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ScrapTrident


Hypocrisy in Geneva

The recent Non Proliferation Treaty Prepcom in Geneva confirmed the hypocrisy that lies at the heart of British foreign policy.

The British ambassador, John Duncan, reiterated the points previously made by former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and current Defence Secretary Des Browne. Britain, he stated, had reduced its nuclear arsenal by 75% since the end of the Cold War. It had offered to become a nuclear ‘disarmament laboratory’ and was already working with a number of Norweigan defence laboratories and the NGO Verification Research, Training and Information Centre(VERTIC) towards that aim. Moreover, it was planning to host a technical conference of P5 nuclear laboratories (the fi ve original nuclear powers) on the verification of nuclear disarmament prior to the next NPT review conference in 2010. All this, of course, is to be welcomed. But...and you knew there would be a ‘but’...does this really represent a change of heart on the part of the Brown government? The reduction in the total number of nuclear weapons is not a reduction in operative effectiveness. We have got rid of obsolete weapons such as free fall bombs which are highly vulnerable in today’s world of sophisticated air defences. The reduction in the number of Trident warheads to no more than 160, while getting rid of spare warheads, has not reduced the number that are deployed at anytime. All this is more about good housekeeping than real disarmament. Britain’s key strategic system is its four Trident submarines. Between them they carry today the same number of independently targetable warheads -144 - that they had 10 years ago. That means no reduction in the number of targets that the system could destroy in the event of war. Indeed, with new submarines, a new missile, a new warhead and new strategic doctrines such as pre-emption, Trident becomes more lethal than ever. And in combination with Missile Defence it is transformed into a weapon that is able to deliver an unanswerable fi rst strike against Russia, China or any other adversary. That is what makes Trident replacement and missile defence truly destabilising. We can already see how Russia, China and others are responding to the new perceived threat.

Know them by their deeds

At the end of the day there is a fundamental contradiction between the stated aims of working to achieve nuclear disarmament and the decision to renew Trident and allow the use of UK bases forthe US Missile Defence system.The government is spending a staggering £5 billion on a new building programme at Britain’s nuclear bomb factory at Aldermaston. The projects include a new supercomputer, new laser facilities which can simulate nuclear weapon testing and the recruitment of over 1000 new scientists and engineers - a 30% increase in staff numbers. It is inconceivable that all this is just routine upgrading. It is to enable the development and production of a new nuclear warhead for Trident. But parliament has yet to discuss or endorse such a development.

A Nuclear Weapons Convention

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Scottish CND works with a wide range of progressive organisations including the new Scottish government to secure a future free from nuclear weapons. This does not just mean decommissioning the existing Trident system and scrapping plans to upgrade it. It also means working with peace activists across the world on multilateral disarmament initiatives. Worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons is today recognised as an achievable aim by international fi gures like Kofi Annan, Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei as well as former US politicians such as George Schultz and Henry Kissinger. The international Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was launched by medical professionals in 60 countries. Already landmines, chemical weapons and biological weapons have been outlawed through international treaties. The Brown Government should be congratulated for its positive contribution towards the ongoing discussions on banning cluster weapons. Nuclear weapons abolition in the form of a Nuclear Weapons Convention must be the next objective for the international peace movement. Scottish CND is organising a Peace Chain Around Faslane on 14th June. It will highlight the growing opposition to Trident and Trident replacement among the majority of Scots. Over the next 5 years, the UK government will spend £10 billion on Trident and another £1 billion a year on the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An autumn campaign launched by Scotland’s for Peace will be entitled ‘A People’s Budget for Peace’. This will contrast the vast sums spent on Trident and war instead of health, education, affordable housing and climate change.

 

Alan Mackinnon