Thursday, 29 July 2021
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By Louise Edge, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner, Greenpeace UK.

In the aftermath of the Conservative party conference, it's clear that in the run up to the UK General Election they plan to put the issue of spending cuts high on their agenda. But post-conference will the Conservatives have the courage and vision to open up a debate about cutting back on Trident?

It's now clear that the scale of the UK's debt crisis is likely to lead to cuts across all government departments. The MoD faces particular challenges. Heavy demands on existing forces, a long list of major defence projects in the pipeline, and a reported £35 billion pound black hole in the defence procurement budget mean that they are already dangerously overstretched, even before any budget cuts are made.

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By Nathan Hughes

North Korea tested a nuclear device for the second time in two and a half years on 25th May. Although North Korea's nuclear weapons program continues to be a work in progress, the event is inherently significant. North Korea has carried out the only two nuclear detonations the world has seen in the 21st century. (The most recent tests prior to that were the spate of tests by India and Pakistan in 1998.)

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by Bruce Klingner

Pyongyang's eagerness to conduct a nuclear test so quickly after its long-range missile launch shows it has abandoned the façade of negotiations and is no longer interested in diplomatic entreaties.

The rapid pace of North Korea's provocations since January indicates that North Korea is intent on achieving a viable nuclear weapon and ICBM delivery capability and recognition as a nuclear weapons state. North Korea's longstanding goal to develop the means to threaten the U.S. and its allies with nuclear weapons underscore the critical need for America to develop and deploy a missile defense system.

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By John Howe

Sir Michael Quinlan, who died in February at the age of seventy-eight, was a towering figure in the world of defence. Deputy Under Secretary for Policy at MoD from 1977 to 1981, and Permanent Under Secretary from 1998 to 1992, he made a remarkable contribution to the intellectual underpinning of defence policy, especially the theory and practice of nuclear deterrence.

In Michael Quinlan, two qualities shone out: acute intellect, and strong concern, rooted no doubt in his Catholic upbringing and faith, to relate the intellectual issues of nuclear deterrence to moral principle.

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by Baker Spring

In an April 5 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama reiterated his campaign commitment to "seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." Unfortunately, he also made two completely incompatible pronouncements regarding the future of the U.S. nuclear force.

First, President Obama stated, "As long as these [nuclear] weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary and guarantee that defense to our allies--including the Czech Republic."

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By Jonathan Wilson

Preparing for the unthinkable to happen means that for the foreseeable future the UK is going to require some form of a nuclear deterrence to protect its national security interests. It would be unwise to assume that the current status quo of security threats emerging from non-state actors will remain throughout the 21st century. A political decision regarding the future of our nuclear deterrence will be required over the next five years should we wish to maintain a nuclear capability. During the election campaign the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had opposing views concerning the future of Britain's nuclear deterrence. The Conservatives backed Labours plans for a 'like-for-like' replacement and the Liberal Democrats opposed such replacement but acknowledged that Britain required some form of nuclear deterrence. Some estimates claim the renewal will cost £100Billion over a fifty year period and it has been argued that cheaper alternatives could provide a nuclear deterrence, such as the development of nuclear equipped Typhoon fighters at 1/10th of the cost. In the aftermath of the election the agreement made between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives placed the future of Trident in jeopardy, promising to include in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) to 'ensure value for money.' Departmental infighting over who pays for the project between the MoD and Treasury has made it more likely that the project will be postponed or scrapped altogether. If the United Kingdom is to maintain its nuclear deterrence during the 'Age of Austerity' then it is essential that it should provide the British taxpayer with real value for money while delivering a guaranteed, affordable and most of all relevant nuclear deterrence.

Despite the change in threats to national security, nuclear deterrence has changed little since the Cold War. In order for deterrence to be successfully achieved it is essential to ensure that the state has a guaranteed nuclear capability that is protected form an aggressor's pre-emptive strike. The UK has since the 1960s maintained a so called second strike capability through four ballistic missile submarines which are deployed under the Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD) policy. Under this policy at any one time at least one nuclear armed submarine is on patrol at any time, ensuring that a nuclear response is constantly available. Due to commitments under various international treaties and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) all of the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) - as defined by the NPT - have reduced the number of nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War. The UK significantly reduced its own nuclear stockpile after the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, with the dismantling of the air-launched free-fall warheads and through a reduction of warheads carried on the Vanguard-class submarines to around 160. Despite the reductions made by the NWS, the number of states developing or possessing nuclear weapons has increased. In the twenty-first century there are fewer nuclear weapons with more fingers on the button. Working towards a nuclear-free world and reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons deployed should be at the heart of Britain's future deterrence, but not at the cost of national security.

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