Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition to renewing Trident is well-known. Andrew O’Neil tried to make a big issue out of it, but – being naturally anti-labour – failed to understand that, above all else, Jeremy Corbyn is a democrat and a has a great respect for of the democratic process (something of which the Neo-Tories could never be accused!). As such he will abide by the party’s decision to back replacing the Trident system. So let’s look at what this means.
What is Trident?
The nuclear missiles on our Vanguard-class submarines which are constantly on patrol; each carries eight missiles and 40 warheads. But they can carry more. Each missile can fire at a variety of targets with a range of 7,500 miles. Each warhead is believed to be eight times as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
How much will replacing Trident cost?
Replacing the nuclear submarines is expected to cost £31 billion, with another £10 billion put aside to cover extra costs or overspending. So far the government has allocated or spent around £4.8 billion of its budget, just for new submarines.
Extending the life of the current Trident missiles into the early 2060s will cost around £250 million.
Keeping the current Trident submarines in operation until 2028, four years longer than planned, is also expected to cost between £1.2 and £1.4 billion.
Any other costs from a delay in introducing Trident will come out of the existing budget for its running costs.
What is the cost of running Trident day to day?
The Ministry of Defence budget for 2016/17 was a planned £35 billion, increasing every year to 2020/21 when it is estimated to be almost £40 billion.
The annual operating costs of Trident are expected to be around 5% to 6% of this every year, or around £2 billion.
Trident is Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent
What is a deterrent?
According to the Oxford Dictionary a deterrent is:
A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.
As in ‘cameras are a major deterrent to crime’
A nuclear weapon or weapons system regarded as deterring an enemy from attack.
‘Britain’s nuclear deterrent’
Let’s examine that in more detail – ‘deterring an enemy from attack’.
This implies that we are facing an enemy that
a) may be willing to attack us and
b) won’t do so because they know (or believe) that we would respond by using nuclear weapons against them.
This raises an important question.
Against whom do we foresee needing to use nuclear weapons – or threatening to use them?
During the cold war it was clear. The USSR was seen as having expansionist plans and was, itself, a nuclear-armed state that may have been tempted to attack us; with conventional or nuclear armaments.
Today it is far less clear. Although there are tensions with Russia (unless you happen to be Donald Trump or one of his cronies) the probability of them wishing to attack us is extremely remote.
What dangers do we face? The obvious of these, as witnessed so tragically, is terrorism. Would our ‘nuclear deterrent’ do anything to deter terrorist attacks? Highly unlikely, it hasn’t done so far. How could it?
Where would we send our missiles? Who would we attack with them to defend ourselves? Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iraq are among the countries accused of feeding the jihadi terrorist appetite. Could we really send missiles to kill tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of people in those countries to deter further attacks? No. Not only would that make us terrorists it would encourage, rather than deter, further strikes against us.
North Korea has nuclear weapons. But why would Britain be a target of North Korea? Perhaps because we have nuclear weapons that they wish to neutralise? Can you think of any other reasons?
Do you think that Pakistan would turn its nuclear capability on us? Yes, if the extremists toko control of the country – but then they would not be deterred by a threatened retaliation anyway.
Trident is a vanity project
Britain wants to still be seen to be ‘one of the big boys’. So we will waste all that money on a white elephant. We have nobody against whom we would use it – and everybody else knows that.
But what is the real cost, to this country, of Trident? Then defence secretary, Michael Fallon, refused to rule out a cut to the Royal Marines amid reports that the armed forces are struggling to meet the costs of new ships and jets.
The elite force is to be reduced in size and capability as the Royal Navy struggles financially, according to a report in the Times, which said the Ministry of Defence was facing plugging a £1bn hole each year for the next decade.
The MoD, which said it could not verify the accuracy of the report, has struggled to maintain a credible military force in the face of Treasury cuts that have seen the army, navy and air force shredded. It has also been squeezed by huge budget miscalculations over the cost of the Trident nuclear programme, the purchase of the F-35 fighter from the US and two new aircraft carriers.
So to maintain our position as a nuclear power we are spending a lot of money on something that does nothing to protect the country – while imposing savage cut-backs on the very elements that we really need for our defence.
Never mind, the Conservative Government is planning on plugging some of the gaps with ‘weekend soldiers’ from the Territorial Army.