Trump: I would threaten Russia with nuclear submarines if still president

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<span>Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

If Donald Trump were still president, he told Fox Business on Monday, he would threaten Russia with nuclear submarines.

Related: Kid Rock says Donald Trump sought his advice on North Korea and Islamic State

Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, who is therefore dealing with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s status as a nuclear-armed power has shaped the US response, particularly in Biden’s reluctance to take steps, such as a Nato-implemented no-fly zone over Ukraine, that might lead to direct armed confrontation with Russia.

Such caution cuts little ice with Trump.

“I listened to him constantly using the N-word, that’s the N-word, and he’s constantly using it: the nuclear word,” Trump told Fox Business on Monday.

In US usage, the “N-word” typically refers to a racist epithet for Black people.

“We say, ‘Oh, he’s a nuclear power,’” Trump said. “But we’re a greater nuclear power. We have the greatest submarines in the world, the most powerful machines ever built …

“You should say, ‘Look, if you mention that word one more time, we’re going to send them over and we’ll be coasting back and forth, up and down your coast. You can’t let this tragedy continue. You can’t let these, these thousands of people die.”

Hundreds of thousands of people would die in any nuclear exchange with Russia.

Trump has already said Biden should threaten Russia with nuclear attack. He has also said the US should put the Chinese flag on F-22 jets and “bomb the shit out of Russia”, and then “say, ‘China did it, we didn’t do it, China did it,’ and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch”.

He has also praised Putin as “smart” and declined invitations to call him “evil”, stoking speculation about relations between the two men and particularly what was agreed when they met in private in Helsinki in 2018.

Trump has also condemned Putin’s war in Ukraine as a crime against humanity. Biden has called Putin a war criminal.

When Trump was in power, in 2018, he announced that the US would withdraw from a cold war nuclear weapons treaty which kept US and Russian nuclear weapons out of Europe. It duly did so. New Start, an Obama-era nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia, remains in place.

Analysts have warned that Putin could use a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine. The Russian leader has put his nuclear arsenal on high alert.

Related: Putin and Trump have convinced me: I was wrong about the 21st century | Robert Reich

In office, Trump also demonstrated a cavalier attitude to diplomacy regarding North Korea, another nuclear power.

Though he courted the dictator in Pyongyang, Trump also told Kim Jong-un he had a “much bigger and more powerful” nuclear button and would answer any threats “with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

He also asked the rapper Kid Rock and rocker Ted Nugent what he should do about North Korea.

Writing for the Guardian this month, the former US labor secretary Robert Reich said he like many had thought nuclear powers would “never risk war against each other because of the certainty of mutually assured destruction”.

“I bought the conventional wisdom that nuclear war was unthinkable,” Reich wrote. “I fear I was wrong.”