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This misplaced loyalty to an outdated and ineffective weapons system is yet further evidence of the politics-as-usual approach of the traditional Westminster parties.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And yet, the United Kingdom retains Trident, despite it being outdated and ineffective.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