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politics. Trident. Liam Fox. Faslane. nuclear safety. disarmament

Trident: Fox says four, no less no more. Someone tell the LibDems.

             

    One of the very few achievements of the Liberal Democrats in the UK coalition has been the decision to review the replacement of Trident.  Nick Clegg said during the election campaign that he was opposed to renewing the weapons system.  But someone seems to have forgotten to tell the defence secretary, Liam Fox. This week he announced, not only that he was ordering the steel to build the next generation of Trident, but that the country needs four Trident submarines, not three as the former prime minister, Gordon Brown,  believed back in 2009.  Presumably the extra one is to cover for vessels that get lost in the Minch and end up colliding with the Isle of Skye.

    Except that the decision on whether to renew Trident, whether with three or four boats, is not supposed to be taken until 2016. A commission of senior politicians and defence chiefs is reviewing the whole question of whether we need to renew our “independent” nuclear deterrent at all,  given that Trident is designed to obliterate Russian cities and Russia is no longer an enemy.  But you wouldn’t have known, hearing Mr Fox interviewed for Sally Magnusson’s through-the-porthole look at life in a Trident nuclear submarine on BBC Scotland .  Gosh, they’re so fit.

   You may wonder why the MoD has decided that now is the time to throw a media spotlight on Trident, the focus of anti-nuclear feeling in Scotland for three decades.  Could it be that they believe the SNP, which opposes nuclear weapons in the Clyde, is no longer a threat? Or at any rate, that Alex Salmond has given up on attempts to banish Trident by creative use of planning laws or environmental regulations?   Whatever, the fantastic Mr Fox seems totally unconcerned that he is buying parts for a weapons system that may never be ordered in a country which doesn’t want them.   Holyrood voted overwhelmingly against renewing Trident in 2007, and so did a majority of Scottish MPs. 

    But it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see what’s going on here.  The Liberal Democrats – who insisted on the delay on Trident renewal as part of their coalition agreement with the Tories – are being taken for a ride once again.  By the time they come to taking the decision in 2016 on whether to renewed Trident, a lot of it will already have been renewed.   Not just the steel, but the weapons themselves, the delivery system, navigation, nuclear powerplants etc..   We’ll be told that the North Koreans are developing nuclear weapons and so are the Iranians.  Who knows how long  the Russian bear will behave itself?  It’s a dangerous world out there…

  Indeed it is. However, Trident isn’t going to make it any safer.  It is inconceivable that the Russians will ever want to obliterate Glasgow, London, Liverpool and Birmingham, the cities targeted by the Soviet Union.  Yes, North Korean leaders make nuclear threats and Iranian religious leader appear dangerously unstable.  But the trouble with inbred communist dictators and apocalyptic Ayatollahs is is that they aren’t easily deterred – by anything.  Lord Bramall, and the leading military think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, agree that there is no logic to spending £100bn over the next thirty years on a weapons system that is not fit for any conceivable military purpose.  Especially when we are scrapping rather useful pieces of kit like Nimrod surveillance reconnaissance aircraft, losing £4bn in the process.    
Indeed, there may be doubts about the wisdom of keeping our troops in Afghanistan, but surely we should be using what money is left in the MoD budget after the 10% cuts on giving them proper equipment and vehicles. 

    Iran, if and when it acquires nuclear weapons is likely to use them against Israel, which in turn is quite prepared to use its nuclear weapons  to devastate them. Nor will India and Pakistan be deterred from obliterating each other because we have Trident.  What the world needs now is not new weapons of mass destruction but an end to the proliferation of them.  A the day of the dictator passes in North Africa, it is surely time to give a moral lead and seek to remove the nuclear threat.    It is illegal under International law to target civilians with weapons of mass destruction – which is what Trident does.   Under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, we are supposed to be getting rid of nuclear weapons.  Mr Fox confirmed that we are reducing the numbers of warheads, but we will still have around 200 of the things.  Enough to destroy a third of the planet instead of half of it.  
   
     The only residual justification for Trident is a geopolitical one: it supposedly allows Britain to be part of the Security Council of the UN  and hang out with the big boys.  But even that is in doubt.  Anyway, does Trident have to be operational?  At present one of the boats goes into the Atlantic and pootles about for a bit in no particular direction, and then comes back to the Clyde. Why not let them pootle about without the weapons.  Indeed, why go to all the dangerous expense of sending nuclear warheads by road between Coulport and Aldermaston six times a year?  If the politicians really really need these abominable symbols of power, and if the English voters insist on having them (Scots have always said they want Trident removed from the Clyde) why not keep them safe (ish) and out of the way in the Atomic Weapons Establishment? 

     It is a miracle that there has been no serious accident at the Clyde Naval Base – though there have been many minor ones.    Okay, the £1.2 nuclear sub that ran aground last year, HMS Astute, wasn’t a Trident boat –  but one of the Trident fleet, HMS Vanguard, did manage to hit a French sub, Le Triomphant, in the western atlantic in 2009.  Another nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, suffered an explosion under the Arctic in 2007 that killed two sailors.  Given the rate of attrition, it’s jolly sensible of the defence secretary to get the steel order in now for the next generation of Trident vessels,  as he announced this week.  Well, you never know when you might need it. HM Naval base, Clyde is an accident waigint to happen.  The Sundary Herald revealed in May that, since 2007, there have been 167 nuclear safety incidents, 17 of which led to releases of radioactivity or had the potential to do so.  There have been numerous road incidents involving the covoys that carry nuclear warheads to and from Coulport.    Keep the boats for Sally Magnusson to gawp at, but decommission the nuclear hardware as part of multilateral disarmament negotiations.  It’s the only conceivable use Trident will ever have.  
   

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About iain2macwhirter

Writer and journalist.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Trident: Fox says four, no less no more. Someone tell the LibDems.

  1. And the only way to remove Trident from Scotland is ..anyone anyone …Independence from Westminster

    Posted by Conway | February 25, 2011, 9:44 am
  2. "One of the very few achievements of the Liberal Democrats in the UK coalition has been the decision to review the replacement of Trident. Nick Clegg said during the election campaign that he was opposed to renewing the weapons system."Two problems here Iain.1. As you stated later in the piece, the decision has only been kicked into the long grass, so I wouldn't call it an achievement.2. To say Clegg opposes the renewal of the system is technically true, but the reality is that the Lib Dems still favour a nuclear deterrent – just a smaller one.The UK having nuclear weapons is all about posturing and an inability to admit that the British Empire ended last century (also why the union still exists). When you look at the countries that have nuclear weapons, their reasons for having them generally boil down to distrust. Iran doesn't trust Israel not to use its nuclear weapons, with Israel in turn not trusting the surrounding Arab states not to launch attacks on them. Russia and the USA still distrust each other (and, of course, the USA has pissed off so many people that it can't trust anyone). India and Pakistan do not trust each other. China doesn't trust anyone (and who can blame them, when no one trusts them?) North Korea is regularly touted as being next on the US hit-list of nations to liberate/invade. Maybe France and the UK just worry about all the former colonies rising up and getting their own back or something. Or maybe both countries are just obsessing over being on the security council, neither able to admit their old empires no longer exist.In a way, I feel sorry for Iran and North Korea. Of course they're going to have nuclear weapons, the whole world knows the USA is just itching to invade these countries. Despite being against nuclear weapons, I would want Scotland to have a nuclear arsenal too if we were on the USA's hit-list. The only way we'll rid the world of nuclear weapons is if the countries which demand an end to other countries' weapons programmes bring their programmes to an end at the same time. The non-renewal of Trident would be a big step towards this.

    Posted by Doug Daniel | February 25, 2011, 11:21 am
  3. Very good piece Iain, I can feel an anti-Trident demo coming on, preferrably before the Scottish Election. Does anyone know why the BBC Sco programme transmission was delayed, was sure I tried to catch it a few weeks ago and got something else.De Gaulle was right, an independent nuclear deterrent it is not, US corporations and the US government have control over any deployment in anger. Pushing the button would be a disaster in any case. Dumping Trident is a no brainer, but it is part of the mighty juggernaut that is the US military economic establishment and also helps the British establishment kid on that it is still a world power.Now where did I put my emergency demo kit..Iain Mackenzie

    Posted by Anonymous | February 25, 2011, 3:25 pm
  4. Mr MacWhirter,You wrote:"By the time they come to taking the decision in 2016 on whether to renewed Trident, a lot of it will already have been renewed. Not just the steel, but the weapons themselves, the delivery system, navigation, nuclear powerplants etc.."I am not sure that it is the case that the replacement weapons will be renewed by then. As I understand it they are still at the development stage and last year, or 2009, the US Senate was reviewing the Trident programme and its cost. From what was said then they seemed to want to scale back the programme and, here is the real kicker, get others to bear more of the cost of development and replacement of the weapons system. The others of course being the UK.As to Mr Salmond changing his mind about Trident – very unlikely.

    Posted by CWH | February 25, 2011, 4:47 pm
  5. Maybe the only way to justify Yeah take them to England if they really need em and let them pay for it too.It is a Scottish issue and we need to get rid of these weapons if we expect others to.;

    Posted by Anonymous | March 2, 2011, 1:19 am
  6. Western Europe having nukes is about not trusting America. Even under a reformist president America still operates a border control system that violates the olodest western human right of all that America's wars claim to represent, innocent until proved guilty, and asks foreign visitors even from its close allies whether they have ever been arrested.Nukes of course should nto be used on cities, Russian or otherwise, but only on the military installation that is firing at us. All weapons should only be used for self defence not civilian massacre. But so-called respected columnist here, who has come out as a biased lefty ever since he left his impartial job at the BBC and who is obviously a true beliver in the CND religion, is compeletely wrong that Russia is no longer an enemy. Have you seen how it has been playig the oil pipelines card towards Europe? Its democracy is dangerously shaky, journalists get murdered there, and it remains a potential enemy if constitutionality there collapses completely again.

    Posted by tern | March 9, 2011, 10:46 am
  7. Western Europe having nukes is about not trusting America. Even under a reformist president America still operates a border control system that violates the olodest western human right of all that America's wars claim to represent, innocent until proved guilty, and asks foreign visitors even from its close allies whether they have ever been arrested.Nukes of course should nto be used on cities, Russian or otherwise, but only on the military installation that is firing at us. All weapons should only be used for self defence not civilian massacre. But so-called respected columnist here, who has come out as a biased lefty ever since he left his impartial job at the BBC and who is obviously a true beliver in the CND religion, is compeletely wrong that Russia is no longer an enemy. Have you seen how it has been playig the oil pipelines card towards Europe? Its democracy is dangerously shaky, journalists get murdered there, and it remains a potential enemy if constitutionality there collapses completely again.

    Posted by tern | March 9, 2011, 10:46 am

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