icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm

Are Trident nukes the best way to spend £205bn with a massive financial crisis ahead of us?

Tomasz Pierscionek
Tomasz Pierscionek
is a medical doctor and social commentator on medicine, science, and technology. He was previously on the board of the charity Medact and is editor of the London Progressive Journal.
is a medical doctor and social commentator on medicine, science, and technology. He was previously on the board of the charity Medact and is editor of the London Progressive Journal.
Are Trident nukes the best way to spend £205bn with a massive financial crisis ahead of us?
The UK needs to rethink its priorities in light of the economic destruction wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic. It can no longer afford to play in the big league by remaining a nuclear power.

Coronavirus has given the global economy a real kick in the teeth, with many countries seeing large swathes of their national economies grind to a halt. Total losses will reportedly amount to $12 trillion this year, equivalent to a five percent decline of the global economy.

The UK government has already spent an extra £190 billion since the start of the pandemic, well in excess of the nation’s entire annual healthcare budget, and it is believed that expenditure over the course of the current financial year (April 2020-April 2021) will amount to around £300 billion.

The massive financial loss overlooks the pandemic’s human cost such as effects upon mental health and an expected escalation in unemployment levels that will likely manifest once the government’s furlough scheme ends later this year. Major companies have already announced UK job losses running into the thousands.

Also on rt.com UK is the ‘51st state’? Uproar as Britain’s secret deal to buy nuclear warheads from US without Parliament’s consent is revealed

UK GDP crashed by 20.4 percent in April 2020 to levels not seen since 1997. To put this in perspective, the greatest fall in GDP seen in the midst of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis amounted to a mere 6.9 percent. The Bank of England estimates that the UK’s economy could contract by as much as 14 percent this year, the greatest decline in 300 years. Our European neighbours are not faring much better. The European Commission predicts the 27-nation bloc will see its economy fall by over eight percent this year.

As in many other countries, crippling cuts were made to the UK’s public services in the years following the 2008-2009 financial crisis under the guise of austerity measures implemented to cut budget deficits. A 2017 study published in the British Medical Journal found that cutbacks implemented since 2010 were responsible for an additional 120,000 deaths across England. 

We have not yet recovered from the aftermath of these cuts and there is a fear that this time around, the public will shoulder an even greater burden as healthcare, education, social services and local council budgets are further decimated.

Rather than once again have the people pay for a crisis not of their making, the UK government could make massive savings by reviewing its list of priorities. Scrapping the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons, the Trident programme, would save billions. A few years ago it was estimated that the overall lifetime cost of replacing and maintaining the UK’s nuclear submarines would be over £205 billion.

Also on rt.com Prepare for post-2008 austerity nostalgia: £300bn to be paid in UK for Covid-19 & it WON’T be billionaires who foot the bill

Notwithstanding the moral argument against nuclear weapons, the propensity for costly arms races, and the risk of accidents and civilization-ending war inherent in their ownership, Britain’s economic situation and geopolitical status in the modern world does not lend itself to being a 21st century nuclear power.

The UK’s political leaders should finally accept that the nation is no longer a globe-spanning empire that can afford to play in the big league. Expensive and flashy toys such as Trident will not make up for what is lacking elsewhere.

Although the UK officially has its own nuclear weapons capability, the US is heavily involved in the Trident programme and provides a significant proportion of the technology required for the system to function. US companies Lockheed Martin and Halliburton are also reportedly involved in operating two nuclear facilities in the UK. Furthermore, the UK has to lease its nuclear missiles from a US Navy Base in Georgia. The argument for the latter is that this reduces maintenance costs.

According to part of a document produced in 2006 by the UK Parliament’s Select Committee on Defence, accessible on the UK parliament’s official website:“The USA has the ability to deny access to GPS at any time, rendering that form of navigation and targeting useless if the UK were to launch without US approval.”

Also on rt.com Welcome to our self-induced national suicide. The UK is entering the worst and most prolonged recession in living memory

The same document also notes “…it is difficult to conceive of any situation in which a Prime Minister would fire Trident without prior US approval.” It later comments that “the most likely scenario in which Trident would actually be used is that Britain would give legitimacy to a US nuclear strike by participating in it.” 

In 2017 questions were raised about Trident’s capabilities after it emerged that a missile, not containing any nuclear material, had apparently veered off course during a firing test performed off the Florida coast the previous year and had headed toward the US before eventually self-destructing. UK military insiders counter that rather than a test failure, this was actually part of a process to test the system’s limits.

It may be in the US government’s interest to have a reliable nuclear ally based in Europe, though these interests do not dovetail with those of the UK. This is especially so considering the current economic situation – the UK’s leaders should be considering the future of their people rather than reflecting on past glories.

Likewise, the consequences of being dragged into a nuclear war at the behest of the US does not bear contemplating. One less nuclear power is a good thing during these turbulent times, which last year saw the US withdraw from the long-running Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that it had signed with Russia three decades earlier.

Scrapping Trident would also be a step toward global nuclear disarmament and allow the UK to be perceived in a less militaristic light by other nations such as Russia, with whom it could take the time to repair its relationship.

Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Podcasts