'LABOUR'S STANCE ON NUCLEAR ARMS'
The Times – 8 June 1988
Has Neil Kinnock--principal speaker at the CND's 1983 Hyde Park rally – really moved away from nuclear unilateralism for Britain as your Correspondent, Philip Webster, suggests (report, June 6)? Neither past nor current pronouncements support this interpretation.
In March 1987, with an election looming, Kinnock conceded that an incoming Labour Government would not force the Americans to remove cruise missiles whilst negotiations for the simultaneous scrapping of Soviet SS-20s were still under way. Yet, this was not a retreat from Labour's commitment to dispose of cruise: it soon emerged that, if no INF deal were reached, the missiles would nevertheless be expelled.
Despite attempts to obscure the fact, there is a logical incompatibility between multilateralism and unilateralism. Supporters of both views hope that, by giving up certain weapons, concessions can be secured from potential opponents, but only the unilateralist will go ahead with disarmament, whether or not such a response is guaranteed.
Without that guarantee, the multilateralist will insist on keeping his weapons. the unilateralist, by contrast, does not cease to be a unilateralist if he manages to get something in return for disarming. the question is whether what he hopes to get is so important to him that he will not disarm without it.
Consequently, to establish if Kinnock is really shifting from unilateralism rather than simply camouflaging it, we need to ask him this:
"Granted that you hope to gain some Soviet nuclear reductions if Britain gives up its deterrent, are you now saying that in the absence of adequate Soviet reductions we should keep our nuclear weapons? Or should we give them up anyway?"
A close look at his June 5 BBC interview strongly suggests the latter:
"We are committed to decommissioning, and that remains the position. What we get in return for that decommissioning is a bonus for Britain and a bonus for the world."
Asked if "an incoming Labour government ... would get rid of Trident or would it keep it?", Kinnock replied:
"We want to get rid of Trident ... it is already clear that bilateral reciprocal missile-for-missile reductions between any part of the West and the Soviet Union has been on for some time."
He went on to refer to long-standing Soviet offers to scrap missile submarines on a one-to-one basis with the British Polaris fleet.
Thus, Labour would abandon the entire British deterrent in return for a two or three per cent. diminution in Soviet strategic nuclear firepower. This is not, as he suggests, the giving up of "something for something", but the abandonment of everything in return for anything.
If Mr Kinnock is setting the price for scrapping nuclear weapons so low, we may be sure that his intention is to abandon them, whether or not some derisory Soviet concession is obtained.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS
Policy Research Associates