New Forest East



Daily Telegraph – 7 August 2006

Israeli defence ministers will, no doubt, make their own assessment of the wisdom of Sir Alistair Horne's recommendation (Comment, August 4) that they abandon whatever nuclear weapons they have at a time when the Iranian regime which wishes to obliterate their country seems determined to acquire its own.

However, the asides about Britain's strategic deterrent should not go unchallenged [even when made by such a distinguished historian of international affairs]. The argument that 'in today's world, so radically altered since the Cold War, one begins to query the value overall of the "nuclear deterrent", outside of America', overlooks the fact that - far from being 'exorbitant' - the existing Trident fleet costs a tiny fraction of our defence budget [to maintain: not many 'badly needed infantry battalions and RAF squadrons' being sacrificed there.]

By contrast, any successor system would not enter service before the early 2020s and would then have to function for a further three decades. Not even Sir Alistair can give us any assurance that the world situation which has changed so much in the past 15 years won't change much more [and in equally unpredictable directions] in the next 50.

Many, if not most, of the wars of the 20th century broke out with hardly any warning or with no warning at all. It makes no more sense to abandon our ability to threaten to inflict unacceptable retaliation upon any future aggressor armed with weapons of mass destruction than it would to have dismantled the Royal Navy, the Army or the RAF in 1933 - as Labour's then leader, George Lansbury, notoriously recommended.

Yours faithfully,

Shadow Defence Minister
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

[NOTE: The words in square brackets were not included in the published version.]