Thursday, 24 September 2009

Trident - how will the French and Germans react?

The French, you ask? Yes, I say. Gordon Brown's pledge to put Britain's Trident missiles on the negotiating table at the UN is all very well but domestically cancelling one submarine saves relatively little money in a multi-billion budget (it was part of the original consideration in 2006). Internationally it matters not a jot to the Russians or the Chinese, or the Iranians come to think of it.

Britain's real brinkmanship in this game of nuclear disrobement is with the French. When Alec Douglas Hume approved Britain's development of the H-bomb after WWII he recognised it wasn't for its deterrent capacity that he gave the go ahead. He approved it simply "to put us above the salt at the top table".

Without nuclear weapons Britain's seat as a permanent member of the UN Security council along with France, Russia, the US and China would be in question.

Britain can't start disarming with serious intent - and there is no word on the number of warheads there will be on the remaining submarines - without that being matched not by an old Cold War enemy but by an ally, France.

Both countries have reduced the number of warheads they target at (where?) in the last decade but both still posture as nuclear powers because of the place it gives them on the global stage. Morality aside, tinkering with the number of nuclear weapons begins to unpick the diplomatic make up of the Security Council, which is due a big re-think anyway.

The wider European picture involves Germany as well as France and an eventual EU seat on the Security Council. But then the idea of David Cameron or for that matter any Labour PM, giving up the UK seat is laughable.

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