It’s always a bit worrying to hear MPs espousing conspiracy theories, especially when, for matters of national security, they cannot substantiate their ravings with anything like facts. Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon assures us that we are in imminent threat of nuclear attack from an identifiable state possessing nuclear weapons and our only means of defence will be a Trident replacement. Trident, as I’m sure most people know is the defence system that relies upon submarines patrolling 24hours a day, 365 days a year (366 on a leap year) and, as a roving and undetectable platform for nuclear strikes, affords Britain with the capability to launch an attack on any country that fires nuclear weapons at us first.
Effectively, Trident is a doomsday scenario weapons platform because it would only be used at a time when Britain had already been decimated by a nuclear attack. More than that, the specifics of Trident are that it assumes that the country that will have launched an attack on Britain will not only have the capability to launch multiple attacks on Britain, making British based command and control inoperative, but that the aggressor country will also have the capability to target all of Britain’s other non-Trident nuclear platforms such as Cruise carrying warships or bombers stationed at airbases outside of the UK. The point of Trident is that Britain has an unseeable platform with which to strike back at aggressors and that sounds like a good idea … but.
The first assumption is that Britain would face attack from an identifiable country because, for Trident to be effective, you have to have an identifiable target to launch against. Secondly, that country (or countries, if we entertain the notion that a collaboration of states might gang up on us) must have the capability to destroy C&C in Britain and all non-Trident platforms outside of the UK. Thirdly, it assumes that this aggressor country (or collective of countries) desire mutual annihilation because, even if we didn’t possess nuclear weapons, it is unthinkable that the US would not launch against such aggressors and with overwhelming force. Does anyone in the security world actually believe this is a likely scenario or remotely representative of the threat to UK security and if they do who they think has the capability to launch the types of attacks that Trident is designed to retaliate?
The reality is that there are few countries that could launch the kinds of comprehensive attacks that would warrant a Trident response, you can count them on probably three fingers; they are not going to knock over the first domino for mutual destruction. No other country could launch an attack on us that we could not counter from our non-Trident platforms but does anyone genuinely think an actual country, a state backed regime, is going to start launching atomic weapons? Current security risks are from stateless groups that could launch limited strikes and we could not use, would not use, nor need to use, Trident against them.
So, if there is no strategic use for Trident or its replacement, why are our politicians so dead set on persisting with it and the commitment to spend £billions on it? Is it, as some have argued, that it provides weight to the idea that Britain still has skin in the game and is still a player on the international scene? Could be but scrapping Trident is not the same as scrapping UK nuclear defence, we would still have our non-Trident platforms. So, if it’s not about the weapons, is it about the money? The Trident replacement could well cost £167billion (but we should assume it will be even more) and my question is, who will personally profit from that and by how much?