Thursday 18 March 2021

Johnson gives green light for nuclear attack on UK


The announcement by the PM this week that the cap on the UK’s stock of nuclear warheads is to be increased from 180 to 260 was in direct breach of international treaties committing the UK to work to eliminate such weapons. With each warhead estimated to be around 8 times as destructive as that used on Hiroshima, each is capable of destroying a sizeable city and killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process. How much extra ‘deterrence’ is provided by being able to obliterate 260 cities instead of ‘only’ 180 is the sort of question that only a psychopath would consider worthy of asking, but it assumes that a state which is not ‘deterred’ by a threat to kill some 30-40 million of its citizens would think twice if the threat was to kill more like 40-60 million. As if someone who doesn’t care about the first 40 million is going to baulk at an extra 10-20 million deaths.

Even worse than the increase in killing capacity is the announcement of a new range of conditions under which the weapons might be used. It has long been at least implicit in the UK’s policy that such weapons would only be used to respond to a nuclear attack on the UK, the theory being that knowing that such a retaliation would follow would deter such an attack. The theory always depended on two contradictory assumptions: the first being that potential enemies are mad enough to want to launch a nuclear attack, and the second that they are sane enough to decide not to if the counter-threat to them is great enough. Seen from the other side, ‘deterrence’ depends on the enemy believing that the UK’s government in its turn would be mad enough to launch a nuclear strike. Assuming that only your own self-proclaimed madness makes other mad people behave in a sane fashion is not the soundest of principles on which to run an international order.

What the PM also announced this week was that the circumstances in which the UK would consider the use of such weapons would be widened considerably. Firstly, page 77 of the document makes it clear that the assurance that “The UK will not use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1968” will “…no longer apply to any state in material breach of those non-proliferation obligations”. Secondly, the UK reserves “the right to review this assurance if the future threat of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological capabilities, or emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact, makes it necessary”. These are major shifts in policy, making it clear that the UK government now considers it both reasonable and proportional to respond, in circumstances which it will not and cannot define in advance, to a cyberattack with a nuclear strike, and to launch a first strike against a country which it considers to be in breach of the relevant treaties.

Making unilateral decisions in such an arena is seriously problematic. In the first place, effectively threatening non-nuclear states with a nuclear strike provides a direct incentive to those states to acquire nuclear weapons of their own – after all, if renouncing nuclear weapons no longer protects them against a nuclear strike, why wouldn’t they also want the protection of this ‘deterrence’ which the UK claims is so effective? And in the second place, the UK is both in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the author of cyberattacks on others; if either of those is justification for a nuclear strike by the UK, on what basis can it be argued that they are not a justification for an attack on the UK? Assuming that other countries will share the UK's opinion about its own exceptional status is both foolish and dangerous. Johnson and his government are making the world a much more dangerous place, wholly unnecessarily, in pursuit of a flawed dream of past glories and power.

1 comment:

dafis said...

This area of "policy" highlights the knee jerk self centred thought processes of UK Government and its advisers/influencers. Boris craves the stature of a real "big boy" despite being a fuckin' dwarf in most respects. Those who feed him advice on policy pander to this characteristic so anyone in that inner circle who is linked to the heavy end of the defence industry is having a field day. After all it's very much about influence once you chuck logic out of the window. So much more macho to spend 100's of billions on warheads and delivery systems ( hopefully to lie idle) than diverting those funds to improving education, health, community support, social services, etc etc Even spending some more on conventional defence to deal with the almost inevitable terror surges would would have greater merit than this programme of insanity.