Donald Trump did not know UK had nuclear weapons, Bolton says in new book

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<span>Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Donald Trump was unaware that the UK had its own nuclear weapons, according to the former US national security adviser John Bolton.

The president’s lack of knowledge of the nuclear capabilities of his country’s closest ally is one of many examples Bolton gives of the president’s ignorance of geopolitics in his memoir The Room Where it Happened.

He recalls a meeting in 2018 with the then prime minister, Theresa May, at which a British official referred to the UK as a “nuclear power”. Trump replied: “Oh, are you a nuclear power?” in a tone of voice that made Bolton believe it “was not intended as a joke”, according to a Washington Post excerpt from the book.

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The UK first tested a nuclear warhead in 1952, and its current submarine-based deterrent force is based on US Trident missiles.

A former US official has described a similar conversation with May when Trump made a state visit to the UK in June 2019.

“He told May the number one existential threat is still nuclear weapons, and not climate change or any of these other issues that all these other people were raising,” the former official told the Guardian.

When May asked how that would affect the UK deterrent, the official said Trump appeared taken aback by the question.

“In his view, this was all about the US and Russia,” the official said. “He didn’t really factor in the other countries.”