Response to the Trident Commission Concluding Report

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The Commission’s concluding report, published on 1 July 2014, is intended to inform a more considered debate over Britain’s nuclear weapon policy focused on national security, mindful of the politics and the strategic and diplomatic context. This is a direct response to the report and represents the views of the author. BASIC publishes it here as part of an ongoing discussion.


Response to the Trident Commission Report
Dr. Nick Ritchie
University of York
July 2014

[The following is an excerpt - read the full text here]

The report makes a useful contribution to UK debate on the future of Trident and international debate on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. It sets out a number of progressive recommendations that go beyond the nuclear conservatism that typifies formal government reports. These include:

  • Introduce discussion of a multilateral no-first use agreement into NWS dialogue in the ‘P5 process’ in order to reinforce a multilateral no-first use international norm.
     
  • Further reduce nuclear holdings by revisiting the ‘Moscow criterion’.
     
  • Publish a technical assessment of life extension options in advance of the 2016 Main Gate decision
    .
  • Undertake a detailed study of further ‘steps down the nuclear ladder’ in preparation for multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations, including:
    -Studies ‘into the conditions that would facilitate a safe move to threshold status and its associated technologies’. 
    -Possible steps under current political conditions, i.e. ‘Are there less rosy possibilities that could enable us to move further down the disarmament ladder without compromising our security?’ 
    -Further transparency and verification modalities and treaty-based commitments to control and reduce stocks of fissile material and their means of production.
     
  • Extensive and open consultation with the US on the implications for US-UK relations of further UK nuclear force reductions and disarmament.
     
  • Further restrict declaratory policy on use of nuclear weapons in response to a CBW attack and adopt a ‘sole purpose’ policy.
     
  • Consider voluntarily taking part in transparency and inspection measures associated with the New START process, whilst not becoming a formal party to the Treaty.
     
  • Further debate on the relationship between a like-for-like replacement of the current Trident system and the UK’s capacity to act as a ‘strong contributor to the momentum towards the global reduction of nuclear weapon holdings’ in support of the credibility of the NPT.

I urge the Commissioners to explore in further detail how these recommendations could be carried forward...

...In sum, this paper is a response to the Commission’s report. I did not expect the Commission to recommend relinquishing nuclear weapons now, or in the near future. But I did hope that the Commission would open up debate by bringing the inherent contradictions at the heart of Britain’s retention of a nuclear arsenal to the fore, to shine a light on some of the assumptions upon which our nuclear policies and practices are based and to interrogate their validity. I urge the Commission to promote debate in this vein by further developing and communicating its thinking as a Commission or as individual Commissioners drawing on the three years of work behind the final report.


[The above is an excerpt - read the full text here]

 

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About the author(s)...
  • Dr. Nick Ritchie Dr. Nick Ritchie is a Lecturer at the University of York. .
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