Comment: The most powerful case against Trident is the military one

Vast funding for ineffective Trident is detrimental to the Armed Forces that we actually need to keep our country safe


Yesterday’s disagreement between Labour and the Conservatives over nuclear weapons isn’t really a disagreement at all. Both parties have pledged to maintain Trident when it comes up for renewal, at a cost of £100bn to the taxpayer.

This misplaced loyalty to an outdated and ineffective weapons system is yet further evidence of the politics-as-usual approach of the traditional Westminster parties.

Times have changed since countries first developed nuclear weapons. The struggle for power in today’s world is not a two-horse-race between superpowers, nor are the greatest threats to state security solely acts of aggression undertaken by other countries, as was the case during the Cold War years.

The government’s own National Security Strategy (2010) identified terrorism, cyber-warfare and natural disasters as greater threats to national security than nuclear warfare. The nature of global security, and what is needed to maintain it, has changed beyond recognition since the days of nuclear stalemates between the USA and USSR.

And yet, the United Kingdom retains Trident, despite it being outdated and ineffective. Amidst the many and justified arguments in favour of dismantling Trident, the most powerful case against it is a military one: it simply fails to perform its function. Not only does Trident not enhance our security; it fundamentally undermines it.

The existence of Trident encourages nuclear proliferation and global instability. If we argue that Trident is essential for our security, it’s only logical for other countries to come to the same conclusion, as demonstrated by North Korea’s recent nuclear test and Iran’s refusal to stop its program to enrich uranium. And as nuclear weapons proliferate, so too does the likelihood that terrorists will obtain them.

Moreover, Trident is extraordinarily expensive, costing £100bn over its lifetime. Given this government has announced 20,000 troops will be cut by 2020, it seems apparent that vast expenditure on Trident detracts funding from other sources. A letter signed by four ex-generals, including one former head of the Armed Forces, emphasised this notion of Trident as essentially a misdirection of revenue:

“Rather than perpetuating Trident, the case is much stronger for funding our Armed Forces with what they need to meet the commitments actually laid upon them”.

Given the rapid evolution of threats to state security, investing increasingly scarce resources in an outdated model of defence prevents the effective adaptation of a smaller Armed Forces to best meet the security needs of the present day.

Nuclear weapons do not ensure the security of any nation. They are an inadequate and unsuitable response to the myriad threats posed to state security in the contemporary world. Yet Labour refuses to stand up in opposition to Trident, despite 75 per cent of Labour parliamentary candidates opposing Trident renewal.

Now, more than ever, we need peaceful solutions to conflict. We need to move away from the aggressive, militaristic and ultimately ineffective form of security that Trident offers. All Green MPs elected on 7 May will oppose the renewal of Trident at every opportunity. In the next parliament, we will work with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and any other MPs who wish to join us to oppose Trident and confine nuclear weapons to the dustbin of history, where they belong.

Amelia Womack is deputy leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

39 Responses to “Comment: The most powerful case against Trident is the military one”

  1. Edwintheslugcrusher

    We would confine any Army General or Politician who promoted the musket as a battle field weapon to the Psychiatric Hospital. Yet we continue to have to argue against an equally redundant weapon system which is distorting our economy out of all proportion.
    It is sheer lunacy and nothing else.

  2. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s an economic argument. One of cuts and limited money, at a time of deflation.
    Not a military one.

    Then you argue for not taking away nuclear weapons, but OUR nuclear weapons, when Russia’s actions show why they’re necessary. The cheaper option of buying into the American shield is of course a good one, but otherwise let’s discuss spending a minimum of 4% GDP on conventional military – doubling the conventional forces is a good start for the capacity gap with Russia, otherwise.

    (And demanding other EU nations do the same)

    You want however also want a smaller conventional force, leaving us open to foreign threats. Russia’s actions in the last few years have reshaped the threat dynamic.

  3. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes, absolute lunacy to call the primary defence against Russia “lunacy”.

  4. Edwintheslugcrusher

    Alas, Leon, you are mistaken about it being a defence against Russia. It was originally designed as a defence against the Soviet Union, not Russia, and in that respect was no “defence” system.
    But to call it a “Primary Defence” against any country is a misnomer. Trident, if used, would have failed as a defence system because its only effective “defence” is to hope to prevent other nuclear countries from using their nuclear weapons with the threat of mutually assured destruction (MAD).
    And since we’ve had nuclear weapons we’ve seen other countries develop their own nuclear weapons because they see it as a club they want to be part of; their reasoning being that what’s good enough for the UK is good enough for them. Its actually led to the proliferation of nuclear powers and put the world in more danger of a nuclear wipe out.

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    Yes yes, keep arguing Putin’s line.

  6. JoeDM

    “Now, more than ever, we need peaceful solutions to conflict.”

    Tell that to the islamic nutters of IS.

  7. Joe Bloggs

    It’s not an “offensive weapon”
    It’s a deterrent which has worked well for more than sixty years.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    Yea, tell your buddies!

    This is about nuclear weapons, and state actors. The problem here is Russia, not IS. But keep being wrong.

  9. Edwintheslugcrusher

    Leon, I’m sorry you are obsessed with Putin and Russia.
    You wont find any answers on her, chum.

  10. Leon Wolfeson

    You think Russia’s female?

    And obsessed? Oh, you mean a basic desire for the UK’s security. Right.

  11. Edwintheslugcrusher

    Nope. Don’t be silly! It was a typo and should have read “here” rather than “her”. Is that okay with you, chum?
    And there you go again assuming Trident adds to UK security.
    Its obsolete. Just like muskets are obsolete. Its outlived whatever usefulness it ever had.
    The biggest threat to UK security is not going to come from the skies in the form of nuclear weapons. That would be silly. Nobody wins anything from such an exchange. The biggest threat to our security comes from the cyber world. We would be better spending our money on preventing cyber attacks and healing our population with a decent National Health Service and redistributing the money saved back to the people from whom it originally comes.

  12. Guest

    There I go again, assuming that not kowtowing to Russia is a good thing. Not being a Putinite, you say, is obselete. And do prove you didn’t mean “him”, your Fatherland..

    Yes, your Mr. Putin *can’t* gain from invading us, that’s the point, as you try and talk about a completely separate economic argument to distract things – and what’s this? Yup, more calls for lower tax on the rich.

    That’s you sussed.

    (And “cyber attacks” – oh, more copyright enforcement for rich American companies and crackdowns on the internet. Right)

  13. Edwintheslugcrusher

    You now appear to be putting words in my mouth.

    “Not being a Putinite, you say, is obselete. And do prove you didn’t mean “him”, your Fatherland..”

    Nobody will ever “prove” anything on here, chum. Its a discussion forum. I suggest you look up the definition of “discussion” before replying. You might begin to make some sense. I would also advise you read and try to understand what’s been posted. You might be able to keep up to speed!

  14. Guest

    Ah, so you refuse to even try. My my!

    And I see, I’m not buying your Putinite agenda, as you accuse me of replying to your post without slavishly buying your propaganda, Go home to Moscow.

  15. Robbie

    I have just advised all my neighbours to leave all their doors unlocked because we haven’t had a burglary in our road for over 20 years! Oh despite what the weathe forecast is it won’t be cold tonight!

  16. Edwintheslugcrusher

    What’s happened to Leon Wolfeson? He appears to have morphed into a “guest”.
    Come back Leon.

  17. Guest

    You’re getting the attention I feel you deserve.

  18. billericaydickie

    How many names do you have Leon?

  19. billericaydickie

    He’s bonckers mate, everyone here knows this.

  20. billericaydickie

    Leon, take your medication.

  21. Edwintheslugcrusher

    Alas, Leon, you appear to have had the same cavalier attitude to your version of reality. But don’t worry; I’m sure your medication will soon kick in.

  22. Lamia

    How is Trident ‘ineffective’? Its purpose is as a deterrent. And if you think regimes like North Korea only want nukes in order to achieve parity with countries like the UK, you are delusional. If we didn’t have them, do you think they would pass up on the chance to get them? Really? Seriously?

    Presumably gangsters only often carry weapons in order to achieve parity with the police/army, and not to make it easier threaten unarmed civilians?

  23. Guest

    “All my personalities know Jews are bonkers”

    – Lord Blagger

  24. Guest

    “UR MAD JEW”

    – Lord Blagger.

  25. Guest

    So you’re claiming to have poisoned me with your medication. I see.

    So sorry I live in the version of reality populated with “Humans”.

  26. MoonBeam

    Hypothetical situation: We go to war with a nation we’d actually consider using a nuclear warhead against. We’ve scrapped our nuclear deterrent. Would you be comfortable committing our nation to conventional warfare? Our military is about 90,000… Not sure on reserves but still… There is great loss in any war. The issue is, if its a choice between the people you represent and an aggressor who do you choose? If our cities are being bombed like in World War II and thousands of Britons die on muddy battlefields like Ypres would you rue the day you started your campaign by not renewing Trident?

    So its fine to say that we wont go to war on that scale again, or it wont be Russia or China… but the fact is we really do not know. Look at it this way: When Hitler released Mein Kampf many people could see exactly what was going to happen and fled… yet we did nothing. People KNEW what was going to happen… here I cant say we do- next year? Maybe. 10 years? Hell no. That is why we renew Trident.

    In all honesty I cant even imagine a situation we would have to use a nuclear bomb. But that is not to say there wont be a situation where a party in power may need to use one to protect the lives of its people. It’s just not worth the risk.

  27. CHRIS215

    Can the military give us three scenarios in which our possession of Trident would protect us from disaster?

  28. sarntcrip


  29. sarntcrip


  30. sarntcrip


  31. sarntcrip


  32. MoonBeam

    Ukraine was promised protection if it gave up its nukes. Had they remained Russia likely would not have invaded. Switzerland does not need nukes because of its economy – many foreign states bank with Switzerland. Only a few years ago the Swiss banks absorbed what was left of the assets of the Nazi’s and Hitler. Some one attacks Switzerland you dont know how many countries will get upset over it so its really not worth the risk is it? Why have nukes when people will deal with your enemies for you.

  33. MoonBeam

    Thats why Trident is a submarine which has coverage over half the planet. They are not on the mainland so even if half the country has been annihilated the ultimate purpose of Trident – which is mutually assured destruction – is fulfilled.

  34. Greg Kaye

    At a fundamental level Womack betrays core principles of a genuine green policy and basic common sense in following the idiocy of Shahrar Ali on immigration. Due to this now insane immigration policies and the catastrophic effects that they will have on any conception of the sustainability of the United Kingdom (also within the context of their abject failure to even consider the fundamental problem human overpopulation) the party that they mislead is fundamentally THE LEAST GREEN PARTY of any major political group in England and Wales. UKIP and, yes, both the tories AND labour are certainly FAR GREENER.

    The unavoidably sad fact is that countries with high population densities (such as many in Europe and exemplified by the UK) already have need to import vast amounts of food simply so as to feed their own burgeoning and inflating populations. Much of this food is already imported from a wide range of countries including those from which people are leaving. Many of these countries, especially in locations from Africa to Afghanistan, have exceedingly high birthrates. This is very clearly illustrated on the map of countries by fertility rate presented at: .

    In comparison, the relatively slow natural population growth of European countries remains much more closely in line with the rate of improvement in food production. Never-the-less, the population of the UK is already way in excess of the environmental factor of “overshoot”. See: and

    The UK is already far from being anywhere near a sustainable situation. This in even in a situation in which we use a relatively very small proportion of our agricultural area for the production of fuel. Our sustainability situation will be critical in any conceivable situation in which we may imagine the UK as being beyond its dependency on non-renewable resources. In short, we already have way to many people. Until we are in a situation in which we stop importing food, It makes no sense to import yet more people.

    In comparison rates of population growth in many of the countries that people are leaving are way in excess of rates of improvements in food production techniques.

    It also makes absolutely no environmental sense to take people from countries where per capita resource use is low and allow the import of such people into countries where per capita resource use is high. It makes no sense to import both people and food into the same densely populated areas. People should have support and opportunity in their own countries of origin. Destabilizing and prejudiced regimes that prompt attempts at migration should be opposed. Population concern organisations (such as at should be urgently referenced and supported.

    If anything potential migrants should be informed of the relevant facts regarding the global economic and environmental situation because, every migrant that makes it into countries like the UK, just adds to the problem of the global situation. Problems need to be solved at source. High stands of general education needs to be encouraged with particular attention given to the education and equal empowerment of women across the world, both because these issues are of fundamental importance for human rights as well as because the education and empowerment of woman has been proven to check the spiraling growth of population. Groups that oppose these principles and who act so as to displace populations, themselves, need to be opposed.

    For the related David Attenborough documentary search on: How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth

    Quote: ‘Anyone who believes in indefinite growth in anything physical, on a physically finite planet, is either mad or an economist.’ Kenneth Boulding

    Whether we like it or not there are limits

    I am a passionate green but I can’t stand back and see this wholesale ecological idiocy of this anti-green party. These anti-greens need to either return to practically environmental agendas or leave the party to those that will.

    Why the hell does this woman think she has a place in a group called the “Green Party”?

  35. Andy Grout

    Well said Greg!! .. Population growth across the globe is extremely worrying and adds to the burden on finite resources. The Greens in the UK are not primarily interested in sustainable economics, they are more like Labour´s socialist little sister – a collection of local activists, unemployed idealists, disillusioned ex-Labour supporters, bitter feminists, and some mumbling environmentalists also – but the point is, they are grappling too many social issues which miss the target and the purpose of a Green Party. Simply opposing fracking is not enough! It´s a scratch on the surface of a huge huge problem. … They need to build a credible party, with passionate politicians and capable leaders who develop policies which respond directly to global warming, mis-allocation of resources, pollution, economic scarcity, population increase etc etc. Their first priority should be to define these key sustainability policies and sell them! Then of course they must have positions on the NHS, trident, tax credits for families. Of course! ,,, But first concentrate on “Green” the brand and raising awareness of these environmental issues! Force the other parties to like your ideas and even adopt them, force public opinion to change and be more sensitive to the Green environmental arguments (before social arguments!). … I don´t want to hear a Green Party leader, going on about how she will revolutionise the NHS when she has not experience or credibility on such topics. But I will listen to her talk about how plastic is polluting our oceans; or how Cecil the lion and thousands of other species are on the verge of extinction and what we can really do about it; or how local production will help both the economy and the environment. … And you´re right Greg, accepting half a million refugees into an already overcrowded little island which cannot even provide food for itself without mass importation it not a position for an advocate of a sustainable economy! Perhaps it´s a moral thing to do (that´s a different issue), but shouldn´t a Green Party leader give the sustainable economics argument on current affairs and global issues? Get it heard?! For me that´s her primary responsibility, not jumping on the let the immigration continue band-wagon without a conscientious thought for the environmental, economic or social consequences from a Green perspective.

  36. Greg Kaye

    Even in leftist economics a strong argument might be that we want to help people in, say, Zambia to have the same standard of living that we enjoy here. This just isn’t going to happen when we have to keep these countries dependent on our exports in order that we can buy their food. The so called ‘greens’, ironically, could not support fascist tendencies any more strongly if they tried.

  37. Nicholas Stone

    Do you seriously think we’d have signed up for them if this were the case?

  38. sarntcrip


  39. madasafish

    “Now, more than ever, we need peaceful solutions to conflict.”

    There is one way which worked very well in the past.


    And those who paid it had peace for a while.

    Other than that, this article is as deep and meaningful as a puddle.

Leave a Reply