We are beginning to witness the first moves in a debate within the Labour Party which engages with the suitability of renewing our policy of maintaining nuclear weapons through the Trident programme.
Now that the Cold War is over and Russia herself is involved in far greater degrees of asymmetric warfare, as indeed are we, the need for us to maintain large numbers of nuclear weapons has frankly disappeared.
The original justification for their existence was as part of a Cold War philosophy of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD for short. The idea being that an attack by one weapons’ owning state on another would trigger a retaliatory attack before the first bombs arrived, so that both countries would ultimately be very badly damaged if not effectively destroyed.
Second strike capability is frankly a nonsense, as in these days, just a small percentage of the weaponry possessed by other nuclear powers, would be sufficient, if used first, to return the entire United Kingdom to a smoking, throbbing radioactive rubble. So all this talk about sealed letters aboard nuclear submarines signed by the Prime Minister is all a little academic.
Moreover, Britain is committed under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to move toward disarmament. By deciding to renew its deterrent, it may undermine the very treaty that it is so keen to hold Iran to account over. Why should it listen to another country that is saying nuclear weapons are dangerous and unnecessary when it refuses to disarm itself?
Finally, I would like to pose a question as to which nuclear power would the one most likely to bomb Western Europe pre-emptively?
When I was a uniformed police recruit undergoing my basic training at Hendon, we were lectured in the last few weeks of basic training, by two men from the Ministry of Defence, who advised us of our likely role as police officers in the event of a nuclear war.
It was all so surrealistic that I doubt if any of us took the scenario planning very seriously. I for one, considered that the likelihood of my surviving the nuclear winter they anticipated would be unleashed, was so small as to be beyond consideration.
However, the one thing I do recall with absolute clarity was their determination of the identity of the country dropping the first nuclear weapon to impact on the UK, and that was America.
I can still recall my shock at learning this likelihood, but they justified its use against us thus!
America had always been looking for ways of countering Russian aggression and strategic desires. The way their scenario played was that in the event of a nuclear posturing reaching such proportions that the likelihood was that weapons of Mass Destruction were about to be unleashed by the Russians, the Americans would first destroy Western Europe as a means of providing themselves with a nuclear infected barrier zone between themselves and the Soviets.
They argued that the Russians would first seek to gain a toe-hold in Western Europe so as to be able to face down America, and thus the first strike would be to deny the Russians such an opportunity, hence the bombs that would obliterate Western Europe, would be American.
Any readers who have seen the film or read the book ‘Dr Strangelove’ will have no difficulty in appreciating this scenario. That is also why British submarines are armed with US weaponry which cannot be used except with US authority, because we are nearer Russia than they are.
So, when you hear promoters of Trident talking about the need to have a weapon which can be used as a second strike capability against some country determined to annihilate us, remember they are talking about our retaliating against America!
The UK does not need to replace Trident. It is vastly expensive, and the days are long gone when we need to worry about our need to sit at the top table in diplomacy. Britain is not that important any more, and membership of the nuclear club no longer carries the threat it once did.
It is time we all grew up, aligned ourselves with our NATO and EU allies and put the money saved to better uses.