Nuclear smell in London sky | Latest news The Moscow Post
29 November 2023

Nuclear "smell" in London "sky"

Is Boris Johnson trying on the laurels of a "brave man"?

The Russian Ambassador to the UK, Andrey Kelin, said that the British government cannot unilaterally increase the number of nuclear warheads by 40%. "This is a violation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and many other agreements, in which only a reduction or decrease in the number of nuclear warheads is written", Kelin said. The Russian ambassador believes that in the light of the decisions taken, the British authorities should start negotiations in the field of nuclear disarmament. Additional charges should be placed on strategic submarines on combat duty in the North Atlantic. London's decision is inherently contrary to the recently extended START 3 Treaty, it undermines strategic stability and is not in line with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The cost of rearmament may amount to about $20 billion.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has released an Integrated  review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, including plans to increase the number of warheads from 180 to 260. This decision cannot be called anything other than a provocation.

London considers its nuclear forces "independent", emphasizing that they can be used "independently", provide security and "deter aggression". In fact, the mechanisms and operational plans for the application of this "independent" arsenal is being worked out in coordination with the United States. The decision to increase them should be considered a camouflaged "additive" to the strategic nuclear forces of the United States. The Treaty on their reduction (START-3) was recently extended by Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin.

The Labour Party and the Green Party have both criticised the document. The British newspaper The Independent calls the decision of the British government an unprincipled violation of the obligations under the NPT, according to which nuclear-weapon states have pledged to reduce their nuclear weapons arsenals.

London's decision to increase its nuclear arsenal for a number of reasons should be considered an "addition" to the strategic nuclear potential of the United States, limited by the START-3 Treaty. This "additive" in the best English traditions violates the balance.

First, the issues of technical cooperation between London and Washington in this area deserve attention. Both the heads of the Trident-2 nuclear missiles on the four Royal Navy submarines, and the missiles themselves are not quite "English". Trident II (D-5) missiles with the W76-1 warhead were borrowed from the United States and replaced the American Polaris system. The carriers are "rented" from the United States, they are loaded into the launchers of British strategic missile carriers at the US Navy base in Georgia. Warheads are formally manufactured in the UK itself, but American specialists carry out copyright and warranty supervision, are responsible for their maintenance. Some elements of the warheads are completely American-made. The UK does not have its own repair and test base of missile carriers, they are undergoing maintenance in the United States.

Secondly, we are talking about the long-term "history" of the echeloned cooperation of military nuclear specialists of the United States and Great Britain. In terms of threats to Russia's security, the British nuclear force can be described as a "forward-based strategic nuclear force of the United States." British nuclear submarines are based in Scotland at the Clyde base. One of the four missile carriers is constantly on combat duty, and two more submarines are ready to go to sea.

The UK already uses its Trident II (D5) nuclear warheads of reduced power, which can hit continental targets in Eurasia with high accuracy and short approach time, without leaving home ports or coastal waters. At the same time, the United States itself can remain within the START-3 treaty.

The US has also developed a new version of the W76-1 warhead in service for Trident II (D5) missiles. The modified warhead was designated W76-2. The new-generation Dreadnought missile carriers will have to replace the Vanguard-class nuclear submarines by 2030 and will be unified with the new-generation Columbia-class American missile carriers.

Third, the two nuclear allies in NATO have similar concepts of the use of strategic nuclear forces, which do not exclude a pre-emptive strike. London calls its nuclear doctrine "deliberately unpredictable", in other words, it does not impose any obligations. Namely, nuclear forces can be used for both "pre-emptive" and "retaliatory" strikes. This "unpredictability" in case of conflict, supposedly, should make the enemy "guess" when making a decision.

The question is, what do nuclear weapons give London? First, the withdrawal from the European Union and the modernization of strategic nuclear forces fuels the conceit of British conservatives about the role of London in international affairs. As if the status of membership in the NATO bloc is being raised, the role of an ally "especially close" to the United States is being strengthened.

"Oh, so you're a nuclear power?" This question-exclamation belonged to President Donald Trump and was uttered by him during a conversation with Theresa May, the former British Prime Minister. The world learned about this curiosity from the memoirs of John Bolton, the former national security adviser to Donald Trump. An exclamation that may have prompted London to decide to "modernize" its nuclear arsenal.

Secondly, this decision seems to emphasize the UK's role in the UN Security Council. The report released by the British Prime Minister confirmed that his country "will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear State that has acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons concluded in 1968." There is also a reservation on the right to review this obligation in case that harm comparable to nuclear weapons can be caused by chemical or biological weapons, modern technologies.

Third, London confirms its traditional flagship role in countering the "Russian threat". We should expect new intrigues and planned provocations aimed at the Kremlin from weakening London. The nuclear modernization program announced by Boris Johnson is one of them.

Some Western authors call the current situation the "second nuclear era", while pointing to the degradation of the mechanisms of dialogue that somehow regulated the confrontation of the nuclear powers during the Cold War. The nuclear nonproliferation regime has noticeably weakened, including India and Pakistan, as well as the DPRK. Advances in precision strike technologies and possible attacks in cyberspace complicate control measures (even if there is a contractual basis), lower the former psychological barrier of "mutual assured destruction", and increase the risk of conflict.

A few dozen modern nuclear weapons added to the UK's arsenal do not increase its security, do not change the overall unstable strategic picture. London is choosing to further sway the situation, rather than using its influence as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in the interests of disarmament, verification and stability.

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