Memorandum from the International Security
Information Service (ISIS)
One cannot simply transpose the Cold War deterrent
posture into the type of threat scenarios Britain is likely to
face in the future.
The Government needs to provide reassurance
that it intends to maintain an extremely high threshold for nuclear
use, specifically in relation to:
Britain's Negative Security
Deterring threats from chemical
and biological weapons.
The pursuit of military interventions
Further explanation is required as to how Britain's
nuclear doctrine is being adapted to meet smaller nuclear threats,
including from those who sponsor nuclear terrorism.
The Government needs to explain more fully how
it expects to reverse the proliferation dynamic other than within
the context of a significantly reduced role for nuclear weapons
in international affairs.
If present trends do lead to a world of multiple
nuclear weapons possessors, the likelihood is that nuclear weapons
will be used, whether deliberately or accidentally, by states
or by terrorists, and that the consequences for Britain could
The Government should be pressed as to whether
it agrees with that analysis and, if so, whether it is doing enough
to prevent it becoming reality.
A. ROLE OF
New deterrence scenarios
1. "The fundamental principles relevant
to nuclear deterrence have not changed since the end of the Cold
War, and are unlikely to change in future. " (White Paper,
para 3-3, p 17).
2. The fundamental principles may not have
changed but this should not be interpreted to mean that the Cold
War deterrence model can be transposed to each and every other
future scenario in which nuclear weapons are a factor.
3. Nuclear weapons are not a synonymous
with nuclear deterrence. This is not to deny that Britain's weapons
primarily are intended to act as a deterrent, or that they may
perform this function: but we need to be clear that Britain's
nuclear weapons are only capable of deterring particular actions
by certain actors in particular circumstances.
4. Any serious analysis of deterrence and
how this relates to Britain's nuclear forces, therefore, should
involve disaggregating the term "nuclear deterrence",
including a focus on the context in which models of deterrence
are being applied.
5. The threat to use Trident in order to
deter a potential adversary from taking action against Britain's
vital interests has to be credible to be effective. In other words,
the potential adversary has to believe that it is plausible that
Britain might use nuclear weapons in response to his action. Depending
on the action he is taking, he would have to calculate the likelihood
that Britain might use its nuclear weapons and decide whether
or not it was worth the risk.
6. A degree of uncertainty or ambiguity
about whether or not Britain might retaliate with nuclear weapons
is deemed to strengthen deterrence. The logic being that if the
adversary knew precisely the circumstances in which Britain would
use its nuclear weapons it could take action up to that point.
Hence, the White Paper states:
7. "we deliberately maintain ambiguity
about precisely when, how and at what scale we would contemplate
use of our nuclear deterrent. We will not simplify the calculations
of a potential aggressor by defining more precisely the circumstances
in which we might consider the use of our nuclear capabilities.
Hence, we will not rule in or out the first use of nuclear weapons.
8. An essential corollary though is that
Britain needs to adopt a credible deterrent posture. If it makes
unrealistic claims about the actions that it intends to deter
with its nuclear weapons, and an adversary then tests these, and
Britain does not then actually use its nuclear weaponsthe
deterrent posture will have been undermined and credibility lost.
9. In 1982, non-nuclear-armed Argentina
rightly calculated that Britain would not retaliate with nuclear
weapons when it invaded the Falkland Islands. For Britain to have
used a nuclear weapon against Argentina itselfwith the
resultant widespread civilian casualtieswould have been
a disproportionate response that would have been condemned by
the international community to a far greater degree than was the
10. The scenario around which nuclear deterrence
was most commonly articulated during the Cold War was one in which
Soviet Union and its Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) allies had
invaded Western Europe and its forces were advancing towards the
English Channel. Under those circumstances, whereby the United
Kingdom's very existence as an independent state was at stake,
a threat to use nuclear weapons would have had far greater credibility
than in the Falklands, for example.
11. Indeed, it is this scenario that encapsulates
the public perception of deterrence, and is the image that is
conjured up in the public mind whenever the term "nuclear
deterrent" is mentioned. But it is a very precise scenario,
constructed in a very particular historical context. Britain is
subject of overt aggression by a military alliance with numerically
superior conventional forces and is on the brink of invasion.
In this situation Britain's deterrent posture is clearly defensive,
responsive and has strong credibility.
12. Clearly, with the Cold War over and
the Soviet Union no longer a threat, this particular scenario
no longer applies to Britain's nuclear weapons. The question is
whether it applies to other plausible scenarios against which
Britain's nuclear weapons might play a crucial and unique deterrent
role, against which it is prudent to plan for?
13. Are there other potential crises for
which our leaders are preparing a possible role for nuclear weapons:
scenarios in which the UK may be instigating military action,
where the stakes are not so high for the UK but are perceived
to be much higher for the adversary?
14. "The UK's nuclear weapons are
not designed for military use during conflict but instead to deter
and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our
vital interests that cannot be countered by other means. "
White Paper, Para 3-4, p 17.
15. Informed speculation vis-a"-vis
a possible future confrontation with a nuclear-armed Iran might
illustrate some of the issues at play here. (An exercise that
Government is unable to conduct publicly.)
16. What if Iran does succeed in developing
and then deploying nuclear weapons? Could Britain's nuclear weapons
play a role in deterring any possible aggressive Iranian intent
in the region? If used to back up a wider policy of containment,
including the deployment of conventional forces in the region,
perhaps they could (although it is difficult to imagine what they
would add if the US were directly engaged as well).
17. But what if deterrence failed: Iran
invaded and took over control of part the Middle East oilfields,
and subsequently brandished its nuclear weapons in an attempt
to hold the West to ransom for access to energy supplies? Indeed
it is probably a scenario such as this that the Government has
in mind when it refers to the need to deter and prevent nuclear
"blackmail". How realistic is it to think that the threatened
use of nuclear weapons after the event would bring about withdrawal,
or that a British government could win domestic or international
support for such an action?
18. What if Britain and the international
community were faced with another scenario akin to the one involving
Iraq in 2002-03only this time involving a nuclear-armed
Iran? Could a UK Prime Minister successfully make a case to the
British people that he wanted to use military means to disarm
Iran forcibly and that this could well result in a nuclear war
in the Middle East? Surely his chances of winning majority public
support would be negligible. Moreover, in such a scenario, with
the Iranian regime probably defending its national survival and
the UK embarking on a "war of choice", whose nuclear
threats would carry most weight?
19. "...there is a risk that some
countries might in future seek to sponsor nuclear terrorism from
their soil. We must not allow such states to threaten our national
security, or to deter us and the international community from
taking the action required to maintain regional and global security.
" (White Paper, Executive Summary, p 6).
20. "Any state that we can hold
responsible for assisting a nuclear attack on our vital interests
can expect that this would lead to a proportionate response.
" (White Paper, para 3-11, p 19).
21. The key issue here is whether or not
Britain could prove that such assistance was derived from a particular
source. To this end the Government intends to strengthen Aldermaston's
capabilities. Notwithstanding, the technical challenge involved
(about which this author cannot offer an assessment), it would
be a highly charged political act to deliver a strike commensurate
with, if not actually involving, a nuclear weapon against another
state on the basis of forensic evidence alone.
22. How Britain would prove not only that
the source of the fissile material was from facilities operated
by a particular state, but also that its presence in a nuclear
device used against the UK was there as a result of deliberate
collaboration from the government of that particular state may
be highly problematic. It would be difficult for Britain to launch
a nuclear retaliatory strike against the guilty party on the basis
of `balance of probability', as opposed to cast iron proof.
Preserving the Nuclear Threshold
23. Due to their unique characteristicsscale
of destructive power and long-lasting radioactive falloutnuclear
weapons remain in a category separate from, and above, conventional
weaponry. Traditionally, the major powersincluding Britainhave
recognized the significance of the distinction and consequently
to preserve the nuclear "threshold".
24. "The threshold for the legitimate
use of nuclear weapons is clearly a high one. " Para
25. Arms controllers have been keen to raise,
or at least preserve, the level of that threshold as a means of
preventing the use of nuclear weapons.
26. According to international humanitarian
law, states that use force must do so with discrimination ie not
make civilians the object of attack. Nor should states cause unnecessary
suffering. In other words, they are prohibited from causing harm
to combatants greater than that which is absolutely unavoidable
to achieve legitimate military objectives.
27. "Recourse to nuclear weapons
could never be compatible with the principles and rules of humanitarian
law and is therefore prohibited. In the event of their use, nuclear
weapons would in all circumstances be unable to draw any distinction
between the civilian population and combatants... and their effects,
largely uncontrollable, could not be restricted... to lawful military
targets. Such weapons would kill and destroy in a necessarily
indiscriminate manner, on account of the blast, heat and radiation
occasioned by the nuclear explosion and the effects induced; and
the number of casualties that would ensue would be enormous. The
use of nuclear weapons would therefore be prohibited in any circumstance,
notwithstanding the absence of any explicit conventional prohibition.
" (International Court of Justice Report, 8 July 1996, para
28. The circumstances under which Britain's
nuclear weapons might be used are, therefore, an extremely important
aspect of this entire debate. Any suggestion that Britain or any
other nuclear weapon state might be attempting to lower the threshold
deserves to be subject to very careful scrutiny, as this would
have major potential implications for non-proliferation and international
29. The more that the nuclear weapon states
appear to be expanding the roles afforded to their nuclear weapons
the greater are the implications for the non-proliferation regime.
This is because the deal underpinning the entire non-proliferation
regime, embodied in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
is that those states entitled to retain nuclear weapons (pending
their eventual abolition) do so on the basis that they gain no
explicit coercive military advantage over non-nuclear weapon states
by so doing.
30. That is why the five acknowledged nuclear
weapon states have provided negative security assurances (NSAs)
to non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT. The UK issued
its NSA in 1978. In 1995 these assurancesincluding the
UK'swere reiterated and strengthened into political commitments
to coincide with the indefinite extension of the NPT. Although
these are not legally binding they do constitute very important
31. "The United Kingdom will not
use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon States parties
to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except
in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the UK, its
dependent territories, its armed forces or other troops, its allies
or on a State towards which it has a security commitment, carried
out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State in association
or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State." 
32. Again, the provision of these assurances
was an extremely important element of a package of measures offered
to non-nuclear weapons states by way of reassurance that their
continued abstinence would not result in any diminution of their
security vis-a"-vis being subject to nuclear threats
33. As a corollary, the nuclear weapon states
offered positive security assurances by way of stating their commitment
to come to the assistance of non-nuclear weapon states that found
themselves subject to nuclear threats, or which became victims
of actual nuclear attack.
34. Hence, it is extraordinary that this
White Paper contains no reference to the UK's Negative Security
Assurance. Its omission deserves explanation by the Government
and reassurance that the United Kingdom remains committed to its
terms. If this is no longer the case it could have profound implications
for the non-proliferation regime.
35. This leads naturally to a closer examination
of UK nuclear doctrine.
UK nuclear doctrine
36. The White Paper states:
"We would only consider using nuclear
weapons in self-defence (including the defence of our NATO allies),
and even then only in extreme circumstances. The legality of any
such use would depend upon the circumstances and the application
of the general rules of international law, including those regulating
the use of force and the conduct of hostilities. " (Para
2-11, p 14.)
37. (The question of legality will be considered
in the second part of this submission.) The language of the White
Paper compares to previous statements by the then Defence Secretary
in 2002 who said that Britain's nuclear weapons "...would
be used only in what are described as extreme conditions of self-defence
I can stress
that nuclear weapons would be used proportionately
and consistently with our obligations in international law.
" (Rt Hon Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence, Official
Report, 17 June 2002, Column 11.)
38. In 2004, a Foreign Office Minister said
that "the circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons
might have to be contemplated would be extremely remote, and that
we would use them only in extreme circumstances of self-defence
and in accordance with our obligations under international law.
" (Bill Rammell, 16 March 2004, col 297.)
39. This might give the impression that
only if the UK were on the point of invasion or had already been
subject of nuclear attack, would the British government even contemplate
using its nuclear weapons. On that basis, in the absence of an
overwhelming military power, that has territorial ambitions towards
the UK itself, it would be almost impossible to imagine when the
UK might even need to think about launching its nuclear weapons
40. But before drawing such a conclusion
one first needs to explore this language more closely, including
the refusal to adopt a "no first use" policy (repeated
in the White Paper in para 3-4. p 18).
41. The government continues to rule out
a `no nuclear first use' policy because it wants to retain the
option of being the first to use nuclear weapons in conflict.
This stance was originally predicated on a Cold War scenario whereby
the only means of stopping an onslaught by numerically superior
WTO conventional forces might need to be the use of nuclear weapons.
Yet, today there are no conventional forces that are superior
to those of the Western Alliance of which Britain is part.
42. The scenarios about which the British
Government (along with US, Russian and French governments) appears
concerned nowadays relate to deterring the use of chemical and
biological weapons (CBW). Moreover, this may not be confined solely
to retaliation to the use of such weapons but also extend to pre-emptive
use against such weaponry.
43. In a previous White Paper, entitled
Defending Against the Threat of Biological and Chemical Weapons,
the MoD says that it seeks to deter the use of CBW by assuring
potential aggressors of three related outcomes, one of which is
that it would "invite a proportionately serious response".
44. In 2002, prior to the invasion of Iraq,
the then Defence Secretary said:
Let me make... clear the long standing British
government policy that if our forcesif our peoplewere
threatened by weapons of mass destruction we would reserve the
right to use appropriate proportionate responses which might...
in extreme circumstances include the use of nuclear weapons.
Clearly if there were strong evidence of an
imminent attack if we knew that an attack was about to occur and
we could use our weapons to protect against it... 
45. This expands the circumstances in which
the Government would be prepared to use its nuclear weapons significantly
beyond that of when the UK is on the point of being invaded or
when it had already been subject to nuclear attack. This contemplates
using nuclear weapons not only in retaliation against a country
that has used chemical or biological weapons against UK territory,
but also if it has used them against UK forces. And not only in
retaliation, but, first against a country that does not possess
nuclear weapons and that Britain is itself about to invade.
46. Not only is this a significant statement
in its own right, it would also appear to contradict Britain's
negative security assurance (NSA).
47. Although the Prime Minister subsequently
stated that Britain's nuclear weapons would not be used against
Iraqechoing Prime Minister Major's pledge prior to the
first Gulf Warthe government was clearly considering how
Britain's nuclear weapons, and the threat of their use, might
be applied in regional conflicts.
48. There is a concern amongst some observers
that perhaps Britain's nuclear forces are now being afforded new
`deterrence' utilities over and above the strictly defensive deterrent
role encapsulated in the Cold War scenario outlined above.
49. This shift reflects a change that has
already occurred in US policy. It was the Clinton Administration
that pointed out the legitimacy of invoking the long-standing
international law doctrine of belligerent reprisal, if it was
attacked with CBW.
50. Essentially, the US and UK postures
mean that if non-nuclear-armed states use CBW at a significant
level and in an indiscriminate manner, they can hardly expect
the niceties of NSAs to be observed or their protection they afford
to be deserved. This is not to say that nuclear retaliation is
assured, sensible or desirable, simply to say that in those circumstances
the NSA would no longer apply.
51. The British Government (and US Government)
seems to be saying that if Britain can more effectively deter
those willing to contemplate the massacre of large numbers of
innocent people with CBW by not ruling out nuclear retaliation,
then they should leave open the option.
52. Nevertheless, to remain consistent with
the criteria of proportionality, discrimination and effectiveness,
nuclear weapons could only be used if the overall harm inflicted
was clearly outweighed by the good achieved and the long-term
53. For political, humanitarian and practical
reasons the use of Britain's nuclear weapons against Iraq would
have been inappropriate, disproportionate, morally repulsive and
proved highly counter-productive. Breaking the nuclear taboo and
killing potentially thousands of innocent Iraqis on the basis
of the tactical use of chemical or biological weapons by the Iraqi
leadership would not have been sensible, proportionate or defensible.
54. To have used British nuclear weapons
pre-emptively, on the basis of what the regime may have been about
to do, would have been even more difficult to justify. Indeed,
with Saddam Hussein knowing that he was doomed his best chance
of winning international sympathy would have been to provoke nuclear
55. Even in the extreme circumstance whereby
nuclear use were judged to be the only effective means of preventing
potentially catastrophic use of Iraqi CBW, it is likely that the
`cure' would have been worse than the "disease".
56. It would be far better to confine any
pre-emptive or retaliatory action to the use of accurate and more
discriminating conventional weaponry.
57. It would appear that the doctrine outlined
above does encompass the pre-emptive use of Britain's nuclear
weapons to forestall an imminent threat to the UK territory, forces
or allies. And that threat would not necessarily have to be from
nuclear weaponsit could also be from chemical or biological
weapons. Indeed, it may even extend to threats from conventional
58. If British policy now endorses the possible
use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-armed states (and especially
so against those not armed with any form of WMD)even when
that use is justified through an act of self-defence, in extremis
and within the confines of international lawit needs to
be clearly stated. The implications for Britain's NSA should also
59. Another noticeable absentee from the
White Paper is any reference to the sub-strategic role of Britain's
nuclear weapons. Essentially, the sub-strategic nuclear capability
was articulated as performing a "pre-strategic" role.
It would entail the firing of a single warhead (probably of limited
yield) to demonstrate to an adversary that he should desist from
his aggression or Britain would escalate to all-out strategic
60. The sub-strategic role was described
in the Committee's Eighth Report thus:
"...a sub-strategic strike would involve
the launch of one or a limited number of missiles against an adversary
as a means of conveying a political message, warning or demonstration
of resolve. Commodore Hare told us that this sub-strategic role
"offers the Government of the day an extra option in the
escalatory process before it goes for an all-out strategic strike
which would deliver unacceptable damage to a potential adversary".
"Although the Government has revealed
little information about the precise number and yield of UK warheads,
it is widely believed that Trident missiles intended for this
sub-strategic role carry only a single warhead, potentially with
a significantly reduced yield".
"It is important not to confuse this
sub-strategic role with a tactical role. Trident is not designed
or intended to fulfill a tactical role on the battlefield.
" (paras 41-42.)
61. The Committee may want to ask the Government
to clarify whether this role remains a component of Britain's
nuclear doctrine, or whether this "pre-strategic" `signaling'
function is no longer necessary.
62. Instead, the White Paper places emphasis
on the importance of lower yield warheads in making deterrence
against smaller nuclear threats more credible:
"...the ability to vary the numbers of
missiles and warheads which might be employed, coupled with the
continued availability of a lower yield from our warhead, can
make our nuclear forces a more credible deterrent against smaller
nuclear threats. " (Para 4-9, p 23.)
63. The reasoning here is that if Britain
can only threaten an all-out nuclear strike this will lack credibility
when faced with more limited threats posed by smaller nuclear-armed
64. There is a danger, however, that the
deployment of lower yield warheads in the context of meeting threats
posed by smaller nuclear threats will lower the nuclear threshold
and increase the likelihood of nuclear use to achieve more limited,
war-fighting objectives. In other words, the sub-strategic function
becomes a tactical one.
65. Further doubts must be placed upon the
credibility of threatening to launch a limited nuclear strike
against a smaller nuclear-armed state that has not itself used
nuclear weapons first.
66. This specific point was addressed by
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, when he was Defence Secretary, in 1993:
"There is sometimes speculation that
more so-called `usable' nuclear weaponsvery low-yield devices
which could be used to carry out what are euphemistically called
`surgical' strikeswould allow nuclear deterrence to be
effective in circumstances where existing weapons would be self-deterring.
"I am thoroughly opposed to this view.
The implications of such a development of a new war-fighting role
for nuclear weapons would be seriously damaging to our approach
to maintaining stability in the European context, quite apart
from the impact it would have on our efforts to encourage non-proliferation
and greater confidence outside Europe. This is not a path that
I would wish any nuclear power to go down. " (Addressing
the Centre for Defence Studies, London, November 1993.)
67. The present Government should be challenged
to say whether Sir Malcolm's views still represent an accurate
representation of British Government policy: and if they do not,
in what respects.
Pressing the Button
68. For nuclear deterrence to retain credibility
requires the UK Prime Minister to indicate his or her preparedness
in extremis to use Britain's nuclear weapons. The mere
presence of UK nuclear weapons is likely to have at least some
bearing on the calculations made by any potential adversary, regardless
of what any Prime Minister might say about their intentions to
use the country's nuclear weapons.
69. Nevertheless, Tony Blair has stated
publicly that he would be prepared to press the button. "You
do have to be prepared to use it and I do make that clear.
At some point his successor as Prime Minister will be asked to
confirm the same. As long as the Prime Minister does not exclude
the possibility of use under any circumstances, British nuclear
weapons may serve a deterrent effect.
70. It is difficult to square a preparedness
to use Britain's nuclear weapons with the Prime Minister's other
humanitarian pronouncements, especially in respect of targeting
despotic regimes, rather than those they subjugate. A Trident
nuclear warhead is an extremely blunt instrument of death and
destruction and in that sense is incompatible with the modern,
more discriminatory application of military force, which, in other
contexts, Tony Blair is keen to advocate.
71. In the Prime Minister's defence, it
is possible to make a case that by threatening to use nuclear
weapons in retaliation one isthrough deterrenceactually
preventing war from starting and thereby saving the lives of all
those who would have died in such a war. In other words, signaling
intent to commit mass slaughter in order to prevent it ever happening.
72. This sounds persuasive until and unless
one is faced with the ultimate choice. At which point a British
Prime Minister may have to decide whether to concede to an adversary
a degree of military and political cost to Britain's interests
or to carry out its threat to use nuclear weapons to forestall
such cost. It is quite conceivable that because the latter would
probably provoke worse ramifications than the former, it makes
sense to rely on other, conventional, military options. In which
case, strengthening non-nuclear deterrence options in preparation
may make more sense than an over-reliance on the nuclear option.
73. Another problem is balancing the Prime
Minister's insistence on the UK retaining the option of using
nuclear weapons, against the dangers of legitimizing other political
leaders enjoying the same right. This would be particularly pertinent
in relation to those leaders who may be less scrupulous about
exercising it, or who prevail in regions where they are far more
likely to be faced with the choice about whether or not to push
the button, than is Tony Blair.
74. It is critical that British Prime Ministers
continue to view nuclear weapons as being in a special and distinct
category of their own, and not just as anotheralbeit most
powerfulweapon in the arsenal. The threshold for nuclear
use must be kept high and raised higher: not lowered, as it might
be under pre-emptive and preventive war doctrines.
B. THE IMPACT
The changing nature of nuclear threats
75. The Defence Committee has already examined
the nature of the existing and future nuclear threat. The following
is a summary of my conclusions in this respect and is necessary
to include here because it informs my subsequent assessmentsespecially
in relation to the importance of denuclearization in achieving
76. According to The UN Secretary-General,
"We also face a real threat that nuclear
weapons will spread. Without concerted action, we may face a cascade
of nuclear proliferation," (speaking at a conference
in Hiroshima, 5 August 2006.)
77. If the world reaches this stage, then
it will be hugely more difficult to deal with the problem. We
might be faced with 15, 20, perhaps 30 national nuclear weapon
programmes; massive new investment being poured into developing
nuclear weapons; tons of weapons-grade fissile material being
produced; and hundreds of people acquiring the knowledge of how
to make nuclear weapons.
78. How many of these new proliferant states
will be able to establish safe, secure, well managed programmes
under centralized controland how many not? Hopefully, they
would all be able to develop robust command and control procedures
that would function well in crises, but the expectation must be
that a proportion will not. Some new proliferants may be democracies;
others will be authoritarian regimes. Some governments may well
be relatively stable, others far less so.
79. In addition, there would be the extremist
and fundamentalist terrorist groups with growing opportunities
to acquire the wherewithal to acquire nuclear weapons of their
own. Almost inevitably, there would be many more potential A Q
Khans aroundwilling to sell nuclear "know how"
and blueprints to the highest bidder.
80. To believe that such a world might settle
at a new equilibrium of multiple deterrent relationships would
be dangerously complacent. Unpredictable governments developing
weapons of mass destruction in volatile regions of the planet,
with inadequate command and control mechanisms, reliant on "use
them or lose them" doctrines, would vastly increase the risks
of nuclear war - whether started deliberately or accidentally.
81. This is a vision of the future that
should frighten every policy maker in every capital around the
world. Most analysts probably believe this is the future towards
which the world is now heading.
82. Hence, I would list contemporary and
foreseeable nuclear threats in order of importance as follows:
A regional nuclear war between
two nuclear-armed states through misunderstanding or deliberate
act (for instanceIndia/Pakistan, North Korea/South Korea,
Iran/Israel) in volatile regions of the world with unstable deterrence
and "hair trigger" alert status adding to the likelihood
The insecurity of nuclear weapons,
material and expertise, especially within states that collapse
or experience internal conflict, and a nexus with terrorists gaining
access to a nuclear weapon or sufficient weapons-grade fissile
material to make a nuclear weapon, which they then threaten to
use and/or actually use.
Nuclear-armed state directly
threatens the UK's vital national interests.
Accidental nuclear war between
the major nuclear powers.
83. These threats have been re-ordered since
Cold War days. Deterrence is only relevant to meeting one of these
four threats. It is non-proliferation policy that has the primary
role to play in meeting the main nuclear threats. Questions need
to be asked whether the continued pursuit of a national nuclear
capability and its accompanying force posture might in some way
serve to undermine Britain's efforts to counter these other nuclear
84. The challenge is how to reduce and/or
eliminate these nuclear threats. We need to:
Prevent additional states acquiring
Reduce the number of states
with nuclear weapons programmes and further reduce the actual
number of nuclear weapons.
Assist those states embarked
upon nuclear disarmament to safely dispose of nuclear weapons,
guard and neutralise weapons-grade materials, and ensure that
nuclear weapons expertise is securely re-assigned to other employment.
Press for all nuclear weapons
to be taken off hair trigger alert, and provide assistance to
states with their command and control procedures, and confidence-building
measures, within the context of moving towards denuclearization.
Marginalise nuclear weapons
within security strategies and international affairs by reducing
their purpose to that of deterring other nuclear weaponsremove
their coercive role.
Begin a new multilateral process
of denuclearization, involving carefully staged reductions in
nuclear weapons and posture with a view to achieving the ultimate
elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Trident, non-proliferation and disarmament
85. The White Paper acknowledges that the
ultimate goal of Britain's policy is a world without nuclear weapons,
while making the case that Britain needs to maintain its nuclear
weapon capability in the absence of any multilateral agreement
to that end.
"None of the present recognized nuclear
weapon states intends to renounce nuclear weapons, in the absence
of an agreement to disarm multilaterally, and we cannot be sure
that a major nuclear threat to our vital interests will not emerge
over the longer term. " (White Paper, Foreword by the
Prime Minister, p 5.)
"Renewing our minimum nuclear deterrent...
is also consistent with our continuing commitment to work towards
a safer world in which there is no requirement for nuclear weapons.
" (White Paper, p 7.)
"We are committed to retaining the minimum
nuclear deterrent capability necessary to provide effective deterrence,
whilst setting an example where possible by reducing our nuclear
capabilities, and working multilaterally for nuclear disarmament
and to counter nuclear proliferation. We believe it is the right
balance between our commitment to a world in which there is no
place for nuclear weapons and our responsibilities to protect
the current and future citizens of the UK. " (White Paper,
86. Essentially there is a tension in policy
between extolling the value of nuclear weapons for Britain's security
while seeking to deny such capability to others. The danger is
that by affording nuclear forces a high importance within national
defence and security strategies we undermine our efforts to persuade
other states that they can do without such forces themselves.
87. This "double standard" argument
is not merely a superficial debating point; it goes to the heart
of the link between nuclear weapon possession and non-proliferation.
It prompts the fundamental question as to whether it is possible
to tackle proliferation effectively, while still insisting that
nuclear weapons are necessary for Britain's security, but not
88. Is it possible to forge a stable, robust
international non-proliferation regime based on an essentially
discriminatory division between possessors and non-possessors?
The Government appears to believe that it is. After all, this
is exactly the distinction that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) sustains.
89. This is true, but only up to a point
and for how much longer? The essential bargain contained in the
NPT, between those States Parties who possess nuclear weapons
and those who agree to forego them, was never intended as a permanent
basis upon which to order the world. Most analystsincluding
the UN Secretary Generalnow agree that the entire non-proliferation
regime is creaking under the strain, and unless we address its
underlying problems it may disintegrate with dire consequences
for all of us.
90. This is especially true in relation
to the coercive value afforded to nuclear weapons vis-a"-vis
non-nuclear weapon states (as set out in the first part of this
submission). If the role of nuclear weapons can be confined simply
to the deterrence of other nuclear weapons it is possible to establish
a logical construct within which the incentive to acquire nuclear
weapons is substantially reduced.
91. On the other hand, when nuclear weapons
are given new, more "pro-active" roles within more overtly
aggressive security strategies this can have a deleterious impact
on non-proliferation policy.
92. In a number of respects Britain is the
best example of all of the five acknowledge nuclear weapon states.
It only uses a single weapon system, has the smallest arsenal
of warheads, maintains a "stable" force posture, and
is transparent about the extent of its nuclear capability.
93. Britain has also played an active role
in arms control talks and in securing the successful negotiation
of number of relevant treaties. It continues to push for a strengthening
of non-proliferation controls. All of which it deserves credit
for. And one has to appreciate the limits of what one country
can achieve within the multilateral context.
94. Nevertheless, the British Government's
approach seems to be predicated on an assumption that successful
non-proliferation can be achieved in the context of a privileged
handful of statesincluding the UKcontinuing to assert
the importance of national nuclear forces in their security strategies,
and prior to any serious consideration of denuclearization.
95. (I define "denuclearization"
as a staged process of reduction in numbers of nuclear weapons;
adjustments in force postures that marginalize nuclear weapons;
further restrictions on the circumstances in which their use would
ever be considered; and the conscious intent to work towards the
global elimination of all nuclear weapons.)
96. The contrary view is that it is highly
questionable as to whether it will prove possible to reverse the
proliferation dynamic other than within the context of a significantly
reduced role for nuclear weapons in international affairsup
to the point, and perhaps including, complete nuclear disarmament.
97. What is needed is for the existing nuclear
powers to get around the negotiating table, thrash out their mutual
commitment to such a course and set out a detailed "road
map" of how to go forward. The
starting point should be to negate nuclear weapons' coercive influence
in international relations between nation states: to devalue them
as instruments of political power. The only purpose of nuclear
weapons, pending their possible complete elimination worldwide,
would be to negate their possession by others.
98. Although actually setting the goal of
trying to achieve a world without nuclear weapons is important
it does not necessarily follow that the ultimate achievement of
such an objective can or will be reached. The important point
is the degree to which the intention is serious and sincere, and
the consequent level of commitment devoted to reaching the ultimate
99. The further necessary steps to complete
denuclearization might prove impracticable to take for any number
of reasons. Nevertheless, we can travel a lot further down the
road of nuclear confidence building, arms control and disarmament
before such an ultimate decision stage is reached.
100. Britain should take a lead by proposing
the establishment of a new international nuclear settlement based
on a shared vision of: no more nuclear weapon proliferation; reduced
salience of existing nuclear arsenals; staged and conditional
multilateral denuclearization; and a strict verification and compliance
101. In the foreword to the White Paper
Tony Blair wrote:
"None of the present recognized nuclear
weapon states intends to renounce nuclear weapons, in the absence
of an agreement to disarm multilaterally, and we cannot be sure
that a major nuclear threat to our vital interests will not emerge
over the longer term. "
102. This is true. But it represents a worrying
acceptance of defeat in the battle against proliferation and complacency
about the consequences of that defeat. Britain is not a passive
bystander unable to shape the future. It is a country with a proud
tradition of negotiating arms control treaties and retains significant
diplomatic influence. It could take the lead in trying to forge
a new international nuclear settlement.
103. The alternative is that unless we do
reverse the proliferation dynamic, major new nuclear threats will
emerge in the future. In a world of 30 or so nuclear states, eventually
we can expect that there will be a nuclear war, whether started
deliberately or accidentally, and that terrorists will succeed
in getting their hands on the means of committing mass slaughter.
Britain may not be directly involved in a nuclear war but it cannot
expect to avoid its potentially horrendous political, economic,
and climatic fallout.
104. In a world of 30 nuclear weapon states
Britain would still want to retain its national nuclear forces.
Unfortunately, in such a world Britain would be far less safe
from nuclear threats than it is today. If that analysis of current
trends is correct it suggests that the governments of the major
powers, including Britain, need to make a more determined effort
to change those trends. It is difficult to see how they can succeed
on the non-proliferation front without embarking on a parallel,
multilateral denuclearization process.
18 December 2006
58 The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent,
Cm 6994, HMSO, December 2006, p 18. Back
The caveat within this statement-repeated in those of the US,
France-was intended to http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:bNY3W7e4J4EJ:www.isisuk.demon.co.uk/0811/isis/uk/regpapers/-4address
the specific circumstance of an invasion of Western Europe by
forces of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) (consisting of
a nuclear-armed Soviet Union and its non-nuclear-armed allies
of Eastern Europe). In that scenario Britain's NSA would not apply
to the Soviet Union's WTO allies. Back
Defending Against the Threat of Biological and Chemical Weapons,
MoD, July 1999. Can be found at: http://www.mod.uk/issues/cbw/index.htm Back
Rt Hon Geoff Hoon, MP, Secretary of State for Defence, speaking
on the Jonathan Dimbleby programme, ITV, 24 March, 2002. Back
Reported in the Daily Mail, 25 November 1996. Back
For a much more detailed analysis of what this process might
involve see: Johnson, R, Butler, N, and Pullinger, S, Worse
than Irrelevant?: British Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century,
Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, 2006, pp 76. Back