Friday, July 30, 2010

Time now to phase out Trident

The decision by the Treasury that Trident submarine replacement should be paid for from within the existing defence budget means the Ministry of Defence must now look seriously at whether or not a Trident replacement is needed. The Treasury has now significantly undermined the argument that Trident is in the national interest. Some of us go further and argue that Trident is not in the national interest at all.

The Defence Ministry argued that Trident should be paid for by the Treasury as it is a matter of national security and is needed in addition to our normal military requirements. That argument has been rejected and going ahead with the replacement for Trident now means something else within the defence budget will have to give.

Quite what Trident replacement will achieve is still beyond me. It was a deterrent that no one dared use and arguably prevented war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. But the world has moved on and the "enemy" is no longer the Communist East. Defence needs to be intelligent, mobile and flexible in the twenty-first century. Trident is none of that. And as it cannot be used against groups such as Al Qaida, it no longer acts as its original purpose as a deterrent between superpowers.

Arguably, it could be seem as a deterrent to smaller powers believed to be developing nuclear weapons, yet even then, the point is rather stretched. North Korea and Iran are paranoid states whose governments believe they are under siege from the rest of the world. For them, nuclear weapons are a defensive strategy which warns the rest of the world to keep their distance. They are not necessarily a weapon of aggression. And even if they were, any attempt to use them would result in the aggressor countries being wiped off the face of the planet by a world community that would not need nuclear weapons to achieve this end. As for Pakistan and India, their nuclear weapons are maintained because of their regional dispute which has been a running sore for 60 years. They are not weapons being pointed at the rest of the world.

Now is the ideal time at least to put Trident into the defence review. Hopefully that will happen.

Given that Labour are opposing every cut going, it remains to be seen what posture Labour adopts on Trident. In the last Parliament, Labour voted to replace Trident with a new fleet of submarines. What their latest policy is on this issue is yet to be seen.

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