An independent liberal think-tank, Centre Forum, has released a study, “Dropping the Bomb: A Post Trident Future.” It says that the UK’s plans to spend more than £25bn on a new nuclear “deterrent” are “nonsensical” and should be scrapped because there is no foreseeable threat to the country. The paper urges the immediate retirement of Trident with all the money saved being reinvested to upgrade the military’s conventional weapons. It is believed to reflect the views of many senior Lib Dems who are trying to force a debate on whether the UK still needs an “independent nuclear deterrent”. A final decision on whether to replace Trident is due in 2016.
Some items from the report:
The rationale that led the Uk to seek an independent nuclear deterrent during the cold war no longer applies. Instead, it should move to “a nuclear threshold posture” retaining some fissile material and engineering capability just in case there was ever “a substantial deterioration in the international climate” that led Britain to need a bomb within 12 months. The report makes clear this fallback position is unlikely to be needed, as the US has emphasised in “nuclear safety guarantees” that it would respond if any Nato country were attacked.
It dismisses the claim that the UK would lose its seat on the UN Security Council without nuclear weapons.
The cost of replacing Trident will put added stress on the defence budget. “To spend a major part of the defence budget to protect against the distant possibility that a potential threat might arise on the outer edges of the UK’s strategic interests, however, seems irrational, especially at the expense of conventional real-world capabilities. Spending more than £25bn in capital costs alone to replace Trident when it has no additional deterrent role to play in current or likley future UK security scenarios is inexplicable. Consequently, the UK should withdraw Trident from service immediately, and plough the savings into the UK’s conventional forces to make the Future Force 2020 vision reality.
As part of the coalition agreement the Liberal Democrats will continue to explore the possibility of an alternative approach to delivering a credible nuclear deterrent. This work is led by the Cabinet Office and will report to the prime minister and deputy prime minister later this year”
The full report is at www.centreforum.org
Guardian Monday 5 March 2012