Donald Trump Slams Massive Military Spending He Once Celebrated, Bemoans 'Uncontrollable Arms Race'

donald trump military spending
President Donald Trump during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on October 23 in Washington, D.C. Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Donald Trump took aim at hundreds of billions of dollars he personally authorized in defense spending, calling the amount "crazy" in a Monday-morning Twitter post.

Saying he was "certain" there would be a future meeting with himself and China's President Xi Jinping as well as Russia's Vladimir Putin, Trump slammed what he referred to as the three superpowers' "uncontrollable Arms Race." Concluding his tweet, Trump wrote: "The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!"

The amount Trump cited was actually higher than the 2018 military budget, which was set at just under $700 billion. However, in August the president authorized the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gave the military $717 billion for its 2019 budget. At the time, Trump called the decision the "most significant investment in our military and our war fighters in modern history." He continued by saying the U.S. would "strengthen our military like never ever before."

I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018

Now Trump has said he hopes to meet with his Chinese and Russian counterparts to "start talking about a meaningful halt" to spending so much on arms and defense.

"He seems to be suggesting the current level of defense spending is crazy and the implication is he wants to reduce it and he wants to do it through negotiation with Russia and China," Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Defense News. Harrison also pointed out that the main driver between the increased U.S. spending on the military has been the perceived threats from Russia and China.

"He is suggesting he wants to reduce our spending through talks with them," the expert said. "This is huge. This is new."

The president's statement came after meeting directly with Xi during the G20 summit in Argentina over the weekend. Trump canceled a planned meeting with Putin at the last minute, citing concern over Russian actions toward Ukraine last week. He did, however, hold an "informal" talk with the Russian leader. Although Trump and Xi were primarily discussing ongoing trade tensions, Putin and Trump had planned to discuss the Cold War–era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

China's President Xi Jinping and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands, during a bilateral meeting in the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires on November 30 MIKHAEL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images

Washington has accused Russia of violating the terms of the decades-old agreement, with Trump threatening to remove the U.S. from the pact and potentially ramp up the country's nuclear capabilities. Moscow has conversely accused the U.S. of violating the terms of the treaty.

James Jay Carafano, an expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Defense News that "the administration would rather that Russia come into compliance [with the INF treaty] and China also enter into an agreement" than build up its nuclear arsenal.

"I think Trump is signaling, warning both if they don't come to the table they will face a U.S. arms buildup that they will have to match," the analyst said.