It's been a long time since the UK added more nukes to its arsenal. And yet, last Monday, Downing Street dropped the news that the arms race is back.
A first since the Cold War. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced Tuesday, March 16th that the United Kingdom will raise by 'more than 40%' the ceiling of the nuclear warheads which it is authorised to store, as revealed Monday evening.
Downing Street announced in a statement that Boris Johnson will deliver the findings of a report on the country's defence system, security and foreign policy to Parliament on Tuesday, which will determine the government's policy line for the coming decade. According to the Guardian and the Sun, who were able to consult the hundred-page document, the government plans to raise to 260 the maximum number of warheads the country is allowed to store, after having previously committed to reduce its stock to 180 warheads by the mid-2020s.
A response to growing international threats...
According to the British media, Downing Street invokes a 'growing panoply of technological and doctrinal threats' to justify this change of course, unprecedented since the Cold War. The report warns against the 'realistic possibility' that a terrorist group 'will succeed in launching a CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear] attack by 2030,' but also against the 'active threat' and the 'systemic challenge' represented respectively by Russia and China. 'Minimal, credible and independent nuclear deterrence, allocated to NATO defense, remains essential to guarantee our security.'
This turnaround comes as London seeks to reposition itself after Brexit as a major power on the international scene, according to the concept of 'Global Britain.' This change 'would violate the commitments that (London) has made within the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty,' the ICAN (International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons) denounced in a statement Monday.
...or a reckless over-reaction in a crisis
'The decision of the United Kingdom to increase its stock of weapons of mass destruction in the middle of a pandemic is irresponsible, dangerous and violates international law,' hammered Beatrice Fihn, the director of this NGO.
The Campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) group sees it as a 'first step towards a new nuclear arms race,' calling the UK decision a 'huge provocation on the world stage.'
As the world grapples with the pandemic and climate chaos, it is incredible that our government chooses to increase the British nuclear arsenal to stir up global tensions and waste our resources is an irresponsible and potentially disastrous approach.