Friday, December 01, 2006

Nuclear independence and realities 

By a happy coincidence an article by John Harris in The Guardian on the UK-USA Special Relationship comes out on the day the debate on the renewal of the Trident nuclear system surfaces properly with the announcement of the proposals for LibDem policy on Trident.

The Guardian article has this section on UK Nuclear realities

When it comes to nuclear weapons, visions of uncoupling Britain from the US ignore a few realities that our senior politicians never mention. As Dan Plesch, the London-based academic and author who has made it his business to shine light on these things, points out, Britain's current nuclear weapons system (and, indeed, the one that looks likely to replace it) is umbilically linked to the US. The missiles themselves are leased from the US government. They depend on American maintenance -carried out at a base in King's Bay, Georgia - and American software. All this has one crucial upshot: though we got them on the cheap, paying as little as a 10th of the sum they would have cost if we built and maintained them ourselves, they fail what Plesch calls "the 1940 test": if we were at war without the say-so of the US, we probably couldn't use them. "The current system is like an insurance policy that the insurer can take away if they don't want you to use it," he says. "And how bad a deal is that?"
Without the Americans, therefore, Britain could either take a bold step into
nuclear collaboration with the French - or, as Plesch argues, adjust to life as
a non-nuclear power. In his view, the absence of the weapons would be a
worthwhile price for liberating Britain from stifling US dominance. "We would
have a much clearer and honest position in the world," he says.

I would add that to the best of my knowledge the detailed target coding for UK missiles is entirely dependent on US supply and veto.
I have thoughts on the emerging LibDem position on renewal which I will take up later but I hope our final position fully takes into account, and makes clear to the UK public, the extent that the ‘independence’ of our fleet-carried warheads is a patriotic myth.

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