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UK: Political debate on Trident

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 18, 1994) With the end of the Cold War, the "stable deterrence relationship" established between east and west has, thankfully, been broken down. However, this has left a vacuum where the justification for having nuclear weapons used to be. The UK's new explanation for why we need to spend over GBP 1 million per day on the Trident system (384 warheads each with 10 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb) is that the future is uncertain.

(422.4184) WISE Amsterdam - Next April the Non Proliferation Treaty comes up for renewal, demonstrating that it has not achieved its objective during its first lease of life. Rather than setting a time limit for the achievement of disarmament so that the NPT is no longer required, four of the five nuclear weapons states want the Treaty renewed indefinitely and unconditionally.

The other 159 states are not particularly keen on this idea, since most have honored the Treaty by not trying to acquire a nuclear capability. They are now demanding evidence that the nuclear states are taking their obligations equally seriously, rather than using the NPT as leverage to maintain the status quo.

This is where the UK Government comes steaming sensitively in with the deployment over the next couple of months of Trident, a system designed for the Cold War, necessary to protect undefined "British interests" outside territorial boundaries.

This is a major act of proliferation and contempt for the NPT. Not only will it set some non-nuclear states wondering whether they are the next target, but it demonstrates quite clearly that the UK thinks nuclear weapons are essential to protect the military and political interests (let alone any other ones) of a small island nation. A case of what's sauce for the goose...?

The outcome of next year's NPT conference may influence north-south relations for the next generation, and will certainly have a major influence of the future of nuclear disarmament - or lack of it.

The lack of political debate about British nuclear weapons is reflected by complacency in the general population. This is unsurprising, given that no-one on the front bench of any of the British major political parties will speak out against the enormous amounts of money being squandered on Trident, nor denounce the Government's expansion of the UK nuclear arsenal to new heights.

Source and Contact: Ilana Cravitz, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 162 Holloway Rd, London N7 8D0, UK.
Tel: + 44-71-700.2350; Fax: + 44- 71-700 2357; e-mail: