“Reassuringly, as North Korea tests yet another intercontinental ballistic missile, the UK Government has voted by a large majority to commission the next generation submarines to carry Britain’s nuclear deterrent out to 2050 and beyond. This was the only viable decision in my opinion in what is a troubled and complex world. The events in Nice on Thursday and Turkey on Friday personify this.
The debate and vote last night was about how we deploy our nuclear deterrent which is currently housed in submarines which cruise silently, secretly, deep in the oceans. They are ready 365 days per year to deploy their devastating power to protect the people and shores of the United Kingdom. Maintaining the UK as a nuclear power is critical to our future security.
Forget the EU, UN and NATO it is Britain’s nuclear deterrent that gives us a meaningful voice on the world stage as a member of the UN’s P5. This is not just about plucky Britain punching above its weight, it about the UK exercising its very considerable diplomatic skills to temper the somewhat erratic ambitions of Russia, coupled with uncertainty over the shape and dimensions of the next US administration. The increasingly bumptious actions by N Korea, potential loop holes in the Iranian nuclear deal, and a likely increased nuclear programme in India,Pakistan and elsewhere, means now is not the time for unilateral disarmament. Tempting as this might seem to some, this school playground approach to de-escalation in nuclear terms would be as effective as an air rifle pellet against a charging rhino.
Perhaps the greatest threat to the UK at the moment is from Jihadist terrorism perpetuated by ISIL. It is well documented that ISIL are trying to develop a ‘dirty’ bomb technology and Improvised Nuclear Devices (IND). The prospect of ISIL having a nuclear capability, albeit IND is horrific. Though I believe they are some way from acquiring this capability it is not completely beyond the bounds of possibility. In order to counter this threat we must stay at the forefront of preventing nuclear proliferation to ensure an ISIL capability does not materialise and providing a massive and overwhelming counter if it does.
Whatever our views of BREXIT, in these uncertain times TRIDENT has become even more important. However, the vote on Monday is how to exercise the delivery of the deterrent, ‘Continuous at Sea Deterrent’ and not whether we should renew it. Some advocate not deploying submarines as a de-escalation and cost save proposal. To accept this is incongruous. The key issue about a deterrent is the acceptance that it is there to be used should the Armageddon scenario materialise. Submarines packed up in dockyards are unusable as a deterrent due to the time required to ‘fire’ them up. Hence any change to the modus operandi of Trident would in my opinion invalidate the UK’s deterrent.
Most people in Britain understand and support the continued requirement for our nuclear deterrent, which has after all kept world peace in no small measure for over 70 years. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn showed his CND/anti-Trident rhetoric in Parliament on Monday but had almost no support from his MPs. This drove yet another nail into his Prime-ministerial ambitions and once more showed his unsuitability to lead this country in the multi polar 21st Century world.”
Hamish de Bretton Gordon is a chemical weapons expert, former commander of the NATO CBRN Regiment, and now advises Syrian NGOs.