Advocates of Trident replacement argue that the core reason is to deter other states that possess nuclear weapons from engaging in nuclear blackmail. However this does not represent the whole picture as the historical record does not support this view.
The crucial question is to what extent Britain can rely in future on the support of America in facing down any future nuclear threat. If Britain were to become a non-nuclear state, it would come to rely on adroit diplomacy coupled with a determination to call any would-be blackmailer’s bluff. The other non-nuclear members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty find themselves in precisely this situation, any of whom could in principle use the blackmail argument for acquiring nuclear weapons of their own.
Trident’s main appeal to the British government is therefore as an insurance policy. But in no other area of military provision is the justification of a general insurance against the unforeseen accepted. At a moment when the defence budget is under extreme stress and many important capabilities are already being foregone, Trident looks like a White Elephant that is not worth its keep.
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