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"Absolutely Frightening": Greenpeace Responds to Trump's Call for a New Nuclear Arms Race

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President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump’s tweet read, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump’s tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Trump told her today, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." We speak to Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter that he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump’s tweet read, quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump’s tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to, quote, "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, about 93 percent of all nuclear warheads are already owned by Russia and the United States, which together have about 14,000 warheads stockpiled.

AMY GOODMAN: This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said she spoke briefly to the president-elect on the phone during a commercial break and asked him about his nuclear weapons comments. Brzezinski recounted Trump’s response during a conversation with her co-host, Joe Scarborough.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Mika asked the president-elect, while we had the opportunity, what his position was on—trying to clarify the tweet yesterday regarding the nuclear arsenal. And the president-elect told you what?

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: And outlast them all.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: And outlast them all.

AMY GOODMAN: And, yes, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were sitting in their pajamas in front of a fire as they spoke. They had just spoken with Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesperson. And when Trump called him on the phone at break, that’s when he spoke to Mika Brzezinski on the phone. And she relayed that conversation after.

Joining us now is Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. A new nuclear arms race, Annie? Can you talk about the significance of this?

ANNIE LEONARD: You know, Amy, it is absolutely frightening. Every day, Trump says something that makes us worried, but this may be the most terrifying yet. A nuclear arms race is the last thing that the world needs. I think about climate change. I think about economic inequality. I think about all of these major threats that we’re facing as a country and as a world. Why would we add on top of that a totally manufactured, unnecessary threat? We already have so many nuclear weapons. We have over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the United States. We’re the biggest military spender in the world. A new nuclear arms race is the last thing the world needs. It’s the last thing our country needs.

And it also demonstrates to me both a complete irresponsibility on Trump’s part and that he seems to be forgetting his campaign promises. During his campaign, he talked about bringing back jobs. He talked about economic security. The way that you bring back jobs and promote economic security is investing the trillions and trillions of dollars now being wasted on nuclear energy into a clean energy economy. That is how you get real security, not by wasting trillions of dollars on more nuclear weapons, that is just going to increase insecurity and fear in our country and globally.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Annie Leonard, this situation, where both the president-elect of the United States and the president of Russia, on the same—basically, within the same 24-hour period, are remarking about their nuclear arsenals?

ANNIE LEONARD: You know, it is absolutely terrifying. I mean, this is not a reality game show. This is really a life-or-death situation. When Trump talks about making things great again or he wants to bring back the old-fashioned days, I think about when I was a kid in high school, and I would lie in bed at night absolutely terrified about the nuclear arms race. It was just something that we were all—it was drilled into our heads, this imminent threat. And I look at my high school kid. She lies in bed at night scared about climate change, scared about the state of the economy. Am I going to rewind things and then add the nuclear arms race onto the young people’s list of concerns today? I mean, it’s so frightening, it’s just surreal.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to something we played in the headlines, which is the issue of the continuum from President Obama to President Trump. Despite Obama’s call for an end to nuclear weapons, his administration has been quietly upgrading the nuclear arsenal as part of a massive effort that will cost up to one, I believe, trillion dollars over three decades. And this is something that Kellyanne Conway raised on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday, the former campaign manager who has just been named as part of the communications team [sic] of President Trump. Let’s go to that comment of Kellyanne Conway pointing to President Obama’s nuclear plans.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don’t think the tweet was groundbreaking in this regard. It seems that President Obama himself has invested––has called for an upgrade in our capabilities. I’ve read in one or two articles, up to $1 trillion is the price tag. So, we all—you know, President Obama, President-elect Trump—everyone shares the same, I think, core value, and their first duty is to try to keep us all safe. And we know it’s a dangerous world, and that includes nuclear weapons.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there you have Kellyanne Conway defending Trump, saying he’s not changing things that much. We have done many shows on Obama’s trillion-dollar nuclear plan. What about this, Annie Leonard?

ANNIE LEONARD: Well, just because one president made a mistake certainly doesn’t give license to another president to make this mistake. Greenpeace and many of our allies, we fought against President Obama’s military spending, and we will fight against President Trump’s military spending.

AMY GOODMAN: And I just want to correct: Kellyanne Conway has been named counselor to the president.

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