UK, European nuclear deterrence

Looking at defence debates in the UK is a strange experience. They're very insular, very much charmed by an idea of exceptionality. Approaches perfectly acceptable to almost all other countries are seemingly unacceptable if not unthinkable to those interested in UK defence (and I suppose almost everybody in the UK is actually disinterested in defence affairs, so the debates are even more insular).

One recurring topic are the expenses of the nuclear deterrence. "Trident" had been a huge topic back in the 80's already.
The expectations for the reliability of a national second nuclear strike capability are extremely high; the only benchmark for this seems to be the U.S.' capabilities. Such ambitions lead to a tunnel vision on the most expensive approach; super-sophisticated small series run nuclear submarines with long range ballistic missiles tipped with thermonuclear warheads.

Isn't it strange how people reliably turn all-mad thinking abut the perfectly imaginary threat of a single crude nuclear bomb in hands of terrorists, but when it comes to a state's nuclear armament one must not think less than half a dozen leagues higher?

I suppose a few dozen universal nuclear warheads of variable and modest yield (preferably uranium-based* with high fusion share**) that fit into ship- and air-launched cruise missiles, torpedoes, free fall bombs, containers, Cessnas, car trunks, ATACMS and would be stored together with hundreds of decoys in lead-lined containers in military bases, warships and civilian locked-up locations*** would be deterrence enough. Real and decoy warhead containers could have covered and sealed serial numbers.
One could not threaten Siberia's annihilation with it, but St. Petersburg's for sure.

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My position on nukes
I myself are not in favour of nuclear disarmament in Europe before the Americans and Russians get rid of their nuclear munitions as well. My preferred course of action would be to have all nuclear powers limited to at most a hundred warheads of at most 100 kt yield each in the 2020's, and in the 2030's a step back towards "we can have nukes again within weeks" and later "...within months".

For the time being, it's useful to have nuclear deterrence not only for NATO, but also for the EU - in part because nobody can tell whether we'll be allied with or hostile to the Americans in 20 or 30 years. And I'm fine with France having nuclear warheads as a second European country, because the UK is European on paper only.
National control over nuclear warheads is NPT-compliant and more deterring than multinational (consensus- or majority-requiring) control. "EU nukes" are thus no option.
The UK and France have nuclear arms expenditures for the 'nuclear umbrella', which means their conventional military strength contribution towards collective defence can be relatively small (it's too bad both waste resources on interventionism, though).


*: Less hazardous in production and accidents than plutonium.
**: Less fallout per kt TNT equivalent.
***: Mining plants, basements of town police stations etc.

1 comment:

  1. Non-aligned perspective
    The idea of the treaty NPT is very commendable ‘…to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament.’
    If we consider that a people have the inalienable rights to exist, to coexist peacefully with its neighbors and the rest of the world, it also has a right of self defense, in case of external (or internal) aggression.
    Diplomatic hypocrisy is allowing oneself to behave in a fashion that we would considered outrageous if others behaved that same exact way.
    So, is NPT a hypocritical Treaty? A paper that says that some can possess the most violent weapon that mankind has created and others, for some dubious reasons, cannot?
    Knowing the hypocritical and treacherous natures that human can exhibit at time, it would be very optimistic and naïve to believe in total nuclear disarmament (= 0 nuke on the planet), some would even argue: what do we do if some more advanced aliens arrive on our planet, we would have no weapons to defend ourselves? Well, that is a hypothetical question.
    National defense, for example, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, UK, USA, … does not need to exceed 100 nuclear warheads and no single warhead should be able to completely destroy the biggest city on earth (that would define the maximum yield of a single warhead), since the contamination area is much wider. So the limit of 100 warheads (for the biggest nations) would be a good step to serving the purpose of this Treaty. Smaller nations cannot justify the need for 100 warheads as it never happened in the history of mankind that a single nation has been attacked by a coalition of 100 other nations fully armed to the teeth.

    Israel considers that a policy of deliberate ambiguity, concerning its nuclear program, and not being part of the NPT, serves better its interests. They have the right to believe so and USA is supporting them in doing so.
    Others might consider the policy of deliberate duplicity has serving better their national interests. Some countries could easily switch to that mode (North Korea, Iran, South Africa…). Such a policy would consist in signing and ratifying the NPT and still having a nuclear defense capability (usually mainly unknown to even its own politicians) for the purpose of ‘defense only’ in the face of a worst case scenario of being totally destroyed, humiliated and sent back to the stone age. That policy of deliberate diplomatic duplicity would actually be a ‘just defense policy’, since the program is unknown to politicians (or maybe just a few ‘wise’ and scientists) so that it cannot be used as a bullying argument in international relations (as sometimes India, Pakistan, Russia US, have brandished the threat of
    use of nuclear weapons in the past).

    Countries that have a relatively peaceful and non expansionist policy, are often a pray to more powerful, aggressive and bullying politicians. History has shown that they face quasi total destruction (of infrastructures and history), extermination (genocide), mass deportation (exodus), torture, rape, slavery… and that the farce of an International Criminal Court cannot adequately handle or is totally incompetent to even start a case (e.g. Hague Invasion Act…).
    Some still see salvation in the sclerosed UN with its UNSC power of veto given by the Heaven to the winners of World War II. As far as I know that war is over and the world has changed a lot since then. Injustice cannot lead to a healthy lasting peace when there are some that feel frustrated about the privileges that are given to some but not to others. The principal by which ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights…’ is therefore not respected.