What the bloody hell is it for?

The UK nuclear weapons programme has relied on crumbs from the US table. Since 1943, when we joined the Manhattan Project, the US has granted us a franchise on parts of its programme, which it has graciously allowed us to rebrand with the Union flag. Our Trident missiles are leased from the US. The warheads are based on an American design (the W-76) and manufactured in a factory at Aldermaston, in Berkshire, that is a copy of a nuclear plant at Los Alamos and is two-thirds owned by the US companies Lockheed Martin and Jacobs Engineering. The firing and missile guidance systems are designed and built in the US. The missiles are aimed with the help of US satellites. The idea that our government could launch a nuclear attack without the blessing of – or instructions from – the US is ludicrous.

 What about North Korea?

CND is gravely concerned at the escalation of nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula and unequivocally opposes all threats to use nuclear weapons. Branded as a ‘rogue state’ by US President Bush, the DPRK withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003 and since 2006 has sought to develop its own nuclear weapons capability, ignoring UN Security Council resolutions. Also ignoring the UN Security Council Resolution of March 2013, the US and South Korea are persisting in the deployment of nuclear capable fighters, warships and missile defence systems in proximity to the DPRK.

 The current state of near-conflict is part of a 60-year cycle of threat and response. CND recognises that the past history of US nuclear threat against the DPRK, its annual military exercises, violating the spirit of the armistice, which simulate nuclear attack and occupation and which have taken place in disputed territorial waters, together with its nuclear posture of first strike attack against the DPRK and the integration of its nuclear weapons and its conventional war fighting capacity, have helped to persuade the DPRK to develop its nuclear arsenal and reinforce its commitment to this as a form of defence.

 The DPRK’s continued nuclear development in the face of the US’s massive nuclear arsenal of 7,700 deployed weapons, completely exposes the myth that nuclear weapons deter; on the contrary they drive proliferation.

 "The future is uncertain,"

If this were a good enough reason to renew Trident, we might expect the military top brass to enthusiastically fall in behind it. But many have done the opposite. General Sir Hugh Beach recently suggested that, "at a moment when the defence budget for equipment is heavily overdrawn and with other important areas of procurement apparently ring-fenced it is time to reflect on how thin the justification for Trident really is". Field Marshal Lord Carver, former chief of defence staff, was blunter. "Trident," he said. "What the bloody hell is it for?"

 Every nuclear state uses the same argument as the UK's: it might be blackmailed by someone else with nuclear weapons. But the very power of these weapons defuses the threat they present. The consequences of using a nuclear weapon are such that other nations know you're not really going to do it.

 Recent Parliamentary debates on Trident demonstrated there are many open and opening minds from across the political spectrum, including former Defence Secretaries Michael Portillo and Des Brown. Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander confirmed the Liberal Democrat position that a like-for-like replacement of the Trident fleet is ‘unnecessary – and unnecessarily expensive.’ Lord Browne spoke compellingly against British double standards over nuclear weapons: ‘Are we telling the countries of the rest of the world that we cannot feel secure without nuclear weapons while at the same time telling the vast majority of them that they must forgo indefinitely any nuclear option for their own security? Is that really our policy? If so, do we expect the double standard that it implies and indeed contains, to stick in a world of rising powers?’

 As Kofi Annan put it, while some say they need nuclear weapons for their own security, others will come to the same conclusion.

The non-proliferation treaty (NPT) commits the nuclear powers "to pursue negotiations in good faith on … nuclear disarmament". In return, other nations promise not to acquire nuclear weapons. By failing to honour their side of the bargain in the name of defending themselves from proliferation elsewhere, the nuclear nations invite other countries to proliferate. The UK's claim that we're working towards full multilateral disarmament while investing £100bn in nuclear rearmament doesn't exactly have the ring of conviction.

 CND opposes the double standards of Nuclear Weapons States who, whilst penalising North Korea for nuclear development, continue to modernise their own nuclear arsenals. CND also calls on the NWS to fulfill their obligations under the NPT. 

 David Cameron's assertions last week about the necessity of Britain's Trident nuclear weapons system, made amidst what is possibly the most serious nuclear crisis since the Cuban crisis of 1962, reveals him to be a danger to the world. Whilst other world leaders ­including Ban Ki-Moon, the Russian and Chinese governments, politicians in South Korea and the US – were calling on both sides in the conflict to end military posturing, Cameron was inflaming the situation giving a green light to warmongers, including those in both South Korea and Japan demanding the development of their own nuclear weapons. 

 Why keep the bomb?

Everyone is agreed that right now there is no conceivable nuclear threat to the UK from anywhere in the world. The last government stated this openly: "no state currently has both the intent and the capability to pose a direct nuclear threat to the United Kingdom or its vital interests". Only when the US orders it to do so will our government decide that our sovereign interests are best served by abandoning our nuclear programme. Until then, as social services are cut, this fairytale budget won't be touched. The government must please its imaginary friends and fight its imaginary enemies.

Tony Blair, in his autobiography, explained why he proposed to renew Trident. He acknowledged that "the expense is huge, and the utility in a post-cold war world is less in terms of deterrence, and non-existent in terms of military use. Furthermore, it is frankly inconceivable we would use our nuclear deterrent without the United States using theirs. In the final analysis, I thought giving it up too big a downgrading of our status as a nation” This, it seems, is the heart of the matter. Trident is useless and ruinously expensive – but it allows our politicians to strut around on the international stage. For that dubious privilege, you and I will pay through the nose, cutting essential public services and making the world less safe in the process.