Military top brass are now lending their weight to the anti-Trident debate. In today’s Times, four senior figures argue forcefully that Britain’s nuclear weapons should be included in the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review. A key concern is the defence budget. Going ahead with Trident, they say, will have long-term consequences for the military, when there is already ‘an estimated hole in the defence equipment budget of some £35 billion’.
Crucially, the generals recognise that things have changed since the decision to replace Trident in 2007, not least the Obama initiatives and the recent US-Russia nuclear reductions. (If only Brown and Cameron had noticed too). They point to the growing international consensus against nuclear weapons and the identification of disarmament as a means of achieving greater security. A world without nuclear weapons, they say, ‘would undoubtedly be a safer place, and while it remains a distant and challenging goal, opportunities to bring it closer should be given thorough consideration by any government’.
They conclude with a plea for a full and open debate on Trident replacement as part of a Strategic Defence Review, from which no alternatives are excluded, and in which military voices are heard.
No doubt some nuclear apologists will ague that generals are bound to say this because of historic rivalry between the army and the navy, where Trident falls on the navy side. Frankly that is a pathetic excuse of an attack on a totally serious argument. The issue is what actually provides for Britain’s security and this must not be diminished.