British Nuclear Forces: The Decision that Dares not Speak its Name

There are tough foreign policy choices ahead for the new British Government, to be elected this month. The dilemma over Europe is well known; almost unnoticed, especially in campaigning for votes, is the potentially explosive and expensive issue of replacing or updating the country’s nuclear deterrent. Ironically one of the first negotiations for new ministers will be the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, also beginning this month.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 May 2005 5 minute READ

Christopher Bellamy

Professor of Military Science and Doctrine, Cranfield University

The next British government will have to take a critically important military and foreign policy decision, which has been almost entirely absent from the public debate. In the next five years a choice will have to be made on whether and how to replace the strategic nuclear ‘deterrent’ in a world where deterrence may not work.

The 2003 Defence White Paper said that such a decision was not needed in this parliament, but was ‘likely to be required’ in the next. Given the Labour Party’s long-standing divided views on nuclear weapons, and the changed strategic world order, this is going to be a difficult choice. It is certainly not something the government wants raised in the run-up to an election.

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