Think-tank say Trident should be scaled back


8:55 am - July 28th 2010

by Newswire    


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The government should scale back the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent to save money, a think tank has said.

The Royal United Services Institute urged ministers to consider dropping the requirement of always having a nuclear submarine on patrol at sea.

Earlier this month, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the four submarines could be cut to three.

The MoD said a review was under way but the government was committed to maintaining the nuclear deterrent.

The call from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) comes as the Ministry of Defence is having to contemplate cuts in its budget of between 10% and 20%.

…more at the BBC

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Reader comments


1. Huw Spanner

Of all the reasons there are to give up our nuclear weapons, cost is the least moral, the least dignified and the least shrewd. But if it’s the only reason the Tories can think of to get rid of our weapons of mass destruction, then that is better than nothing.

It would be nice to see the candidates for the Labour leadership (with the honourable exception of Diane Abott) being a little bolder on this issue.

As far as I recall it is only LD policy to unilaterally dispose of the UK’s nuclear deterrent in a world where nuclear states are proliferating.

If nuclear retaliation were required, whom would you ask first? Please prioritise your list.

United States
Russia
France
China.
India
Pakistan
North Korea
Israel
Iran?

Can we assume if we did not have a submarine at sea at all times, that they would at least not be docked in the same place, as the point of a deterrent which can be taken out by one strike would be somewhat questionable.

Can any foreign policy/defence experts explain why it is essential that Blighty retains her nukes when other civilised, western, democratic nations (Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Canada et al) seem to cope perfectly fine without them?

Or is it just a case of empire-hangover?

@4 Mr S. Pill

Of the civilised, western, democratic nations you list, both Germany and Canada are able to carry and deploy the USA’s nuclear weapons under the Nuclear Weapon Sharing agreement.

I don’t recall blighty ever having a nuclear device during the empire, the history of the twentieth century would be very different if that were the case.

@6 Gubbs

The empire was still going strong when Britian developed nukes..even if it had been rebranded as the Commonwealth.

In answer to S Phil @4 you don’t have to be an expert to see that nuclear weapons are not necessary, even if you think they may have had a place during the Cold War. It is more than ever true given the scale of current spending cuts – some of the money spent on Trident should be diverted towards other programmes, some taken as a direct saving.

Only die hard “tankies” can’t see the sense of this: 2 new aircraft carriers with agile, well equipped, rapidly deployable battle groups would be of much more use, and do more to promote our security, than a trident replacement.

@7 Galen 10

India became independent in 1947. Britain’s first nuclear detonation occurred in 1952, whilst we could trade opinion as to specific date for the end of empire all day, do you really believe Britain retained its empire up until 1952 and beyond?

Empire = Commonwealth, I can’t wait to tell my Australian neighbour, from a safe distance or within a hardened bunker. I expect HMQ will be pleased too.

@8

It was an empire in all but name until the independence of most of the rest of the colonies.

Your original (“counter-factual” what if?) point was presumably that history would have been different if the UK had had nuclear weapons earlier… why would it have made a difference if we’d had them at the earliest possible date in your view (presumably in 1945 if the US had let us have them)?

We should scale down our entire defence forces and with them our sense of ourselves as some kind of world power. We are not.

Let Switzerland or Norway, or even Germany, be our model.

2. : “If nuclear retaliation were required,”
In what circumstances, and why, would nuclear retaliation be required?

Most of the senior people in the armed forces know that nuclear weapons have no military use whatsoever, it’s a political tool. As such there are NO circumstances in which a nuclear retaliation is required. In fact, if it’s gone that far, then they haven’t done their job (as a deterrent).

As for the cost, like the man said, ‘I don’t care if they come free with a packet of Smarties, they’re still wrong.’

@8

The UK explored the development of a nuclear device from the early 1940’s. Had a device been available prior to 1945, I have no doubt that Britain, the Allies or Nazis Germany whoever developed the weapon first, would have used it end the most destructive war in history. If the first nuclear weapon had been used against the Nazis, particularly if developed independently by the UK, the world would be unquestionably different than today in various ways, another all day sterile debate.

@10

I believe that is what the Coalition is proposing, although letting the Chiefs of Staff carry the can to save Dave & Georgies face. As previously commented, the reduction of the UK defence capability is not out of any moral imperative.

@11

Ignoring the deterrent / retaliation scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons, imagine a situation after a long and protracted conventional war; split along ethnic, religious or geographic allegiances. One which we are on losing side or where the use of a nuclear device, as horrific as that would be, was deemed to bring the war to ‘within measurable distance of its end’.

@8

The UK explored the development of a nuclear device from the early 1940’s. Had a device been available prior to 1945, I have no doubt that Britain, the Allies or Nazis Germany whoever developed the weapon first, would have used it end the most destructive war in history. If the first nuclear weapon had been used against the Nazis, particularly if developed independently by the UK, the world would be unquestionably different than today in various ways, another all day sterile debate.

@9

I believe that is what the Coalition is proposing, although letting the Chiefs of Staff carry the can to save Dave & Georgies face. As previously commented, the reduction of the UK defence capability is not out of any moral imperative.

@10

Ignoring the deterrent / retaliation scenarios for the use of nuclear weapons, imagine a situation after a long and protracted conventional war; split along ethnic, religious or geographic allegiances. One which we are on losing side or where the use of a nuclear device, as horrific as that would be, was deemed to bring the war to ‘within measurable distance of its end’.


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