Might the UK Ban the Bomb after all?

An unlikely new gang of four have just written a piece in the Times that appears to hint that the UK should go back on the decision to commission a new generation of nuclear subs. The article is by two former Conservative foreign secretaries Douglas Hurd and Matthew Rifkind, one ex-Labour ditto David Owen and Blair’s ex- Defence Secretary and former Nato Sec Gen George Robertson – none of them exactly CND. They give backing to a US initiative led by Henry Kissinger no less, to bid for a major scaling down of nuclear weapons via the nuclear deproliferation route that so far has had only limited success. ( See India, Pakistan, Israel and what about the rogues, N Korea and Iran?).

Where does Britain fit in? Note the sentence in the Times piece:

“The UK has reduced its nuclear weapons capability significantly over the past 20 years. It disposed of its freefall and tactical nuclear weapons and has achieved a big reduction of the number of warheads used by the Trident system to the minimum believed to be compatible with the retention of a nuclear deterrent. If we are able to enter into a period of significant multilateral disarmament Britain, along with France and other existing nuclear powers, will need to consider what further contribution it might be able to make to help to achieve the common objective.”

Does this imply the UK should think again over renewing Trident which only passed the Commons in March last year in the dying days of Blair with Conservative support, despite Brown’s specific backing?

Yet again, it might only mean support for Brown’s vague pledge for Britain to look again at its nuclear stockpile in order to boost new efforts to contain nuclear proliferation, as stated in his national security statement earlier this year.

But why bother to write the kind of joint article that attracts attention, when Brown has already promised to take that course?

And why wait for over a year to make their move, since Kissinger et al pronounced? Tell us more please, Gang of Four.

  • The UK should give up Trident. Better to concentrate on subs which provide a usable conventional capability like Astute whose acquistion numbers are being cut presumably to ringfence money for Trident, as well as building the replacement for the Invincible-class carriers.

    Additionally, funds should be redirected to improving the conditions of both active, retired and injured Service Members in areas such as health, accommodation and protective equipment. It is telling, for instance, that one surplus military base was refused by the Prison Service on the grounds of its dismal condition.

    Some say that giving up the Bomb would lead to Britain “losing” its Security Council seat but (a) getting a bomb hasn’t got India or Pakistan or Israel one and (b) so far as I know there is no mechanism to remove Permanent status from a member who is unwilling to voluntarily give it up.

    [I actually think that the veto system as it stands is complete bollocks, but that’s not an excuse for Britain to cede its veto until everyone else does]

  • joeCanuck

    Who would be the potential target that would justify the use of such a terrible weapon during its 30 year future lifetime?
    If one cannot reasonably identified, then there is no need for it.
    That is in addition to the hypocrisy of demanding that others not build their own weapons. There is no moral justification.

  • Whatever about moral justification, there is clearly no strategic or tactical logic for trident. It can’t protect against the greatest and most present danger which is rogue nukes / dirty bombs / bio-terrorism. There is a saying: don’t be afraid of the country who want 100 nukes, be afraid of the guy who wants just one.

  • Interesting bit of history regarding nuclear weapons and proliferation. The nuclear nonproliferation treaty was proposed by Ireland and Finland, and Frank Aiken, Ireland’s foreign minister (from Camloch, South Armagh) was the first to sign the treaty in 1968. Not bad for an ‘anti-treaty’ IRA man!