The first rule about fight club: don’t talk about fight club. Similarly, one of the first rules about nuclear deterrence is you don’t talk about where your nuclear weapons are placed, even if it’s not that big of a secret.
President Donald Trump apparently forgot about that rule on Wednesday, when he revealed that American nuclear missiles in Turkey were safe, in spite of rising tensions with that country’s leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It wasn’t that much of a secret that the U.S. kept some nuclear weaponry in the country, but Trump revealed details about their location, as well as the number kept there, while speaking to reporters.
Trump said he was “very confident” about the safety of the weapons, which he acknowledged were held in Turkey at “a great air base there — a very powerful air base,” implying the Incirlik Air Base, about 500 miles southeast of Ankara. Trump also insinuated the air base belonged to the U.S., when in fact it is a Turkish-held air base, the Washington Post noted.
Trump seemed to confirm the number of nuclear weapons (about 50) that were being stored at Incirlik, The Daily Beast also reported.
Trump just became the first US official to confirm the presence of 50 US nuclear bombs based
in Turkey. "We're very confident" they're safe, he told reporters, via WH Pool
US and Nato officials never talk about nuclear deployments abroad.
— Julian Borger (@julianborger) October 16, 2019
For the head of state who is in charge of a nuclear arsenal, Trump’s behavior goes against several tenets of the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (sometimes abbreviated MAD), which some military experts believe has helped keep the peace between nuclear powers for the past half-century or more.
The idea behind MAD is simple: if you and your adversary both have enough weapons to annihilate each other, you won’t attempt to attack them if you know they can respond accordingly. As part of this idea, it’s important that neither side is aware of the number or location of weapons the other has, as that could allow one party to target those locations in order to have an advantage in a nuclear war.
Trump seemed to have messed up when he acknowledged the weapons’ locations and their number in his remarks on Wednesday. Fortunately (or not so much, depending on your point of view when it comes to nuclear politics), the U.S. arsenal is large enough that MAD still applies, even if Trump’s tongue slipped this one time. Still, it’s enough to be concerned about for probably more than a few military experts.
Trump has demonstrated in the past a severe lack of knowledge when it comes to nuclear defense. During the primary debates in 2015 when he was a candidate vying for the Republican Party’s nomination, for example, he could not provide an adequate answer regarding his attitudes on the nuclear triad, demonstrating, perhaps, that he didn’t know what it was to begin with, CNN reported.
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Chris Walker is a freelance writer based out of Madison, Wisconsin. A millennial with more than a decade of journalism experience, Chris aims to provide readers with the latest and most accurate news of national importance. Chris likes to spend his free time doing activities in his community with his family.