The Prime Minister is set to announce that Britain’s nuclear missile fleet should be cut from four submarines to three, telling the United Nations that if they are serious about a nuclear-free world they will need “statesmanship, not brinkmanship.”
Speaking in advance of the announcement, noted defence economist Professor Ron Smith of Birkbeck College told the Today programme that in its present form Trident was of little use against a nuclear-armed Iran.
Professor Smith said:
“I don’t think Trident will be a great deal of use against Iran, I think it’s much more symbolic and in the sense that the five permanent members of the Security Council all have nuclear weapons and I think that that sort of political competition against the French is probably as important as any competition against any potential enemy.”
His statement on the limited value of Trident in the context of prospective nuclear threats such as Iran or North Korea adds more pressure on the government to consider alternatives to the costly Trident system. Whilst an intercontinental ballistic missile platform may prove of limited utility as a deterrent against a so-called rogue state threat, such a deterrent could also be achieved with a theatre level nuclear deterrent at far less cost.
These remarks also reflect an emerging consensus in defence policy circles of the importance of moving the UK from a Cold War era spending-equals-defence mindset towards a strategy that assigns funding on the basis of real world threats and needs.
Listen to his interview in full below, and download it here:
Earlier this week an exclusive Left Foot Forward opinion poll revealed that 40 per cent of the public believe Britain should maintain its nuclear capability – but with a less powerful and less expensive system than Trident – with a further 23 per cent saying Britain should give up nuclear weapons altogether.
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