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     Scottish CND      Magazine

Strategic Defence Review

Dave Knight, Chair of British CND

(Dave was invited to attend an official seminar as part of the Government's Defence Review.)

The (New) Labour Government Strategic Defence Review had an unpromising beginning. The review was set up to "reassess Britain's essential security interests and defence needs in the light of the profound changes in the international security environment since 1990". Yet nuclear weapons policy in general and Trident in particular were excluded. As was discussion of Nato expansion or even its present role. Hardly a strategic review! However they did welcome submissions from individuals, academic institutions and Non Governmental Organisations as well as from politicians and military organizations. This and a considerable amount of lobbying of George Robertson and Robin Cook by CND members and supporters amongst others, seems to have opened up the topics for discussion to some extent.

There is as yet no change in the Government's position on NATO. Whilst they support a strengthened role for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the areas of election monitoring, democracy building, human rights and conflict prevention; which is promising, they wish NATO enlargement to go ahead without further debate; which is not! Over the next few months we must keep up the pressure against the ratification of the enlargement as well as continuing our campaign for an alternative to the NATO nuclear alliance itself.

The nuclear policy debate has opened up somewhat, although the Government has reiterated its commitment to retaining Trident. They now seem willing to consider limiting the capability of the system and possibly even its deployment and role. The expected differences between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence are clearly beginning to emerge. One of our roles is, where possible, to exploit these differences and to welcome disarmament or limitation measures which may come about.

However it seems that at this stage that what will emerge from the Defence Review will fall well short of what we would wish for. Our submissions to the Review have made it clear that CND believes that Britain must divest itself of its nuclear weapons capability and should play its full part in the international disarmament and non proliferation process.

The new Government does appear be willing to listen to far more diverse opinion than the previous one. All the more hopeful and, unfortunately, the less hopeful signs were apparent at a seminar I took part in at the Foreign Office. To be invited to take part and have our views considered seriously in government and diplomatic circles is a step forward. We must build on this progress by keeping up the pressure for change and by keeping our vision of a nuclear free world clear. "We" means all of us! It is the strength of our grass roots campaigning that gives such potency to our lobbying. (There is still scope for people to make their own views known, directly to the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office, or to your MP)

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     Scottish CND      Magazine