World leaders have been paying special attention to the problem of nuclear weapons recently. British Prime Minister Tony Blair could not resist the temptation of saying something on the matter either. Blair put forward a plan to reform the nuclear constituent of British Armed Forces. The plan has caused a controversy in the British parliament.
The government of Great Britain suggested the Parliament should seriously modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal. One should look into the matter of the current state of affairs in the British Army to be able to understand the essence of the modernization. British missiles are traditionally based on submarines, of which there are currently only four in Great Britain. However, the United Kingdom possesses the arsenal of 200 nukes, which is the smallest reserve of nuclear warheads among all other nuclear powers, with the exception for Israel due to its nuclear secrecy.
Blair offers to cut the number of nukes to about 160 and keep only three subs. On the other hand, the entire nuclear arsenal of Great Britain should be seriously modernized. These activities will cost British tax-payers about 20 billion pounds sterling. The price will most likely be extended further on with extra costs and secret expenditure.
Such secret changes need to be explained from the strategic point of view. The explanation, which the British government offered to the general public, does not sound very convincing. British nuclear submarines can hardly ever make Pakistani terrorists or young British Muslims change their plans to conduct another terrorist act in London, for example. If Iran eventually develops an A-bomb and decides to declare war against the USA, Britain will not be able to stop the country with the help of its 160 nukes. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il will never think about the brave British submarines if he decides to drop an A-bomb on either South Korea or Japan.
It goes without saying that Tony Blair is unwilling to bid farewell to his office. The ambitious program to modernize the national nuclear arsenal is more of an attempt to attract the rightist voters. Blair’s companions from the Labour Party – a traditional adversary of nuclear weapons – gave up Mr. Blair’s activities as bad job long ago.
The current debate in Great Britain resembles old-time arguments about the main point and the necessity of nuclear arms. Some officials say that nuclear arms demonstrate the greatness of a country. Others claim that there are more important things in the world to think of, for example AIDS epidemics or the exploration of Mars. Twenty billion pounds spent on those problems would glorify Great Britain at a much greater extent, they say.
It is widely known that the British troops in Iraq and especially in Afghanistan suffer from the lack of first priority goods. It would be a lot more important for London to modernize its land troops and air force or to invest in the development of intelligence technologies. The modernization of Britain’s nuclear arsenal will take a couple of decades.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov