'DUBIOUS DETERRENT'

Submarines with unarmed missiles are not a credible deterrent to any nuclear threat – and potential aggressors know it

The Times – 19 September 2013

We feel moved to agree with Baroness Falkner of Margravine, the co-chair of the Liberal Democrat backbench international affairs committee, that a UK nuclear posture based on deploying submarines with unarmed missiles does not constitute a credible deterrent capability.

The UK’s current posture of continuous at-sea deterrence means that it is ready to respond instantly to any nuclear threat, and any potential aggressor knows this to be the case. Unarmed missiles clearly do not provide such deterrence.

The Liberal Democrat policy endorsed at their party conference seems to assume that the UK would be given enough advance notice of a crisis to bring its warheads out of storage, while its enemies waited. Then, in the middle of an international crisis, the UK would put nuclear armed missiles on its submarines, in full view of whichever adversary we were facing, a move which would surely be seen as a dangerous escalation and which could provoke a pre-emptive strike against us. This is not nuclear deterrence, but a reckless gamble with the UK’s national security driven by a Lib Dem desire to scupper Trident at any cost.

If the UK is serious about nuclear deterrence, it must do it properly, and if the Lib Dems want a policy of unilateral disarmament, they should come out and say so rather than hiding behind various hare-brained schemes for a part-time deterrent, which in reality is no deterrent at all.


LORD ROBERTSON OF PORT ELLEN, former Secretary of State for Defence and Secretary-General of Nato
LORD HUTTON OF FURNESS, former Secretary of State for Defence
DR LIAM FOX MP, former Secretary of State for Defence
ADMIRAL THE LORD BOYCE, former Chief of Defence Staff
GENERAL SIR MICHAEL JACKSON, former Chief of the General Staff
BERNARD JENKIN MP
JOHN WOODCOCK MP
LORD MOONIE, Former Defence Minister
ADMIRAL THE LORD WEST OF SPITHEAD, former First Sea Lord and Home Office Security Minister
JULIAN LEWIS MP
PROFESSOR SIR DAVID OMAND, former Permanent Under Secretary at the Home Office
SIR KEVIN TEBBIT, former Permanent Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence
SIR KEITH O’NIONS, Former Chief Scientific Advisor, Ministry of Defence
PROFESSOR PAUL CORNISH, Strategy and Security Institute, University of Exeter
DR DAVID FISHER, Department of War Studies, King’s College London
COMMODORE TIM HARE RN, Former Director Nuclear Policy MOD 1999-2002