With Russia and the US having signed the START treaty to reduce their atomic arsenals, British politicians are questioning the renewal of the UK's own nuclear shield – the submarine-based nuclear deterrent “Trident”.
Political analysts say that the more emphasis Presidents Medvedev and Obama generate on nuclear disarmament, the more inappropriate the decision to renew Trident will be.
“The START treaty seems to me to indicate that the wind is in the sails of those of us that want to get rid of nuclear weapons. This massive reduction has got to be a good step forward,” believes Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn. “And if we are to play a serious part in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, then the very least we can do is say that we are canceling the new Trident missile system as our contribution towards a more secure and safer world.”
Replacing the submarines and developing a new missile system would cost nearly 110 billion dollars, something the UK can ill afford in times of financial hardship. It would also lock the country into at least three decades of supporting a full-time at sea deterrent, which contradicts the disarmament efforts championed by President Obama.
Yet with a general election fast approaching, both the main political parties are in favor of renewing Trident, as an independent nuclear deterrent in an uncertain world.
“Are we really happy to say we would give up our nuclear deterrent when we don’t know what’s going to happen with Iran, we can’t be certain of the future in China, or what our world will look like?” the Conservative Party leader David Cameron said before answering himself, “I say we should always have the protection of our independent nuclear deterrent.”
Britain’s third party, the Liberal Democrats, say they would not replace Trident. Labour insists they will not even consider the pros and cons, but analysts say that if it suited their financial interests, politicians would not hesitate to use the START treaty as an excuse to consign Trident to the scrap heap.
“If a British government decides that it simply cannot afford Trident for financial reasons – that it’s a choice between, for example, Trident, the war in Afghanistan, aircraft carriers, something has to give, and it decides for financial reasons Trident has to be given up, I think this treaty will give Britain an excellent additional excuse for doing so, or reason for doing so,” believes Anatol Lieven from the New America foundation.
Just before parliament was dissolved to make way for the General Election in May, the Defence Secretary confirmed a vote on Trident would follow.