Tony Blair intends to modernize Britain’s nuclear arsenal, including the U.S.-made missiles and nuclear-powered submarines that deliver them. But the prime minister will have to survive the misgivings of his own party, with critics questioning the utility of nuclear weapons against suicide bombers.
“The risk of giving up something that has been one of the mainstays of our security ... and moreover doing so when the one certain thing about our world today is its uncertainty, is not a risk I feel we can responsibly take,” Blair told Parliament, which will vote on the program in March.
“Proliferation remains a real problem,” he said. “The notion of unstable, usually deeply repressive and antidemocratic states ... having a nuclear capability is a distinct and novel reason for Britain not to give up its capacity to deter.”
There have been calls in Britain to dismantle the four-boat nuclear weapons fleet. Spending billions on a new fleet could undermine negotiations with North Korea and Iran at a time when those nations are being asked to adhere to international nonproliferation obligations, critics say.
“How can this cost be justified in the post-Cold War environment, when it will severely restrict much more needed conventional military expenditures, undermine the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and drain off colossal sums of money from real threats of terrorism, climate change, and long-term energy security?” Michael Meacher, a deputy from Blair’s Labor Party, said during [Monday’s] opening debate in the House of Commons.