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HMS Vigilant

The Nuclear Chain

The nuclear litany goes like this -

  • Pakistan must have a nuclear bomb because India has a bomb
  • India must have a bomb because China has a bomb
  • China must have a bomb because America and Russia have bombs
  • Russia must have a bomb because America has a bomb.
You can equally repeat this incantation in reverse -
  • America must have a bomb because Russia and China have bombs
  • China must have a bomb because India now has a bomb
  • India must have a bomb because Pakistan now has a bomb
Finally pariah states - North Korea, Iran and Israel - believe they too need nuclear weapons because they understandably feel threatened.

Photograph by Ben Hamilton

Where does Trident fit into this dangerous pattern?

Trident adds nothing to our security.

One pretext on which Britain might possibly use Trident is to give legitimacy to a US nuclear attack by participating in it, (just as Tony Blair legitimised George Bush's invasion of Iraq). In a crisis the very existence of our Trident might make it harder for a UK prime minister to refuse to take part.

The truth is that Trident is not an independent deterrent. Essential components are leased from the US. UK Trident submarines have to return their missiles regularly to the US for maintenance. Note the danger of transporting nuclear components by road.

Britain is no longer forced to be part of the Nuclear Chain. We would be safer without Trident. Its principal role now is to secure our seat at the Top Table.

The alternative would be to scrap Trident, rethink the nature of "security", and place Britain at the head of the non-nuclear powers - the majority of the countries in the world.

The 2021 Defence Review

The 2021 Defence Review said the UK would increase its nuclear arsenal by 40 per cent, to 260 warheads. The UK had previously undertaken to cut its stockpile to 180 warheads by the mid-2020s. The UK remains a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Article 6 of which commits countries to "pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament".

Worse still the Review also reserves the right of the UK to withdraw previous assurances that it will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear armed state. This contradicts the undertaking by nuclear-armed states that they will never use nuclear weapons on a non-nuclear state, and could well encourage a rogue state to build its own arsenal.

All this is happening while most other nations are endorsing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Launch of HMS Audacious
When will Trident submarines be ready?

The Government has announced that production of the fourth Astute-class submarine HMS Audacious is nearly 17 months behind schedule, a delay that impacts on the timetable for building the Dreadnought-class submarines, which are scheduled to carry the UK's nuclear weapons system. HMS Audacious was due to be handed over to the Navy in August 2019 but, due to a fault, handover was postponed to 2021. Astute-class submarines are nuclear-powered but conventionally armed.

The immediate consequence of the current delay will be that the Trafalgar-class submarine which HMS Audacious was due to replace, HMS Trenchant, is likely to have its service life extended further than originally planned, meaning greater maintenance costs. There are delays to the next Astute-class submarine, due to be built in the space vacated by HMS Audacious, and to the third Dreadnought-class submarine, which will be built in the same space afterwards. The government no longer publishes in-service dates for the Dreadnought submarines, but it has been suggested that the MoD may struggle to keep the current nuclear-armed submarines at sea in the early 2030s, particularly if there are delays in building their successors.

This is only the latest in a series of delays and issues for replacing Trident, Britain's nuclear weapons system, casting further doubt on the viability of the programme.
"British Values" - Freedom, Democracy and the Rule of Law - are not preserved or promoted by Trident. UK nuclear weapons have more fire-power than all the munitions used in World War II. They have the capacity to kill tens of millions of people and trigger catastrophic climate change.

At a time of financial austerity, who needs Trident? There are better ways to spend 200 bn pounds!

Press our government to comply with the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Explore the decision flow-chart on the morality of nuclear weapons.

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