'A SENSIBLE NUCLEAR INSURANCE POLICY'
Independent – 16 July 1992
At the height of the second Cold War with the Communist bloc, Daniel Plesch (letter, 9 July) was a full-time worker for CND, minimising the Soviet threat, denigrating the British deterrent, and seeking to obstruct our deployment of cruise missiles. His prescriptions then would have strengthened the Kremlin hardliners, instead of undermining their stance – as NATO predicted.
Now, as Director of BASIC – a group backed by prominent unilateralists – he shows how little he has learnt. Claiming that we are "over-armed against any combination of threats", he ignores the significant reductions envisaged in Options for Change, the Government's defence White Paper. With no immediate threat in view, his stance parallels the folly of the Twenties, when a "Ten Year No-War rule" was adopted, based on predictions rather than possibilities, with crippling effects on our armed forces by the time of Hitler's rise.
Stephen Pullinger likewise seeks to challenge (9 July) the ability of Trident to carry a larger warhead total than Polaris as part of a "nuclear arms race". The truth is more mundane: Trident will have to provide a minimum deterrent for the next three decades. It will therefore need the potential to carry enough warheads to fulfil this role at the end of that long period, not just the beginning.
If it lacks the flexibility to defeat developments in counter-measures over the next 30 years, we shall face a repeat of the Chevaline experience. this added 60 percent to the cost of the initial Polaris system when it was found, within six years of deployment, to be carrying too few warheads to defeat anti-ballistic missile developments.
Having up to 128 warheads at sea in a single submarine at any one time is hardly engaging in an arms race with the former Soviet Union, which may have succeeded in reducing its total to 3,000 by the year 2003. It is, instead, a sensible nuclear insurance policy of the sort repeatedly endorsed by the British people in opinion polls and general elections.
Dr JULIAN LEWIS
Conservative Research Department