In an uncertain world, unilateral disarmament would be folly

In an uncertain world, unilateral disarmament would be folly





Thursday November 30, 2006,,329648580-103683,00.html


Dr Kate Hudson (We're not simpletons. Trident will breach the nuclear treaty, Response, November 29) argues that any UK decision to renew its strategic nuclear deterrent will constitute a breach of the 1968 non-proliferation treaty. Article VI of the NPT, while stating that signatories should undertake to pursue "negotiations ... on effective measures" (designed to halt the nuclear arms race and enable nuclear powers to disarm), does not commit individual nations to make unilateral reductions. The UK government's stated policy is to pursue a dual-track policy of global disarmament, while maintaining a minimum independent deterrent. It is likely that maintaining a minimum deterrent will be the policy recommendation that the government will put forward in the white paper, and perhaps it will be this policy which parliament will discuss and vote upon (it should be noted that the government has never promised a full and open public debate).

The OED defines the terms to proliferate and proliferation as " ... to grow by multiplication of elementary parts ... The formation or development of cells by budding or division". The terms multiplication, budding and division all imply an increase in numbers. The UK currently holds 1% of the world's nuclear warheads, and has reduced its nuclear force levels by 70% since the end of the cold war. Furthermore, there is every chance in the government's deliberations over renewing the deterrent that, given the changed security context to which Dr Hudson alludes, the government may well look to reduce its minimum deterrent further still, thereby making more of a unilateral move towards disarmament than the letter of article VI requires.

The NPT drives signatory governments to work towards developing measures for negotiation. While indeed it is vital that such measures are developed and established if the international community is to ever to be able to work together to reduce nuclear weapons levels, such a framework does not yet exist and it would be premature for the UK to relinquish its deterrent unilaterally while such a framework remains absent.

Dr Lee Willett
Royal United Services Institute

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