Why Nuclear Weapons Are Imperative For The UK’s Security


The first and so far only use of nuclear weapons were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki  by the U.S in 1945, with the intention of ending World War Two . The event preceded the huge proliferation of nuclear arms, with the U.S and Russia amassing stockpiles deadly enough to destroy the world several times over. If we fast forward to the present day, it’s believed that nine states possess nuclear capabilities with varying degrees of technological advancement.

The destruction capacity of nuclear weapons cannot be underestimated and the ambition undoubtedly must be universal disarmament in order to maintain a safer balance of power. However, within the nine countries, three authoritarian states including Russia, China and North Korea still retain huge nuclear capabilities. Nicola Sturgeon recently expressed her party’s desire to rid the UK of our greatest deterrent against war. Because of NATO’s nuclear capabilities, it is the most formidable mechanism of security in history. The alliance that was established in 1949 means that an attack against one member would be interpreted as one against all. Leaving the U.S and France as the solitary nuclear powers within the organisation would be a huge error with Russia’s expansionist ambitions.

Sturgeon’s argument that the cost of Trident is ‘too high for something we would never use’  avoids the point. The sole purpose of our nuclear capability is to act as a deterrent against nuclear and conventional war. So long as the UK retains this, it is highly unlikely their will ever be a nuclear attack on the UK, or a NATO member. History tells a similar story if we look at the relationship between Pakistan and India. The military stand off in 2001 would have inevitably lead to war if it wasn’t for the nuclear capabilities of both states. The mutually assured destruction that would of occurred meant war was irrational and unattractive, and acted as a platform for a peace.

Pakistani Nuclear Missile

If we bring the debate closer to home, both the Conservative and Labour party have committed  to some form of maintenance or upgrade regarding the UK’s nuclear capabilities. This is reassuring, yet the Labour party must avoid compromising on this necessity as a bargaining chip into power on the backs of the SNP.

The cost breakdown of Trident is very  high, and heavily disputed. The Ministry of Defence has said it will cost £17.5bn to £23.4bn to secure the replacement system; of that, between £12.9bn and £16.4bn would be spent on the submarines themselves. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, estimates that the MoD’s  intention to spend 5-6% of its defence budget on its nuclear deterrent amounts to around £2bn to £2.4bn per year. This fails to take into account changes in the overall defence budget though.

Parties such as Plaid Cymru, the Green Party, and the SNP continue to reiterate that these costs are profligate, claiming the money could be redirected elsewhere. Although the costs are high, Trident is the UK’s ultimate insurance policy in terms of preserving our existence ,and contributing to our influence on the world stage. Removing our capabilities would represent an abandonment of military responsibility, and undermine collective security.



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Discussion9 Comments

  1. avatar

    I’ve got a better idea.

    The point of nuclear weapons is not to use them, but have them as a deterrent. Whether or not a deterrent works isn’t dependent on your actual capabilities, it’s based on what other states perceive your capabilities to be.

    We should not renew trident, but convince everyone that we did and then spend the money on something else.

  2. avatar
    Visiting reader

    Being part of an alliance like NATAO means that an attack against one member would be interpreted as one against all. So why would the UK need their own nuclear program?

    Are you advocating nuclear weapons programs for each NATO member state? Why? or Why not?

    Why have our armed forces (NATO) been involved in so many conflicts after the World War Two despite NATOs nuclear capabilities?

    “Leaving the U.S and France as the solitary nuclear powers within the organisation would be a huge error with Russia’s expansionist ambitions.”

    The Ukraine people “appriciate” the nuclear powers of NATO, but did it help them against Russia? No.

  3. avatar
    Millicent Bystander

    This article doesn’t give a single example of how nuclear weapon’s are actually beneficial to Britain.

    It cites the India and Pakistan example, and it talks about the ‘threat’ from Russia, but doesn’t actually explain in what way trident makes us more secure as a nation.

    Even when an article’s posted under ‘Opinion’ I’d still expect an actual argument to back up that opinion.

  4. avatar

    I think the cusp of this article is trying to put our nuclear deterrent on the same level as India and Pakistan. In as much as our nuclear deterrent is aimed at nations like Russia and China, conventional powers.

    Leanne Wood criticised Miliband for admitting Trident would not be used against ISIS, but she took it out of context. The fact of the matter is nuclear weapons are for the defence of a nation against a nuclear armed state or a state of militarily comparable or superior quality. They are deter would-be Nazi Germany’s or Imperial Japan’s from devastating the world again.

    We quickly forget that prior to the end of World War 2, Europe was almost consistently at war with itself, at increasing intensities and violence. From the Napoleonic Wars to World War 2 warfare seemed to only increase in its devastation. I’d argue there is a direct correlation between nuclear weapons and the halting of these violent engagements.

    Now a point was made in the first comment of how our nuclear deterrent did not deter Russia from intervening in Ukraine. That in itself is a reason for our own nuclear defence. Ukraine may be outside NATO but many still criticise the alliance for doing so little. Even the United States with the largest stockpile out of the NATO states has been criticised for its incompetence. The question boils down then, that put to the test, would an alliance which was created over 60 years ago, whose primary threat fell apart over 20 years ago and whose very make-up has evolved so fundamentally, still be relied on in the case of massive aggression from a militarily competent state?

    Nigel Farage is a controversial man and I do by no means agree with most things he says but i did like his insurance policy comparison. You pay your insurance but you hope you don’t have to use it. If you were Russia would you really risk war with a nuclear armed state?

  5. avatar
    Visiting reader

    You say essentially that the UK keep their own nuclear weapons program
    because deep down in their hearts they do not trust NATO fully or the EU to help.
    Talking about leaving the EU and the reluctance to support partners in the past
    seem to support this attitude of UK politicians.

    In this context one will never see any (other) state reducing their nuclear ambitions
    or even concidering unilateral disarmament.

    A self-fulfilling prophecy to keep Trident
    as others keep their nuclear weapons because of Trident…

  6. avatar

    According to a recent Survation poll 70% of people in Scotland oppose new Trident nuclear weapons , so it’s hardly surprising that the SNP seeks to reflect majority opinion in Scotland.

    This is similar to public opinion the rest of the UK with opposition to new Trident between 64% and 79%.

    There is no public appetite for wasting billions on new nuclear weapons which can never be used and are not even independently controlled by the UK.

    Even in the Labour Party, the recent CND survey found a massive 79 said they opposed and would vote against Trident renewal.

    At a time when the public is unambiguously opposed to wasting money on an unusable system of weapons of mass destruction, it’s high time the Government of this country showed some spine and delivered what voters actually want.

    When we send our armed services into war zones, ill-prepared and underfunded, it is abhorrent that some prefer massive spending nuclear weapons in order to grandstand on the world stage instead of fully investing in our conventional defence forces.

    I for one will not be voting for any Party that places a priority on Trident WMDs over removal of foodbanks, investment in the NHS and free access to education, I suspect many many former Labour voters (in Scotland or the rest of the UK) are thinking the same way.

  7. avatar
    Joseph Smith

    I understand your point about there being three countries within NATO who use nuclear weapons. However, the solution your advocating is to remove our insurance policy and outsource security to France and the U.S. What if both those nations took the same approach and decided that they no longer wanted to fund their programmes? Why should the UK not play a leading role in upholding NATO’s security as one of the wealthiest nations in the organisation. I would also ask you to imagine the situation we would be in if Russia was the only nation with nuclear capabilities…

  8. avatar
    Joseph Smith

    I understand your points about there being three countries within NATO who use nuclear weapons. However, the solution your advocating is to remove our insurance policy and outsource security to France and the U.S. What if both those nations took the same approach and decided that they no longer wanted to fund their programmes? Why should the UK not play a leading role in upholding NATO’s security as one of the wealthiest nations in the organisation. I would also ask you to imagine the situation we would be in if Russia was the only nation with nuclear capabilities…

  9. avatar
    Joseph Smith

    I would disagree completely that this article fails to highlight any of the benefits that trident offers the UK. One major advantage of nuclear weapons is the fact that it creates a deterrent against war, or a nuclear attack. You may say that this is unlikely, yet the reason for this, is because we have nuclear weapons!

    History speaks for itself if we you look at conflicts of the past; such as the cold war and the Pakistan – India dispute. You may highlight that wars were fought by proxy during the formers period, but you cannot ignore the fact that nuclear powers have never directly been waged war with one another. Personally, as long as autocratic states possess nuclear capabilities, I feel that its imperative for NATO to.

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