Blair says the worry isn’t necessarily that a single Trump Tweet might alone unleash nuclear catastrophe, but rather that one could very well exacerbate an already-existing situation in far worse ways than otherwise might have happened. Which, when you think about it, isn’t a particularly reassuring distinction.Could Trump help unleash nuclear catastrophe with a single tweet?
“Almost any threat could be perceived as warranting some sort of response that’s not only rhetorical, but operational,” Blair tells me. In a reference to Soviet leader Lenoid Brezhnev, Blair added: “Brezhnev in 1973 threatened to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflict. That triggered the United States under Nixon to respond by going on nuclear alert. We went to Defcon 3. Words and threats have consequences in the nuclear operations world, and can instigate a cycle of escalation that spins out of control.”
All this could be made a lot worse if Trump goes through with conducting “nuclear diplomacy by Twitter,” Blair said.
And so, whatever Trump’s actual intentions for our nuclear arsenal and the future of international disarmament efforts, his willingness to use Twitter to posture and chest-thump around nuclear matters should itself stir urgent concern. This will be particularly true if it holds over into situations involving escalating tensions.
In fact, one thing that Trump and his advisers should be pressed to answer right now is whether Trump will put his Twitter feed on ice in such situations. Given what we’ve seen from Trump thus far, there’s simply no reason to assume that he will be so inclined.