GIA editor

President Obama goes nuclear on Donald Trump

Provoked by Trump’s recent commentary on non-proliferation policy, the president doesn’t hold back.
2 April 2016

SARAH WHEATON reporting for Politico: Donald Trump’s opinions can be somewhat unusual and usually controversial. But his latest suggestion to destroy everything that was accomplished by the decades of non-proliferation policy has caught an eye of non-other than the President of the United States himself.

And that’s not surprising in the slightest, considering how much Obama worked to build his legacy on nonproliferation and how easily it could be dismantled should Donald Trump take the White House.

“The person who made the statements doesn’t know much about foreign policy or nuclear policy or the Korean peninsula or the world generally,” Obama told reporters as he finished the last of a series of high-level meetings on nuclear security in Washington.

“It came up on the sidelines” of the summit, Obama said. “I’ve said before that, you know, people pay attention to American elections. What we do is really important to the rest of the world, and even in those countries that are used to a carnival atmosphere in their own politics want sobriety and clarity when it comes to U.S. elections because they understand the president of the United States needs to know what’s going on around the world.”

Trump positioned himself as a wild card. Staying unpredictable to his foes and even his friends is the key to his effectiveness as a negotiator and leader on the world stage, as he chose to put it, and he’s not changing his stance when it comes to the nuclear trigger.

“I’m not going to use nuclear, but I’m not taking any cards off the table,” Trump said when asked repeatedly by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on Wednesday whether he would rule out using those weapons in Europe or the Middle East.

Trump added, "We are better off frankly if South Korea is going to start protecting itself… they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us."

These comments were countered by the president on Friday.

“Our alliance with Japan and the Republic of Korea is one of the foundations, one of the cornerstones of our presence in the Asia-Pacific region,” reassured Obama. “It has prevented the possibilities of a nuclear escalation and conflict between countries that in the past and throughout history have been engaged in hugely destructive conflicts and controversies. So you don’t mess with that.”

Obama said that through the “sacrifices” of Americans who fought in World War II and the “wisdom” of American foreign policy in the decades since, “We’ve been able to avoid catastrophe in those regions, and we don’t want somebody in the Oval Office who doesn’t recognize how important that is.”

Despite his harsh criticism of Trump, Obama refused to comment on who should be elected in his place, even though he already put his vote in as an individual in Illinois’ Democratic primary last month.

“It’s a secret ballot, isn’t it?” he replied, when asked by a reporter which candidate got his vote. “No, I’m not going to tell you now.”

By Stefan Paraber for GIA