Last week, the famed Doomsday Clock, created in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to sound the alarm over the inherently catastrophic nature of nuclear weapons, was set ahead 30 seconds, to two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been to midnight since 1953.
In announcing the change, Bulletin executive director and publisher, Dr. Rachel Bronson, noted that the decision to move the minute hand ahead was influenced by concerns over the deteriorating global security landscape, particularly with regard to heightened tensions between the US and Russia (which together possess roughly 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons). The report also cited the lack of immediate progress in fighting climate change, as well as innovations in “biology, artificial intelligence, and the cyber realm” as cause for concern.
The Bulletin’s well-founded anxiety over the fact that the world’s two nuclear superpowers, the United States and Russia, are currently “at odds in a variety of theaters, from Syria to Ukraine to the borders of NATO” has been exacerbated by recent political developments inside the US.
According to the Bulletin, the actions and statements of Donald J. Trump have “broken with historical precedent in unsettling ways. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding the US nuclear arsenal,” while evincing a troubling propensity to “discount or outright reject expert advice related to international security.”
During the period between the election and the inaugural, Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Yet by appointing former Texas governor and Dancing With the Stars contestant Rick Perry to oversee the maintenance and development of the US nuclear arsenal, Trump has shown that he is far from coming to his own senses regarding “nukes.”
While other Trump nominees and appointments such as attorney-general nominee Jeff Sessions, White House counselor (and newly minted National Security Council member) Steve Bannon, and Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, have all garnered widespread criticism, the nomination of Perry to lead the Department of Energy (DOE) has been met with too little concern.