The man President Donald Trump was set to nominate Thursday for a key Defense Department position once wrote an editorial that slammed Russia’s aggressive nuclear posture and the U.S.’ response.
The White House announced it intended to nominate David J. Trachtenberg to serve as the principal deputy under the secretary of defense for policy. In a December 2015 opinion piece for Defense News, Trachtenberg—the president of a national security consulting firm and former Department of Defense staffer—wrote that Russia had taken on a “threatening nuclear posture” and that the current approach left “Americans hostage to nuclear annihilation by Russia” in the name of strategic stability.
“In the most critical areas of nuclear deterrence and defense, it’s time to square the circle between Russia’s actions and America’s response,” Trachtenberg concluded in his Defense News piece. “Bolstering our nuclear offensive and defensive capabilities is long overdue. Let’s get on with it.”
The Trump administration’s ties to Russia have regularly come into question. The U.S. intelligence community determined that the country worked to help Trump get elected over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton through a hack of the Democratic National Committee and an “influence campaign.”
Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn stepped down after he misrepresented a conversation with a Russian ambassador to Vice President Mike Pence. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, recused himself this month from an ongoing investigation of ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia after it was revealed that he did not disclose his meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the run-up to the election.
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump have expressed a desire to further their nation’s nuclear capabilities.
Russia must “enhance the combat capability of strategic nuclear forces, primarily by strengthening missile complexes that will be guaranteed to penetrate existing and future missile defense systems,” Putin said in December.
Trump tweeted around that time, the U.S. “must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability.”
“Let it be an arms race,” Trump said in a statement to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” the day after that tweet. “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”