'NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT'

The Times – 15 April 1989

Professor Rotblat argues (April 12) that since we favour a – probably unverifiable – convention banning chemical weapons, we should also support a similar ban on all nuclear weapons.

He fails to appreciate that the only reason we are in a position to view with equanimity such a CW ban is the knowledge that we would still possess the ability to deter a would-be CW aggressor by our ability to threaten nuclear retaliation. A nuclear-disarmed Britain, by contrast, would face the double threat of chemical and nuclear attack.

As for the further claim that, without British nuclear disarmament, "we shall not be able to prevent [nuclear proliferation] for much longer", this betrays an exaggerated view of Britain's influence on the military policies of other states. Whether or not they acquire nuclear or other mass-destruction weapons will depend not on our force of example, but on their own hard-headed perceptions of their own strategic interests.

I have often asked unilateralists like Professor Rotblat actually to name one specific nuclear or near-nuclear country which would abandon or renounce such weapons if we were to do so. France? Russia? the USA? Israel? India? South Africa? Or even Argentina? The answer has always been a deafening silence.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS
The Athenaeum
London SW1