To keep it is hypocrisyby Edwin Bramall / April 24, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2013 issue of Prospect Magazine
A Trident 2 missile, carried by Royal Navy Vanguard-class submarines
There is a compelling but fallacious argument that, with North Korea’s nuclear posturing over the Sea of Japan and Iran apparently close to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability, now is not the time to consider any change to Britain’s own nuclear stance. But it is because the threat of nuclear weapons falling into irresponsible hands is so real and worrying that we can no longer delay the review of our own nuclear deterrent system.
Three connected questions arise. First, from a military point of view, does Britain need a successor to Trident and would it be able to do the job intended for it? To this I believe the answer is unquestionably “No.” Such a system has not deterred, and indeed would not deter, any threats or challenges to this country, nuclear or otherwise. Nor, in a now intensely globalised and interlocked world, could such a deterrent ever conceivably be used, not even after some seriously hostile incident (which it had presumably failed to deter).
Britain’s national deterrent has never been truly independent and if this country had not possessed one during the Cold War standoff, it would certainly not be seeking such a capability now. Moreover, conflict is moving inexorably in an entirely different direction so that the oft-quoted justification for such a status symbol—a seat at the “top table”—has worn thin. Prestige and influence are now derived from economic strength, wise counsel and peacekeeping rather than an ability to destroy en masse. So, against this background, Britain does not need to set up and maintain an ever-ready successor to Trident.