Jim Brann examines the government's 'Trident Alternatives'
In July the government published its ‘Trident Alternatives Review’.
Britain’s nuclear weapons system consists of four nuclear-powered submarines. Each carries sixteen ‘Trident’ ballistic missiles. These are rented from United States and carry nuclear warheads. The submarines are designed to last another 15 years. The United States doesn't plan to replace its Trident missiles for up to 30 years.
The review’s aim was to look at ‘alternatives’ to the government’s policy of building new submarines, which it calls ‘like-for-like replacement’. The new submarines programme is under way at the moment. A vote on the final go-ahead is due 2016.
The ‘Trident Alternative Review’ looked at different possible nuclear weapon systems and at different ‘postures’ – ways in which these might be operated – as alternatives to ‘like-for-like’ replacement.
Regarding alternative nuclear weapon systems, the review looked at large aircraft, fast jets, surface ships and three different types of submarine. It considered ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and free-fall bombs.
As alternative ‘postures’ it looked at five choices ranging from the current “continuous at sea deterrence” - the highest level – to lower states of readiness.
The review said that the hardest part of developing a new weapons system would be developing a new weapons system would be developing a new nuclear warhead to fit it. It said that would also take the longest time and be the most expensive. It said a Trident fleet with three replacement submarines would be the cheapest option.
Everything in the ‘review’ led to the conclusion that the government’s ‘like-for-like replacement’ programme is the ‘logical’ choice.
The Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968 requires Britain, as one of five nuclear weapons states, to “pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective International control”.
Thirteen year ago Britain was also made to give “an unequivocal undertaking to encompass the total elimination of [its] nuclear arsenal”.
Most of the world’s governments support a treaty outlawing and scrapping nuclear weapons and giving real teeth to the 1968 treaty.
Las year the Defence Secretary told Parliament that new submarines would help ensure that Britain had nuclear weapons “into the 2060s”. That would be 100 years after Britain agreed to get rid of them in 1968.
In 45 years Britain hasn’t entered into “negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament”. And no British government has supported a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.
So it’s no surprise that the government’s ‘Trident Alternatives Review’ doesn’t look at either of those steps, let alone at the most obvious ‘alternative’ – scrapping Trident and renouncing nuclear weapons.
Source: Peaceline, newsletter of London Region CND