Despite Corbyn’s distaste for nuclear weapons, without them the UK is a sitting duck


The election of Jeremy Corbyn has once again revitalized the debate for Trident, the UK’s nuclear submarine.

The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 have estimated that the cost of replacing Trident will be £31bn, with the government reserving another £10bn in case of cost overrun.

The leaders of the Scottish National Party and Labour have both displayed their contempt for Trident. In the case of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon threatened the Conservatives with another referendum if welfare cuts are implemented and Trident is renewed. Jeremy Corbyn has attempted to consolidate anti-Trident consensus among the most prominent shadow Ministers of the Labour Party. Corbyn shifted Maria Eagle from Defence Secretary to Culture Secretary and appointed Emily Thornberry, a critic of Trident in her stead.

However, the main question is whether nuclear weapons are still a necessity in modern warfare, where much of the threat has moved online, including recruiting individuals to commit terrorist attacks. A nuclear weapon attack cannot halt a poisoned ideology. The UK Government are combatting IS with airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, while the US is deploying ‘less than 50’ military advisors to guide Kurdish and Arab forces in a strategy to defeat IS.

Threats are not limited to terrorist attacks by non-state actors and hostile states remain within the world. In fact, North Korea, the world’s most rogue state concerning nuclear weapons, has developed a hydrogen bomb. Although experts remain sceptical of North Korea’s claims, the danger remains when a state does not abide by international community norms and practices despite facing sanctions each time it carries out a nuclear test. Round table talks failed in compelling North Korea to relinquish their ambitions for developing nuclear weapons. China, North Korea’s only ally, has condemned this action and  stated it was not informed prior to the test. North Korea may not have the capacity to deploy weapons to strike specific US cities, but it can strike US military bases in the region in South Korea, Japan and Guam.

In these uncertain times a nuclear arsenal is needed to demonstrate the UK is a major actor and that any attack will be neutralized by the Trident submarine. Therefore, the Trident remains a deterrent from other hostile states. Moreover, with the rising power of China and the increasing strategic manoeuvring by Russia, where both countries are nuclear states and permanent members of the UN Security Council, the UK must continue to uphold its power within the international community. With defence spending cuts and the UK’s obligation to NATO, it must continue to support its nuclear programme.

State leaders respond and respect the brute strength that a nuclear weapon offers. For instance, the decision by Israel to develop nuclear weapons to deter its hostile neighbours in the Middle East. In the same way, Pakistan and India both developed nuclear weapons to consolidate their strength and intimidate one another.

The UK is no different. The world is far from safe and antagonistic states continue to exist, therefore, without a nuclear weapon the UK will not be secure. Although terrorism will be dealt with by more conventional military strategies, the presence of a nuclear weapon is still an effective deterrent from large-scale terrorist military attacks.

As long as the aims of certain states cannot be trusted, nuclear weapons will remain essential in defending the security of the UK.

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