Time for Poseidon to Give Up His Trident

Virtually all of the people in the world today have lived at a time when the most devastating of any weapon of mass destruction, possibly the only real weapon of mass destruction, has been in the hands of much of humanity. The nuclear bomb, now fashionably known as a nuclear deterrent, is a weapon that many countries may deploy if they so choose. Its power lies not just in the destruction it can cause but in the radiation that the explosion of a nuclear bomb releases.

It was the deterrent of the United States of America and the United Kingdom; France and the Soviet Union also embraced the nuclear bomb, as have many other countries. Some nations do so secretly; others are accused of having a nuclear weapons programme and others are experimenting with nuclear bomb technology secretly.

It is hard to see, in the modern world, when a nuclear bomb can be used. The threats that face nations are not so much from other nations but from revolutionaries, insurgents and those who wish to bully nations by terrorism. I cannot see that a nuclear deterrent has any use in the world today, especially for a small nation like the United Kingdom.

Yet the United Kingdom deploys submarines in a way that enables it to have at least one nuclear armed submarine at sea, ready to strike, for twenty four hours on every day of the year. This is a huge financial burden, in maintenance terms, and an even larger financial burden on the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, when the time comes to replace or change the nuclear arsenal.

Such a time is now.

Replacement of the UK’s trident missiles will cost at least 20 billion pounds. The United Kingdom has three choices: it can replace the whole nuclear system and maintain a continuous nuclear weapon deterrent, ready to be deployed at any time; it can move to a part time nuclear deterrent, using existing weapons to maintain some nuclear weapon capability, or it can scrap the whole nuclear deterrent and revert to other ways of protecting its citizens.

The United Kingdom is a small nation on the western edge of one of the most politically stable places in the region. I cannot imagine any of our neighbours wishing to invade us; most of them do not have much in the way of armed forces and few have nuclear capability. I cannot see the point of another member of the nuclear club, such as Russia or Pakistan or Israel finding any need to try and take over or threaten the United Kingdom. Indeed, the more I think about it the more I find that there is no reason for the United Kingdom to have a nuclear deterrent of any kind.

I am sure that the taxpayers of the United Kingdom can find a better use for 20 billion pounds. It is time for Poseidon to give up his trident.

2 Responses

  1. The United Kingdom has possessed weapons of mass destruction , including nuclear , biological , and chemical weapons . The United Kingdom is one of the five official nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has an independent nuclear deterrent. The U.K. has been estimated to have a stockpile of approximately 160 active nuclear warheads and 185 nuclear warheads in total, making it the smallest inventory of the five nuclear weapons states . The United Kingdom renounced the use of chemical and biological weapons in 1956 and subsequently destroyed its general stocks.

  2. The United Kingdom ratified the NPT in November 1968 and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in June 1998. The United Kingdom’s current nuclear stockpile consists of less than 180 strategic warheads that can be deployed on four Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) . [2] The July 1998 Strategic Defense Review precipitated major changes to the British nuclear weapons program, including the removal of air-delivered weapons from service and exclusive reliance on SSBNs for nuclear deterrence. The Review also mandated that only one submarine be on patrol at a time, it reduced the number of warheads carried to a maximum of forty-eight, and it required the missiles be de-targeted.[3] The 2010 Defense Review further reduced the maximum number of deployed missiles to forty per submarine, part of a plan to limit the UK’s operational nuclear weapons to 120 within coming years. According to Defense Minister Liam Fox, at least one of the Vanguard submarines has already implemented this limitation.[4] A July 2011 interview with former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett suggested that UK experts were examining the elimination of one Vanguard-class submarine and the suspension of the “continuous at-sea deterrence” policy.[5] However, since the 2011 interview, the United Kingdom’s “continuous at-sea deterrence” policy and number of Vanguard-class submarines have remained unchanged.

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