Scotland and the Trident Question: breaking up the United Kingdom

_82121836_tridentsturgeonprotest1It’s a lovely idea that ‘our very existence’ is dependent on hosting Weapons of Mass Destruction. Lesley Docksey reflects on the propaganda of British identity and war.

“As you resume or take office, you will recognise one of the heaviest and most important burdens on your desk will be your responsibility for Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. That deterrent exists, as you will know, not as a military weapon but as a political one whose very purpose is for it never to be used in anger. It is there to deter aggression against this country and our allies and to counter any nuclear blackmail which would threaten Britain’s essential interests or survival.”

So, with just days to go before the UK general election, starts the letter in the Times from 20 cross-party defence and security chiefs to whoever ‘wins’ a place in Number 10 Downing Street. They want the decision to replace Trident to be taken as soon as possible. And this plea comes while other British representatives are in New York, attending the 5-yearly nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Here is what Baroness Anelay said:

“The United Kingdom remains committed to the Non Proliferation Treaty. It has played an unparalleled role, keeping the world safe and curtailing the nuclear arms race. It is at the centre of international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, to create a nuclear weapon free world, and to enable access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Now for some nifty arithmetic. After claiming that Britain is committed to ‘step-by-step’ disarmament, she boasts that:

“…we have reduced the number of warheads on each of our deployed ballistic missile submarines from 48 to 40, and the number of operational missiles on each of those submarines to no more than eight. This takes our total number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120. And this will enable us to reduce our overall nuclear warhead stockpile to not more than 180 by the mid 2020s.”

We don’t need to worry about the number of missiles – they and the submarines are simply the delivery system for the nuclear warheads, each one many times more powerful than the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If used, any single warhead would produce environmental devastation, an unsolvable humanitarian disaster and the fall-out would circle the world.

But has the good Baroness not noticed that there are four submarines carrying these warheads? In my book 4 times 40 equals 160, not 120. As successive governments have not disclosed the size of our stockpile, we really have no way of knowing what Britain has, but we appear to be looking at a future store of 20 spare warheads stuffed in a cupboard somewhere. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed way back in June 1968. ‘Step by step’ looks more like millimetre by millimetre.

Why should the Trident question have surfaced at this point in the campaigning by the ‘major’ political parties, all jostling to take pride of place in the UK general election on May 7th? First, while the NPT Review is quietly proceeding and the UK is busy election navel-gazing, a movement to achieve an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, based on the grave humanitarian issues posed by such weapons, is edging much closer, to the great unease of those states with nuclear arms.

This initiative was set in motion by ordinary people and taken up by countries across the world. And the process is based on the one that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the manufacture, use and storage of these nasty weapons. Unless of course, you are the USA (not a signatory) which negotiated a cosy arrangement with the UK (which is a signatory) to store their cluster munitions in the UK. As of 25 March 2015, a total of 116 states have joined the Convention, as 91 States parties and 25 Signatories.

The hoped for ban on nuclear weapons is moving, by international standards, very quickly. The first conference (not attended by the P5 of USA, UK, France, Russia and China) took place in Norway in March 2013. 11 months later (February 2014) there was a second conference in Mexico. The UK sent no representatives because they “could not control the conversation.” The third was in Vienna in December 2014, a mere 10 months later. Two international conferences in one year – is this a record? The UK did attend this conference, complete with a weasel-word statement on why this process was getting in the way of the wonderful NPT process, from which you would, they hoped, conclude that the NPT was advancing in leaps and bounds rather than the static shuffle.

The Austrian Foreign Minister also delivered a statement to the NPT Review delegates – on behalf of the 159 nations that were pressing for a ban. According to ICAN, they ran out of time to sign up number 160. But this looks like being unstoppable; the P5 can take part but they can’t block or alter the process. A ban will come – scary for self-important political leaders that rely on nuclear weapons to boost their perceived ‘world standing’.

Secondly, the authors of the letter from the defence and security chiefs are also speaking for NATO. NATO is desperate to hang on to its ‘position’ in the world, hence all the anti-Russian propaganda, the crisis in the Ukraine and the rest. But without an enemy NATO’s continued existence has no justification; thus it has to create an enemy; or recreate the one it lost when the Soviet Union dissolved. And such big enemies need big weapons, nuclear weapons. We should not forget that NATO has, as part of its policy, a nuclear ‘first strike use’. NATO is living in the past. The real threat now to governments and business worldwide comes from cyber hacking, and you can’t stop that by waving your willy – sorry – nuclear weapon.

It is also worth remembering that the Trident replacement programme is currently estimated to cost £100 billion – at a time when much of Britain is suffering from the government’s ‘austerity’ cuts. When the Tories with their coalition partners the LibDems came into power, they cut ruthlessly into the budgets of various government departments. The department that had the least taken from it was the Ministry of Defence. Yet the pro-Trident parties – and Tories, Labour and the LibDems all currently back replacing Trident – want to saddle the country with this huge debt when our hospitals, schools and welfare budgets are desperately in need of more funds.

And thirdly, there is Scotland. This is the nub and the heart of the hysterical statements frothing out of the mouths of those who hope to be our leaders post-May 7th. Scotland, home of Faslane, where the nuclear submarines are based; Scotland, home of the Scottish National Party, the dreaded SNP that wants Scotland to be independent.

And Scotland, home of the even more frightening Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, whom Westminster hates and who, day by day gains more respect from an increasing number of English folk, who’d rather like her as their First Minister. Polls show that she is now the most popular politician in the UK.

So much nastiness and bile has been directed at her and the SNP that there is now no retreating. The Tory, Labour and LibDem parties are all screaming ‘we won’t do a deal with her!’ ‘Lines’ are being ‘drawn in the sand’. They’ll deal with the devil rather than the SNP. But somebody will have to. With each filthy insult flung across the border at Scotland, another Scot or two, or ten, decides to vote for the SNP on May 7th. And the main accusation against Sturgeon and the SNP (despite what Sturgeon has repeatedly said) is that they will destroy the United Kingdom, because they are still planning to become independent. Well, would you blame them?

Polls are predicting that, whatever happens south of the border, the SNP will sweep the board in Scotland, and a goodly percentage of the MPs in Westminster will be SNP. It is very possible they could hold the balance of power. I should explain here to international readers that Scotland has its own parliament and parliamentary members, of which Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister. But Scotland also, for the time being at least, elects and sends national MPs to Westminster.

Here’s the rub: the crude and foul-mouthed slurs coming from the English side of the border are pushing the Scots ever closer to seizing independence. Quite frankly, many of us south of the border are shamed, mortified and appalled at what is being done in our name. Many also feel that Westminster politicians, led if it can be called that, by David Cameron (who reneged on the overblown promises he made to Scotland to persuade them to vote for staying in the Union) are almost deliberately setting out to break up the Union they profess to love.

And if the Union is broken, what will they do? Because an independent Scotland will, as promised, get rid of Trident. Westminster would have to find somewhere in English waters to house the submarines and their missiles. England will resist. Is the aim of this push to get the decision on replacing Trident taken ASAP to get it so set in stone that, whatever happens, Scotland can’t rid itself of this unwanted lodger? Will Faslane become another Gibraltar? Just a thought.

And now, some good news for all of those British people who have despaired over the conduct the Westminster-oriented politicians during this campaign, and feared for what this nation could become. At least some of the English are beginning to engage in real and lively political conversation, mainly because they are so disgusted by the current political system, the divisions it has created between the rich and the poor, and the inability of various parties to truly work together.

One such conversation happened in my local pub between two of the candidates standing in the election and a gathering of local residents. The questions asked, the issues raised and the solutions discussed by all involved was good honest politics. Afterwards, talking to someone I had once thought would possibly vote Conservative, he said:

“Scotland has a parliament, Wales should have a full parliament, and England should have its own parliament…”

“No Westminster?” I asked.

“Definitely no Westminster!. And then we can become a federation of nations, a united federation.” A Federation of the British Isles, perhaps?

Because of what is happening in Scotland, a lot of England is waking up and looking a bright new future, one that doesn’t include the same old politics, but does include united cooperation with our neighbours.



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31 replies

  1. Lesley’s article quite rightly focuses on Trident which the ultimate totem of a post imperial defence policy which is really neither post imperial or a proper defence policy.

    With a large tranche of MP’s the SNP will be entitled to representation of the Defence Select Committee.

    Important aspects of the UK’s constant expeditionary warfare mode of the last decade and more have been scrutinised, often surprisingly quite frankly, during the expert evidence scoping sessions held in the recent past to prepare for the up coming 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

    It will be interesting to see if Westminster uses the new committee membership to try to tie the SNP into the detail of this dysfunctional defence policy. Alternatively the SNP has the opportunity to use the committee and other fora to flesh the details of an alternative progressive perspective for the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, primarily from a Scottish perspective of course but in terms of principles also relevant to the rest of the UK.

  2. A flicker of light in the seemingly endless darkness of English politics. This is very encouraging. Good luck Lesley and to all like you in your great country, you will undoubtedly be aware of the support you will receive from Scotland and her good people.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me when talking to seemingly ordinary, grounded people that they get all het up about Trident. They cite bogeymen like Putin, N. Korea, Iran and Islamic terrorists as their reason for needing to keep WMD. I usually stand open mouthed in disbelief that fellow citizens could be so propagandised to believe what they are saying.

    We do not need or want these abominable weapons kept so close to our highest population centre, we don’t want them driven through our biggest city in the dead of night.

    The ordinary people, by that I mean non-politicians, who argue for retention and renewal of these weapons have very little idea of the indiscriminate and destructive power of these weapons. They will argue that because others have them so should we but why not be the first to disarm and set the precedent that we no longer wish our money to be used for WMD

    • I couldnt agree more.
      According to US Defence Nuclear Agency calculations, the detonation of one Trident warhead on Moscow would result in the deaths of 153,000 innocent civilians within 12 weeks of detonation
      This is from one warhead.
      Each Trident submarine carries 48 (perhaps 40?) warheads, the deployment of which would result in the deaths of 3 million people, 750,000 of whom would be children.
      However, the effects of the explosion would go beyond the immediate human casualties.
      Past experience shows that schools, hospitals and churches would all be destroyed, and according to US General Butler would “render Moscow uninhabitable for generations.”
      The overall effect of the total destruction of property, physical injuries, radiation exposure and psychological damage are beyond comprehension.
      The question we should all be puting to our politicians is:

      If you agree that we spend £100B on Trident renewal, which city or country would be your party’s likeliest or preferred target?

  4. Lesley neatly illustrates that multilateral disarmament is as meaningless as the claim that nuclear weapons “deter”.

    There is zero prospect of the SNP joining this key element of the UK defence policy. However it wont stop Westminster trying to assimilate the Scottish Bloc into other aspects of a defence policy that is also so dysfunctional in so many ways, most notably the constant expeditionary warfare mode that has enjoyed a near unanimous Westminster consensus since its first of many outings over a decade ago.

    The vehicle that will be utilised in this attempt at assimilation will be membership of the Defence Select Committee in general and the discourse around the 2015 Defence and Security Review in particular. The Westminster establishment will argue that faced with the technicalities and the detail resistance will be futile.

    However in reality it will be a potential opportunity to put the “progressive” perspective into the defence discourse. This will be made easier if the progressive political get beyond the easy bit of extolling the principles of the human security concept into worked examples targeted at the SNP as a political institution.

  5. Nitpicking…

    “In my book 4 times 40 equals 160, not 120.”

    At any given time, there is always at least one nuclear-armed submarine in port for repairs/refit/crew change. Usually more. So the maximum available capacity is three boats, not four.

    Anorak off…

    • Thanks for pointing that out Craig. But if the proposed total is going to be 180 warheads, that means 20 spares for each operational vessel, half as much as they’ve already got. Whichever way you look at it and whatever figures we/they use, the whole thing is really senseless.

  6. Ironic that Trident is imploding on the very entity it was meant to protect.

  7. I do not want Trident, most Scots don’t, if England wants them ( and they will find a way) fine, they have a choice. But my biggest grievance is what is already pointed out. They are 25 miles from our biggest population, and simply having the Nukes there, if there was a threat, then Scotland will be a first strike option. So make no mistake they are in Faslane in order for them to be far from London, that is the real reason.

    It is what Imperialistic states do, France does the same, their Nuclear subs are based in Brest, Brittany. for exactly the same reason, they are far away from Paris. All so the governments can sleep at night. Bad luck for those who receive the first strike, should there be one.

    So no, we Scots do not choose them and we want them out, let England base them in Portsmouth or somewhere else, if they want to keep them, then do it on their own soil, not in our land.

    • Not surprisingly, British and French politicians are guilty of flawed thinking if they think London and Paris are safe just because their nukes are parked in Faslane, Brest and Brittany. If those things went off, a pretty large chunk of western Europe would suffer from the fallout, a sobering thought.

  8. Both Portsmouth and Plymouth have been ruled out, partly because of large nearby populations (which obviously shows that in some people’s books Glaswegians aren’t important) and partly because of the thought of the submarines navigating the very crowded Channel.
    Some friends and I thought mooring them in the Thames alongside Westminster might be good. It would certainly clarify the thinking!

    • They should be totally disarmed and removed.
      They should not be replaced and should not be positioned anywhere else.
      Our FM has been asked the completely stupid question “if not in Scotland, where should they go?”.
      She replied that she wanted them disarmed and removed, but not replaced or put elsewhere.

      • Of course they should be got rid of. That’s why I have been a supporter of the ICAN initiative – and that WILL result in nuclear weapons being made illegal. The next steps are drafting a Treaty and getting the nation states to approve the wording (another international conference). They are already queuing up to sign and ratify.
        Ireland hosted the final conference for the Cluster Munitions Treaty. It’s a pity Scotland can’t host the one on nuclear weapons. If it was independent it could!
        The suggestion that the subs were parked outside Westminster was not serious – but does demonstrate the stupidity of having these things anywhere at all. And it is Westminster that wants to keep them. Labour was a huge part of the early CND movement, but once Harold Wilson got into power they had to be kept because, to quote Wilson, “we have to have all the toys in the box”.
        Grown up people don’t need toys.

  9. On the 4 or 3 sub question, I understood that two boats are out, one in port, and the 4th submarine is actually used to shuttle the missiles back and forth from the US where the maintenance is carried out that costs the majority of the 100 billion cost.

    The much more important point to make here is that the UK is the only nuclear country that has NO INDEPENDENT nuclear capability (unlike N Korea, for example), since we are totally dependent on the US for the maintenance of the missiles (despite the subs being built here and the warheads in Aldermaston). Clearly we would never press the trigger if we did not agree with US policy at the time, so our nuclear capability is totally dependent on their willingness to supply us with the missiles at that time, therefore we are dependent on US defence policy and NOT OUR OWN.

    • Quite right Mike – much as both Labour and Tory governments have denied it, we are controlled by the US. I think, but I am sure someone will correct me if wrong, that the firing code and/or key has to come from the US. I remember some years back (in Blair’s time) there was a clip on BBC News (something that can either make me jump out of bed in anger or bury my head under the pillow) with ‘our reporter’ actually on one of the nuclear subs, talking to the crew blah blah. When he asked if he could see the bridge – if that’s what you call it on a sub – perhaps it’s the tunnel? He made to step though the door and an arm was placed firmly in his way. “Sorry Sir, you can’t go in there. You need permission from the Americans,” or words to that effect.
      What a slip! All the anti-nuclear campaigners were bouncing with glee and Number 10 and the MoD went into ‘No Comment’ mode.

    • There is an even worse element to this. Any country with a nuclear capability that the US started a war with would of course know that the “UK nuclear deterrent” was, crudely, a disguise for yet another American nuclear facility would of course, in the first exchange of fire, take it out(along with much of SW Scotland. Imagine being incinerated in another of America’s wars for global hegemony. And since that Fool Bush altered the “no first strike” rule, others have done the same. So we might not even see it coming.

  10. What really gets to me is that Slab actually want these weapons in Scotland. I simply can’t understand the people who continue to support Slab in their utter contempt of the Scots. As for the liberals, has anyone else noticed how enthusiastic they are in supporting British violence to ‘save’ the unfortunate souls in other countries. The British state and those who champion it are predatory and a threat to decent people everywhere.

  11. As well as all of the above…two aspects not often mentioned:

    – the lack of recruits for submarines (who wants to live underwater for months with no communication with loved ones…?)

    Decommissioning. Due to begin in 2016 and still costed through ‘estimates’. How many radioactive subs can you fit in a decommissioning graveyard? How much of the decommissioned ship will end up in a nuclear dump site? Where will the toxic waste go now that local authorities have no say in this issue of ‘national infrastructure’?

  12. Well, if a country is a NATO member, it is effectively armed with these weapons whether it is allowed to own them under the NPT, or not (and unilateral disarmament outwith NATO didn’t go well for Ukraine…).

    As far as I can make out, the SNP are not advocating unilateral disarmament for the UK, and the non-proliferation treaty makes owning nukes in an independent Scotland a moot point, as it would be illegal.

    I find myself dropping the pretense of unilateral disarmament within NATO, and agreeing with the Lib Dems that the bombs should be put in storage for the time-being.

  13. Nuclear weapons are awfully destructive and awfully expensive. The world would be a better place without them, and if any were used millions of civilians would die. Spending on these really does reduce our ability to fight conventionally and take part in humanitarian interventions. they are no use against today’s terrorists.

    These are undeniable, but we shouldn’t get rid of ours if we value our own freedom and believe in justice. There is also, obviously no way for non nuclear countries to force nuclear countries to back down.

    I won’t entertain any discussion that an existential war won’t ever happen again – we simply can’t predict which nation will believe it can rule them all. The crux comes down to the thought that it might be better to surrender to another power rather than risk being attacked, or having to attack another country with nuclear weapons.

    This, is unethical and I can prove it. Today many look back on WW2 and question the UK’s methods for waging war: “could we have bombed less, could we have talked more?”. Might there have been fewer deaths if we had not got involved, or worse…

    The mistake is that it is felt that body count is all, justice is deemed to be in the eye of the beholder, with no good reason for supposing we had the last word on justice. But this is not true and leads to a craven collaborate with those that would do evil, knowing no-one is going to stand up to them,

    If we accepted rule from without, on the basis that we were unwilling to kill an aggressor’s population to maintain our freedom, then what happens when our new rulers bring in laws which so many are avidly against all over the world? When does one stand up and be counted? Without the ultimate weapons, aren’t we reliant on others to risk their people to fight?

    If Ukraine has not given up its nuclear weapons what would it do now? It might/might not have prevented Russian intervention in the first place, but it seems clear that even with nuclear weapons, it seems futile to use them against Russia when they would then retaliate and millions more would die.

    Actually, I think that Russia would never have interfered with Ukraine if it had such weapons. Russia would have been completely put off by the thought that the cost of victory was nuclear strikes. Why would I bet that way? because they didn’t take that chance against Europe during the cold war. Also the Ukrainian people are probably just as concerned about their country as we are with ours, might they not think it is better to have nuclear weapons and not use them than need them and not have them.

    Look also at China. It uses fairly strong arm tactics with all its neighbours, but noticeably, it is less eager to pick fights with Russia, India, Pakistan and even North Korea than its south sea neighbours.

    • Except, except..trident is NOT “our” nuclear weapon; it’s an American nuclear weapon which they and we are pretending is ours. I mean, the subs are even getting their “MOT” in the states. If you were to suggest scrapping Trident and telling the world we were replacing it with something “secret”. ( like Israel does) there might be more merit in your position as I understand it. The US is, at present, the most aggressive country in the world and the most nuclear armed. And the most hated. Having a US nuclear base in Britain makes us a target and we cannot hope to restore what is left of our tarnished image in the world unless we step away from them a little; we have not had an independent foreign policy since Wilson. The US is going down new rabbit holes every day; have you seen that the republican party is now vetting would be presidential candidates on the grounds of their willingness to state publicly a willingness to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iraq? So far all, including Rand Paul, have said ” count me in” A group of middle aged white males discussing armageddon….this is OUR Wansee Conference. Right in plain sight.

      • I meant a nuclear attack on Iran!

        No need to do one on Iraq; they already demodernised that poor country.

        • Firstly, this a knitpicking objection to my defence of having an ultimate weapon. If I did grant you that it was somehow ours to pay for but not to decide when to use it, do you believe that we would not be permitted to use it to defend our freedom, by the US, under pain of what? That they’d bomb us too?!

          Secondly image, while important, isn’t everything. It is only in some twisted sense of ethics that the US is ‘most hated’ country versus the likes of Russia or even the up to now insular China. I’m not convinced it is better to be liked by the world but unable to defend ourselves than our current place in the hearts of the world (which is so negative that millions wish to join us on our islands?)

          I don’t disagree that the US has a foreign policy that hurts many and upsets many left leaning people, but it isn’t conditional for nuclear nations to be right wing or unpopular.

          • What a skewed view you have of world geopolitics and a lack of knowledge of history, but then if the media output is all you have to go on I am not surprised.

            Ukraine and the other Eastern European countries that belonged to the USSR, separated after the Cold War and were allowed by Russia to be independent on the understanding they did not join NATO and threaten Russia, i.e. form a “buffer zone”.

            We know from wikileaks that the US was plotting to bring about regime change in Ukraine even though the previous president was democratically elected. The present Ukrainian government in Kiev is partly made up of ultra right fascist parties and one of their WWII battalions that fought with Hitler has just been merged into the Kiev army – they had previously taken part in murders and burnings of protestors during the early riots against the anti-democratic coup. The USSR’s nuclear weapons had already been removed from Ukraine and disassembled in Russia on independence to present no nuclear threat to Russia.

            One therefore has to wonder what would have happened if the US-inspired (and Western European backed) coup had taken place with nuclear weapons on Russia’s doorstep and NATO had taken control of them, especially as the US had already intended putting missiles on the Polish borders with Russia, with the excuse of aiming them at Iran thousands of miles away.

            We then come to China which you seem to see as an insular country – you obviously haven’t heard of the BRICS which is an alliance between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, or of their joint Development Bank. This should also be seen in context with the setting up of the Renmimbi (RMB) as a competitor to the dollar and now now places like London and Canada have trading hubs directly dealing in payments using the RMB. The UK is therefore playing allegiance both ways through its currency casino.

            China and Russia are jointly re-arming because of the perceived threats from the West and NATO, especially as the US has now abandoned most of its interests in Europe to concentrate on Asia. Shia arab Iran and Syria are perceived by Russia as another “buffer zone” like Ukraine and therefore important to its defence against the Israeli-Saudi military alliance with other Sunni arab countries, currently bombing Yemeni shia and destroying the country, with the usual ‘collateral damage’ of innocent women and children. The US played off Shia and Sunni in the IRan-Iraq war, arming Saddam with chemical weapons. When Saddam had done his job, they then got rid of him on the excuse of such weapons and it is not a surprise that the same excuse was used by the US to try and bomb Syria out of existence. Now the US is backing Saudi wassabi fighters linked to Alqaida and IS to get rid of the shia in Syria as this is considered the best defence for Israel against the Lebanese shia Hezbolah.

            Just like Russia v. the West in the Cold War, the US has been using the Sunni for decades to wreak revenge on the Shia of Iran. Hence the much more complicated picture of the Middle East that is a far more likely venue where Israel’s nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry will first be brought into use in perceived ‘self-defence’. In fact strategic nuclear missiles will actually be no deterrent for states that now have tactical nuclear weapons and could use them in battlefield situations – I have no idea if Israel has such weapons like the US, Russia and France, since Israel denies it has any of the weapons already cited.

            So who really is afraid of whom? Who really is threatening whom? Who has had the longest history of interfering in foreign countries outside its sphere of interests? Who is not going to play the games that are now being played out again over our skies (when the UK has no air defence cover at all in Scotland and leaves it to other NATO countries such as in the recent war games off our shores)?

            Who thinks a country like North Korea is not capable of using its nuclear missiles first, with such crazy leaders in control, so how will our Tridents in US hands defend us then from the fallout?

            Only by getting rid of the lot will anybody ever be safe. Meanwhile, like Switzerland, Scotland would be better off with them off our land.

          • I hardly think it is “nitpicking” to say that “our independent nuclear deterrent” is not in fact ours at all but America’s disguised as ours. It could only be used with American agreement. Your position, I am saying, seems coherent only if we do actually have an independent nuclear deterrent! I am not personally in favour of that either. And you will not have to dig too deep into the ranks of our serving military to find quite senior figures who would agree with me.

            And my remarks about America’s “image” in the world are hardly some”left leaning” prejudice of mine; there are global opinion polls galore that tell that tale. And I would further contend that the fear, hatred or dislike of the US around the world has nothing to do with anything other than US foreign policy around the world. But my point was if you have a nuclear armed superpower that cannot resist poking other nuclear states with a stick it puts us, here in Britain, on the firing line.

  14. Wow, it is so difficult to have a discussion with people who don’t agree with you. Less is nearly always more. Robin, if the UK is paying full whack for a weapon we can’t use and is effectively a US military resource disguised by the white ensign, then I agree with you, it becomes nothing but a target for all the aggrieved leaders that Mike has kindly been teaching me about.

    However my key attempt at noticing a problem, is that without an effective armed force, that prevents as well as stops an outside force from ‘taking over’, we would be at the mercy of whosoever had the will to do so, and since they probably wouldn’t have the values which we might agree are those we wished our govt lived up to, who is going to protect us? Neutrality, is at best sitting on the fence, at worst we depend on others to protect/respect our neutrality while others suffer.

    Finally, I was only noting that the left in america are generally against US foreign policy, while the right seem to be most in favour of their actions. I would tentatively add that the left judge the west against a higher standard than our potential adversaries.

    Mike, theoretically, if ‘the west’ won and was able to impose its will on Russia and China, what would it do there? Then think how Russia or China might run the west if it won? Which society would be higher up the slopes of the good life mountain?

    My ‘media’ fed historical knowledge seeks to know how the west threatens the lives of Russia? In what sense does Ukraine now threaten Russia, the world largest country? You might well say then why do we think they threaten us. We then get into my theory that since undemocratic states (meaning less democratic than ours) care little for their own people, they will care even less about the lives of people in other countries – so China, which had not been any threat to its neighbours for decades is busy imposing its sovereignty in the south China sea.

    I would sum my thoughts up as might is not right, but law must be backed up by a determination and ability to stop those who would act with impunity.

    • Ah the South China Sea, where the US is busy ‘protecting’ Japan, Taiwan and others by encroaching on the ‘buffer zones’ of China – also if it wasn’t for China’s influence over North Korea we might already have seen NK launching missiles on Japan and not just towards it into the sea – China has many reasons to defend itself against Japan itself after the invasion of WWII, so funny how we now think of Japan as a nice western-style country. China has been a sleeping giant for over 4000 years and rarely has it threatened anybody else, so why do you think it is protecting its territory now that the US has moved its strategic actions to the Asia-Pacific theatre because its economy is collapsing under debt and the fiat currency may soon be the RMB?? – pretty obvious if you ask me.

      I never said Ukraine by itself was threatening Russia, but if it now joins NATO it obviously will. NATO had no raison d’être after the Cold War ended, so it had to find one by breaking trust with the Russians.

      By the way, I do wish you would get over the old-fashioned ‘left-right’ duality of past politics, especially now that we have 3 major parties who are all what you yourself would have to call ‘right-of-centre’ – they all support modern neoliberal consumer-based capitalism, they are all more authoritarian than liberal and they have all used US-style fear tactics, private capital funding and dozens of glossy leaflets repeating the same mantra and wasting trees. This election is the worst example of non-democracy I have seen in 65 years, as tactical voting and fear-mongering are the only ‘principles’ on which it is being fought, career politicians are scrambling to ‘hedge’ their ‘investments’ as if this were the markets or a foreign exchange deal. There is no left or right, and the only worthwhile principal is to vote for what you believe in. You talk about it being ‘difficult to have a discussion’, when so far I have only been saying that you do not see the other side of things or come up with any facts, strategic analysis or geopolitical reasons for both sides doing what they do. You hold to a narrow view of insular UK politics without much knowledge of the global environment.

      So (going back to the propaganda that we now know is fed through our foreign-owned or offshore dwelling media – Murdoch, the brothers on the isle of Sark, etc – thanks to alternative sources), you ask what would happen if the ‘west’ won in Russia and China? What do you think happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now in Syria? It would walk away and let it collapse, as it would be ungovernable and their tribal/ethnic/religious societies would not accept our form of democracy, just the same way as happened in Africa and all our other colonies (in fact why do India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons and live in near warfare all the time?) – in all these countries quasi dictatorships now rule again (so much for the ‘Arab Spring’ that the US soon undid by renewing funding to the military – who actually run over 40% of the whole Egyptian economy on it – funny kind of army that is!) and you only have to look at the last hundred years of Latin America to see how the US prefers dictatorships in order to rule through consumer-led economics that is finally collapsing (since commodities are finite elements on this planet). The same crazy Osborne economics of trying to increase GDP through consumption when people are so far in debt that they don’t have the extra wages to spend any more and all the cash is in the hands of the 1%.

      Might is not right, true, and that is why the US is not right – or rather, ironically it is your kind of ‘RIght’ since the New World Order and New Century organisations (who gave us pre-emptive strikes on Iraq and not surprisingly undermined their own president by a political pre-emptive strike inviting Netanyahu to try to wreck the US-Iran nuclear treaty in a Republican-led Congress) were dying to bomb Syria, draw Russia into the war and then who knows what would have happened. A country that has only existed for 200 years has little experience of how to handle the rest of the world, apart from dropping an atom bomb on people to end it all. A country that kept dictatorships in power in Spain, Portugal and Greece for forty years in exchange for its strategic bases to defend Israel, is hardly my idea of a just, egalitarian and peaceful empire.

      You also quote the need for the rule of Law – so why did the West plot regime change in Ukraine, as it had in Iraq? Why is it not a member of the International Court of Justice and many other international legal organisations? Why has it never made Israel and other allies enact the rulings of the global forum for justice, the UN (which it bypassed for its own ends and dragged us with it in the Iraq débacle)? Why was it seeking illegal regime change in Syria?

      It would appear that you use another UK insular left-right dichotomy in your form of ‘discussion’ when it comes to your idea of ‘legality’ versus that of others. Who have acted with impunity for so long over the last five decades I wonder?

      • You put a lot on the table, and make loads of assumptions about me. I thought this was a discussion about the rights and wrongs of nuclear weapons, but if anyone disagrees with disarmament, they are attacked for not knowing everything about anything.

        I suspect we would agree about many ethical questions, but experience of USA’s foreign policy has made it difficult to put forward opinion without being labelled pro or anti USA.

        Just one example: You put forward this concept of a buffer zone. Please ignore who has them or uses them now or in the past. Is it ethical to treat neighbouring countries as being your ‘buffer’ countries and then you don’t have to respect their rights or independence (especially if they are smaller or less powerful than you)? Such behaviour is unethical and no amount of ‘but Britain had them the USA has them…’ changes this. Russia has taken the territory of other, smaller countries and incorporated them into Russia. The person (not people) doing all this is still in charge is increasingly aggressive to the UK and the rest of Europe. You say that we have interfered in his buffer countries and threaten his state. But treating countries as Buffer zones, as means to an end should not be respected. I suspect we threaten his grip on power rather than Russia.

        I say again it is not necessary to love or loath the USA to be in favour or against having nuclear weapons in principle I also set out the negatives of them in my first paragraph. So please, because I would like to know: Are you against nuclear weapons in principle and therefore would be willing to risk losing our freedom, and maybe dealing with the ethical difficulties of collaboration on a personal level; rather than keep them, accepting that holding such weapons is essentially saying if you attack us we’ll fight back with terrible force? Having them has, so far, proved to be an effective deterrent.

        • Dear Andrew: this will be my last attempt to assist you to come to your own balanced personal opinion.
          I am not attacking you, I am encouraging you with more balanced facts to enter into a discussion where you might see that your simple black-&-white way of viewing a global question is not valid as an argument. It is not my job to persuade you one way or the other – you made a comment and I entered the discussion giving you more facts to consider and reach a more perspicacious conclusion. If you wish to stick to your narrow analysis of the situation, then so be it – you are free to do so.

          To repeatedly express your own stance without dialogue on the points raised and expect others to agree with you is not an open discussion but an attempt to impose your view on others without substantiation. Again, I am not here to attack you, convince you or humiliate you – I am merely here to counter your argument to open up discussion and not impose my own view whatsoever – people are free to agree with me or not, which is the basis of all discussion.

          Please be happy with your view if that is what you wish – that is your prerogative. But please do not come back at me with the same argument put in other words and fail to see you have not seen the other point of view. My opinion is not the issue – I am merely pointing out the holes in your own seemingly dogged view. An example of course is your last idea of “deterrent”: we have had and still have more wars than ever, we kill more people than ever; all you “deter” is total annihilation that will logically never occur unless set off by a madman. Your deterrent for some is merely a threat for others – you fail to see how your argument only has value for those wielding power, thereby contradicting your previous argument about the wrongs of ‘might is right’.

          End of non-debate.

          • Nice try, but I think that rather trying to open up discussion you have closed it down by setting out lots of examples of where USA(and UK?) policy has been wrong/deceitful hypocritical. Since I’m not in favour or having such policies, I didn’t respond to each of your points. I’m not trying to defend them.

            I’m charged with black and white views (only because I’m focusing on the topic) while your posts contain lots of hyperbole (‘failed in all our other colonies’?) I know you don’t really mean them but answering such points moves away from focus of the article. Your points on left and right are great, unless anyone wishes to summarise points without stating that of course the spectrum is shifted to the right and, I would say away from working for the people rather than multinational corporations.

            Watching the migrants crossing the Med to flee the hopeless poverty of Africa and the middle east, it is difficult to thoroughly understand the reasons behind their plight and many are keen to assign blame, but does it help the situation? I’m happy to admit this is a simplification, but a key problem to me is poor governance, something much of Europe is quite skilled at; a solution might be to sell such governance skills to these countries with our interest as being to reduce the numbers putting their lives at risk in the Med. Is this black and white, probably but I’m not trying to write a book or essay.

            And so to try and see the other side of the issue, does the UK having nuclear weapons make the world a less safe place for people in non-nuclear states especially since the UK is signed up to and seeks others to sign up to the NPT? Yes, we look two faced and set a bad example to others, effectively encouraging other countries to obtain them. Would we be reluctant to use strategic nuclear weapons if tactical nukes were used on our military? probably, it depends on where the thing was hit. If it was say Faslane I’m not sure many would notice the difference in Glasgow (is this blase – may be but review the comments above they are not all written by academics so if this is such a site then let me know I shan’t darkness it again).

            The general theme is the US’s blameworthiness for its actions and inaction – say in Spain Portugal and Greece where people lived under dictatorship. Framing it in this way suggests the response is not an in-depth discussion of the histories of these dictatorships. Yes the West has cynically supported dictatorships to get it’s way in economics or geopolitics. However I’d say the last 50 years has seen Europe and the USA recoil from attempting to control foreign territory overtly (especially relative to the previous 50 years) – we seem most keen to do the bear minimum and often less and leave counties in a right mess causing further problems. So if this is the case, would it have been a good idea to overthrow the European dictatorships? probably not.

            I’m hardly ever ‘happy with my views’ which is why I couldn’t avoid responding.

          • Dear All
            Thanks for the on-going debate about our unwanted and unusable nuclear weapons. I have just received this update from the NPT Review Conference in New York:

            The Review Conference will conclude on 22 May, outlining the next steps on nuclear disarmament for the coming five years.

            A movement to negotiate a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons is afoot supported by 160 countries.

            An interactive map is here: https://npt.icanaustria.at/ you can click on each state to get a brief summary of their position.

            Launched in 2010, the Humanitarian Initiative now has the support of 160 countries. Five years later there is a shared understanding that the impact of nuclear weapons is not only catastrophic but morally unacceptable. This makes the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons an international priority. In the run up to the NPT, more and more states acted on the imperative to join an initiative led by Austria to prohibit nuclear weapons. 80 states have already joined and we expect more to do so during the Review Conference.

            Since 2010 when the humanitarian consequences were raised for the first time, the concerns over the catastrophic human loss has taken central stage. The humanitarian initiative has succeeded in reframing the debate on nuclear weapons, leaving behind a minority of states, including the nuclear weapon possessors, defending out-dated and discredited concepts of deterrence and negative security assurances.

            The rest of the states parties to the NPT have grown impatient and are ready to move forward with a new legal instrument. There is a distinct buzz in the halls of the United Nations that we are witnessing the building of a new process.

            While the non-nuclear weapon states are taking ownership of their newfound cooperation, the five nuclear weapon states are struggling to find common ground. It took the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia a few attempts before agreeing on the text of a banal joint statement which belies a distinct lack of intent.

            Despite obligations contained in Article VI and the commitments of the
            2010 action plan, disarmament is simply not on the P5’s agenda. The reductions that have been made in the past few years are offset by aggressive modernization programs and the lack of a vision for a future free of nuclear weapons. No matter what the outcome of this Review Conference, a new process to finally outlaw nuclear weapons will tip the balance and force a new agenda for the P5.

            “At this Review Conference, the humanitarian initiative is growing in strength and has now the potential to revolutionize nuclear disarmament.
            While the nuclear weapon states spent five years negotiating a glossary, non nuclear weapon states are gearing up to prohibit nuclear weapons even without them” says Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN.

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