Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2016
Hans M. Kristensen, of the Federation of American Scientists, writing in The Intercept last Feb. 23, said, “Both Russia and the United States are now officially and publicly using the other side as a justification for nuclear weapons modernization programs.” Now add the British parliament to the equation. On July 18 it voted to build four new nuclear-powered submarines to carry US Trident missiles armed with modernized nuclear warheads.
Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, said July 17 that nuclear threats against Britain had “increased” and that saving the 31 billion pounds ($41 billion to be spent building four new submarines—and an additional $13.2 billion set aside as a so-called “contingency”—would be to take a “reckless gamble” with the country’s “ultimate safeguard” or “insurance.”
The US “leases” American-made Trident nuclear missiles to the British Royal Navy for its four large Vanguard-class submarines, the subs that Parliament has decided to replace. The US is the only state that spreads its nuclear weapons to other countries. This, in open violation of Article 1 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Parliament’s vote was an endorsement of the government’s public promise to deploy nuclear weapons for at least another 30 years. Endorsing the massive spending spree, Defense Minister Michael Fallon said Britain’s nuclear weapons were needed to deter threats from the Islamic State and terrorists. Critics from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Labour Party guffawed, pointing out that nuclear weapons had obviously never deterred either ISIS or terrorism.
Scottish National Party opponents of Trident replacement include 54 of 59 Scottish lawmakers in Parliament, and they contested the government’s cost estimates. SNP leader Angus Robertson argued that the state’s projections ignored annual operational fees; when included, the price of four new subs is actually in the hundreds of billions of pounds, he said.
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn argued that replacing the nuclear submarines violated Britain’s legal obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which require a good-faith pursuit of nuclear disarmament. With strong opposition to Trident among Labour Party Members of Parliament, a Trident retirement and non-replacement motion may be adopted at September’s party conference.
A formal anti-Trident party platform would mean that a future Labour government could stop the program before hundreds of billions are wasted on an unlawful and militarily useless weapon. In Sept. 2015 when he became the new leader of the Labour party, Corbyn shocked the pro-nuclear establishment by saying he would never use nuclear weapons if he were prime minister. “I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons. I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons. I want to see a nuclear-free world. I believe it is possible.”
—New York Times, July 19, 2016 & Oct. 1, 2015; www.cnduk.org, “Labour activists prepare anti-Trident motion for party conference.”