The statement from Gen Jack Sheehan that the UK government is about to give up its nuclear deterrent took some by surprise over here in London when it was broadcast as part of Gordon Corera’s fascinating report on BBC’s prime-time World Tonight radio programme. No one has seriously suggested this likelihood beyond some vague hope, not anytime in the very near future at any rate. There is too much political baggage here for the Labour Party for logical consideration. What would a US General know about UK government intentions?
Jack Sheehan’s credentials were rather briefly summarised on the report, and have not been picked up elsewhere. They did mention he is a former Supreme Allied Commander – and as such would be used to senitivites in dealing with allies. To say such a provocative thing as to suggest the closest ally was considering unilateral disarmament, and that this would be a very good thing, would not normally be said lightly by such a person. What was not mentioned was that he is a Vice-President of Bechtel and a serving member of the Defense Management Board, Bob Gates’ prime set of senior advisers he turns to for strategy. So he has the ear of people in high places in the Pentagon. Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that this was a coded instruction to HMG from the US Government that now is the time to disarm, but it could easily be a green light from the new Administration that the road is clear, should the UK choose to cook up some ideas or to take the initiative in the field of multilateral disarmament.
Everyone in Europe has been waiting for the past nine months for the next US President before considering their position. And in many respects President Obama has delivered on his promise to shake things up a little. But he can’t do it all by himself. Perhaps it’s time they showed a little initiative of their own?