Freesteel Blog » The UK is only pretending to reduce its nuclear weapons

The UK is only pretending to reduce its nuclear weapons

Thursday, May 9th, 2013 at 1:57 pm Written by:

In their new executive-summary-style webpages, the UK Government sets out its case that it is fulfilling its side of the deal that allows them to remain a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty wherein they promised to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

According, they tell us:

The UK has probably the smallest nuclear arsenal of the 5 states recognised as nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

As part of an FOI request I asked:

Really? You don’t know if it is or it isn’t the smallest nuclear arsenal of only 5 countries?

How pathetic are our intelligence services? The response was:

With regard to the size of the UK’s nuclear arsenal, we currently have a maximum of 225 warheads in our stockpile, to support a requirement for 160 operationally available warheads. In due course (and by the mid 2020’s), this will reduce from a maximum of 225 to no more than 180 warheads in order to support the reduced requirement of no more than 120 operationally available warheads.

This is smaller than the warhead limits permitted for the USA and Russian Federation under the terms of the New START signed by those two states in April 2010. Former French President Nikolas Sarkozy stated in March 2008 that French nuclear forces would be reduced. He stated that “after this reduction, I can tell you that our arsenal will include fewer than 300 nuclear warheads”. China releases no figures on its warhead stockpile. It is on the basis of this information that we claim that the UK has probably the smallest nuclear arsenal of the five states recognised as nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

I responded:

I am surprised that [you] consider that a 2008 statement by the previous president of France of his post-reduction target for a stockpile of “fewer than 300 nuclear warheads”, and the release of no official figures from Chinese government of its weapons stockpile is an adequate basis on which to claim that the UK has “probably the smallest nuclear arsenal” of the five nuclear weapons states.

According to my calculations on the best available information, the figures for Britain, China and France can be considered to be within the margin of error the same [between two and three hundred]. It is not unlikely for the policy-makers within each of these nations who need a number that sounds threatening but is not too high would all independently pick the same value. There is no evidence that the policy-making on this matter is undertaken at a more sophisticated and analytical level.

It would be helpful, therefore, if the webpage I referred to was corrected to say: “The UK has about the same size nuclear arsenal as that of France and China” as it would no longer mislead the public into believing that we are relatively ahead with regards to our disarmament obligations.

Basically, these three states have all reached the lower bounds of their comfort level — given that they feel more comfortable to hold nuclear weapons than to not hold them. Not that I have managed to uncover much reasoned evidence as to why they feel they need to hold them.

I mean, in a globalized world, it’s become completely laughable that any power would want to militarily invade the UK. There is nothing strategic about our geographical location, we don’t have any natural resources that haven’t been substantially depleted, and we have no human capital that could not more cheaply and reliably be bought. Sure, in 1942, before satellite technology, the abolition of the British empire, intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers that can fly around the world two times in a day, remote control drone warfare, and the internet, this island territory might have had some strategic significance to an expanding military empire at the heart of Europe.

But those days are gone.

The military relevance of the UK territory is like that of Conwy Castle once the era of cannon balls and kings has passed.

In fact, the whole existence of a nuclear weapons submarine platform that does not require any particular dry-land territory to operate is proof that the enemy is not going to gain anything militarily from the capture of said territories.

It’s like defending your border castles with an air-force, because when there are air-forces they will always fly past the castles to engage with whatever it was they would have defended back in the days when every invasion took place on foot or on horseback.

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