Cancelling Trident renewal, an affordable cut?

The subject of nuclear weapons has been a tough one for Labour over the years. As a responsible party of government we have had to ensure that the British people are protected, yet our party has many who are ill at ease with the idea of the ultimate deterrent. Many of my friends are supporters or members of CND, some are in Labour CND. A few took part in the Aldermaston marches (in the 1960s).

The idea that having nuclear weapons deters our enemies is, on the face of it, a reasonable one. However, it is damaged somewhat when one considers that most nations do not possess them, even in Europe. A better argument for peace is a united Europe (the peace dividend that is a result of the EU is an underused argument for that institution).

We have been involved in many wars since 1945, and since 1952 when we first acquired our own. Not once have we even been tempted to use nuclear weapons. Nowadays we are told that our enemies are less likely to be rogue and aggressive nations, and more likely to be terrorist organisations – in which case the obvious question would be: who do we bomb?

To be honest I am a little confused. My heart says let’s get rid of the damned things, whilst my head tells me that not only is this going to be unpopular, but it certainly introduces more risk. To add to my confusion I struggle to think of a scenario where I would be prepared to go for the nuclear option – mutually assured destruction is not a desirable conclusion.

One thing is clear, though, and that Trident renewal is damned expensive. This replaces an arsenal that we never used with another that we would not use. In the era of austerity this seems one cut that makes sense. CND say it is an appalling waste, and I agree.

Consider this: cancelling the Trident replacement would save around £100 billion. This could be used in the following ways:

150,000 new homes
Tuition fees for 4 million students
2.5 million affordable homes
Insulation of 15 million homes
2 million jobs

One of the arguments against freely available guns is that eventually someone uses one. There is a reported 16,300 nuclear weapons worldwide, a truly frightening statistic.


2 Responses to Cancelling Trident renewal, an affordable cut?

  1. jayman says:

    America has the largest collection of silo ICBM and submarine based nuclear missile warheads with unthinkable MT payloads. The UK has a relatively small nuclear arsenal of medium range, submarine based missiles. The cold war mentality of Mutually assured destruction could be facilitated by america and Russia alone. Between them they could irradiate the entire globe! Why would we launch? Perhaps it would be for the thermal nuclear after-party? Why does David Cameron desire the red button? Our greatest threat credible from nuclear attack would come from a failed state. DC wants to atomise a lot of poor people who are under a dictatorship then. Or perhaps. The nuclear option only really becomes an option when we are fighting a committed and effective enemy that both fails to surrender based on deep ideological military belief or fear. North Korea is the only contender for this status but fails under analysis because the military is mostly civilians forced into uniform and their short range nuclear warheads are so old they are beyond their effective half-life… Our greatest threat is from non-linear warfare/politics see

  2. Trident was great when we needed to be able to obliterate Moscow – or was it? The so-called “independent deterrent” can certainly lurk unseen and possibly send mass weapons of mass destruction towards Moscow with a moderate chance that some would get through.

    However Trident is horrendously expensive – and would we ever be able to fire a nuclear weapon without the agreement of the Americans? (Is it truly “independent”?) The last few years have demonstrated that our foreign and defence policies are tightly tied in to the Americans. I cannot envisage a situation where we could fire such a weapon – let alone a situation where the Americans were not also firing theirs at the same targets.

    The threats that we will face over the next twenty to thirty years cannot easily be determined; and there is an argument that we should maintain an independent deterrent just in case we need to be able to obliterate a super-power sometime in the future. However the spending on Trident seems to be inhibiting our ability to fight the foes that we currently need to fight.

    So, do we need a big weapon to maintain our UN Security Council seat?

    It would be interesting (!) to see what would happen if one of the permanent members were to give up its nuclear weapons. It would be perverse for other non-nuclear nations to desire to reduce the status of a nation just because it chooses to disarm. What is more likely is that the structure of the Security Council will be reformed in the near future. (Which may or may not be a good thing.)

    Alternatively, is a nuclear weapon like Trident a useful weapon to have in terms of “bang per buck”? Arguably if you are not targeting it against a super-power, the ability to secrete your nuclear deterrent in deep ocean trenches is probably not needed, and this could make the weapon cheaper. Ship or aircraft launched nuclear armed cruise missiles would enable us to attack Iran or North Korea etc. – if we decided that we really needed the ability to do that sort of damage (and risk retaliation from terrorists and dirty bombs etc.). I am not convinced.

    If we were to step back to a status more in line with similar sized European countries and divert say half the savings into targeted overseas development, would the world be a more dangerous place?

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