Why in the world do we need Trident?

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By John S Jappy

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at least one British nuclear submarine lies concealed below the polar ice cap, armed with nuclear warheads. The arsenal of the Trident fleet is equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Ask any senior politician in either the Labour or Tory Parties the simple question: “At whom are the nuclear missiles on trident submarines pointing?”  After the obvious discomfort of being asked the question, you will get a sort of reply on the lines that they can’t answer the question, for reasons of national security.

By John S Jappy

24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at least one British nuclear submarine lies concealed below the polar ice cap, armed with nuclear warheads. The arsenal of the Trident fleet is equivalent to 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Ask any senior politician in either the Labour or Tory Parties the simple question: “At whom are the nuclear missiles on trident submarines pointing?”  After the obvious discomfort of being asked the question, you will get a sort of reply on the lines that they can’t answer the question, for reasons of national security.

Who does know?  Having spent a day with a Commander of a nuclear submarine, it emerged that he didn’t know (whilst assuming of course that the targets lay within the Soviet Union).  With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the old Soviet empire, where may we ask do they now target?   

For the first clue, we need to look back at the original policy of the so-called “nuclear deterrence”.  Each of the adversaries had each others cities set as the targets, with each side saying “you hit our cities and we’ll obliterate yours”.  Extreme accuracy was not sought, as whether a missile landed on the east side of Moscow or London the cities would be destroyed.  

However, this deterrence theory was gradually replaced by a new doctrine of being able to destroy the enemies missiles, whilst leaving their own intact, which left the door open for the simple assumption that whoever fired first would win.  

It was in this new climate that Trident was created (claimed to be able to hit the target within 90 metres).  The submarines were built at the Vickers Yard in Barrow-in Furness, the nuclear reactors tested at HMS Vulcan, next door to the Dounreay Fast Breeder Reactor, but the nuclear missiles themselves were manufactured by Lockhead in the USA, each missile having its multi-targets built into it during its construction.  This destroys the myth of the “independent nuclear deterrent” as there is no way that these weapons could ever be used without the full co-operation of the USA.

It is extremely doubtful whether in the hectic Cold War years when the policy was to keep one step ahead of the enemy, it was ever remotely considered that one day these targets would become obsolete.  Even though the Cold War ended in 1991, at this moment in time one or more Trident submarines are waiting silently beneath the polar ice-cap for the signal “rise and fire”, their targets being the empty and rusting former Soviet silos.  

Ukraine, which once contained a number of these targets is now an independent nation, one of its first acts on its way to independence was to declare itself “a nuclear weapons free zone”.  Maintaining Trident at sea costs the British taxpayer £2.5 billion a year, for a weapon which can only be described in one word “insanity”.

Now for a second question for our senior politicians: “What happened to all our other nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War?”  (Weapons said to be capable of killing everyone in Europe ten times over).  After some hesitation they will venture the answer “of course they have all been destroyed”.    

The truth is that these weapons were carefully dismantled and are being kept in a secret location, as the crow flies a mere 60 miles from Glasgow (not at Faslane).  The task was performed with military precision and completed one day ahead of schedule, on 30 March 1992.  

So, if these weapons still exist, how do we need a new generation of weapons of mass destruction, viz Trident II, considering that any nuclear threat to this country disappeared 20 years ago?  

There are various reasons put forward by Labour and Tory politicians why we must have Trident II, none of which survive scrutiny.  One such typical answer “We need these weapons to ensure a seat at the top table.”  The truth is that the members of the Security Council were appointed before anyone had nuclear weapons, not even the USA.  

Another political response: “What if Iran or North Korea obtain a nuclear weapon?”  If for some strange reason we were the chosen target how could they ever propel such a missile as far as the UK?  Neither of these countries could be remotely considered a threat to the UK.  They have real enemies closer at hand.

Firstly Iran.  Israel, a nuclear armed state and armed to the teeth with modern American weapons, is ready to respond to any possible attack, and we can never rule out a pre-emptive strike at any time by Israel.  The USA has also at this moment in time 150 nuclear bombers standing ready to be loaded for take off in 20 minutes in 5 European countries;  3 bases in Germany, 2 bases in Italy, and one each in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.  

As for North Korea every action by this backward Communist nation is monitored by the USA, both by satellite and a well armed fleet all around its coasts, whilst South Korea is armed with the most sophisticated American weapons.

Trident is an obsolete relic of the Cold War era and has no place in the world today.  The political illusion of having security by possessing powerful weapons dates back to our colonial past.  Sadly this “Rule Britannia” mentality still lingers on today.

When will Westminster accept the fact that instead of being a world power, we are a small semi-bankrupt island off the coast of Europe?  However, we can take some comfort ourselves in the knowledge that an independent Scotland will have no nuclear weapons.

Our armed forces will never be called upon to fight illegal foreign wars.  They will instead take their place in the world as a source of providing humanitarian aid wherever needed.