|Newspaper report of Britain's successful nuclear test|
60 years later our nuclear weapons are now routinely referred to as a ‘deterrent’. And perhaps they did deter the Soviet Union to some degree during the Cold War. But the primary reason Britain secured nuclear weapons was to ensure that Bevin and his successors stood alongside America at the pinnacle of global diplomatic power during the polarised Blue versus Red era that mercifully came to an end in 1991.
Today’s security challenges are rather different, but it helps to cast our minds back to the original decision to become a nuclear weapons state when making the case for a new generation of weapons. Does Trident help maintain our position as an important player in the world’s affairs? I’m not so sure that it does. Our place at the top table is more likely to be secured by enhancing our overworked conventional military capabilities that bolster our diplomacy, rather than sending a boatload of Armageddon off for months of hiding in the depths of the oceans. Either way, the debate about the future of our nuclear weapons needs to be conducted with greater honesty, and we must be clear as to whether Trident’s replacement (in whatever form) passes the Bevin test: is it really a game changer for Britain’s power and influence?
First published by Platform 10 on October 14th, 2012