race between Washington and Moscow, according to Russian politicians with links to the Kremlin

"Trump's campaign slogan 'Make America great again', if that means nuclear supremacy, will return the world to the worst times of the arms race in the '50s and '60s," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the international affairs committee of the Russian parliament.

Kosachev also called it "arguably Trump's most alarming statement on the subject of relations with Russia.”

"Are we entering a new era? In my view we need an answer to that question as soon as possible," the Russian posted on his Facebook page.

Another Russian lawmaker Alexei Pushkov also said the U.S. president's comments on increasing America's nuclear arsenal "put in doubt the agreement on limiting strategic arms, returning the world to the 20th century.”

"Instead of trying to achieve an illusory nuclear supremacy over Russia, the U.S. administration should find a solution to the exceptionally complicated nuclear problem of North Korea," wrote Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee in Russia's upper house of parliament.

Trump on Thursday said he wanted the United States to be at "top of the pack" in terms of nuclear arsenal.

When asked about a tweet in December in which he said the country must greatly strengthen its nuclear capacity "until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes," he answered on Thursday, “I am the first one that would like to see ... nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power."

"It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack," Trump said in an interview to Reuters.

Russia and the United States are neck-and-neck in terms of their nuclear weapons - Russia has 7,000 warheads and the United States has 6,800, according to the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-nuclear group.

The U.S. president's recent stance towards Russia is contrary to the friendly approach he adopted before he became president, when he indicated a reset to U.S.-Russia relations and pledged to reach a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Notably, the resignation of Michael Flynn for his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and his subsequent replacement Lt Gen HR McMaster, a hawkish army veteran who sees Russia as the main threat to American interests and global stability, could be a further setback in ties between the two superpowers.

“There has been a major shift,” said Bruce Jones, vice president and director for foreign policy at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington. 

“My sense is at least we’ve seen an evolution to an approach that is more sensitive to the threat Russia poses to Europe and the U.S.”

Jake Sullivan, ex-national security adviser to vice president Joe Biden, said the Trump administration's policy situation is “still unsettled.”

However, he said, McMaster as national security advisor “could tip the balance.”

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