On Tuesday July 1 BASIC publishes the final report from the Trident Commission, co-chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Sir Menzies Campbell MP and Lord Browne of Ladyton. The primary purpose of this report is to contribute to an informed and deeper debate on Trident renewal that focuses on national security in its widest sense. We are experiencing rapid strategic change in this century and the relevance of our major defence investments to tomorrow’s threats must be analysed across a wide range of considerations. The report aims to do this.
The Trident Commission recommends that the United Kingdom should retain a nuclear weapons capability. The impact of the UK’s falling victim to on-going strategic blackmail or nuclear attack is so significant that, even if the chances appear slim today, there is sufficient uncertainty surrounding the prospect that it would be imprudent to abandon systems that have a high capacity to counter such threats.
The Commission also concludes that there are no benefits to be had from choosing an alternative platform or delivery system. All members of the Commission share a commitment to a ‘minimum deterrent’, but hold a range of views as regards the desirability of, for example, the UK’s present requirement for continuous at sea deterrence. There is in any case an opportunity to initiate a full conversation with the United States and France on the conditions that could allow the allied nuclear weapon states to consider closer coordination of their continuous patrolling posture. There should be further debate on the UK’s nuclear weapons posture before a final commitment to build the next generation of Trident submarines in 2016.
Strategic deterrence plays a stabilising role globally, but we have a responsibility to look for ways to further the gradual and controlled movement in the international community away from relying upon the threat of nuclear annihilation for such stability. The United Kingdom, as a leading player in disarmament and non-proliferation diplomacy, must carefully consider the impact of its Trident renewal decisions on the non-proliferation agenda, because the failure of that agenda is itself a threat to the UK's security. The Commission calls upon the Government to consider steps that could be taken now without additional risk to the security of the UK, assess the conditions that would enable the UK to take further steps beyond these, develop proactive strategies that would support the emergence of these conditions, and do this as transparently as possible where national security allows it.
A public launch of the Commission's concluding report will be held in Westminster Palace on 1 July at 10:30 am in Committee Room 12.
The report and background briefing papers will be publicly available at http://www.basicint.org/tridentcommission/ at 12:01 am on 1 July 2014.
Paul Ingram, Executive Director of BASIC
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