So occasionally – not often enough – I go for tea with the most excellent Dr Lorna Arnold:
Lorna Arnold is a historian who has written a number of books connected with the British nuclear weapons programmes.
As the second official historian of the British nuclear weapons programmes, she has had access to previously secret documents and personally knew many of the people involved. Though in her 90s, she is still an active participant in intelligence/historical community debate, as evinced by her contributions to recent meetings such the Oxford Intelligence Group in 17 June 2008.
…and she tells a story of when the Iron Curtain fell, and she was invited to a conference where she finally got to meet a man who was (essentially) her opposite number on the Russian side, with considerable insight into the Russian nuclear weapons programme.
The exchange went something like this:
- Her: What did you think of the British deterrent, of the British nuclear weapons programme?
- Him: We didn’t even consider it. We were entirely focused on the Great Satan, on America. We never even considered the British.
…and that is why I don’t think we need a nuclear deterrent; if the headline figure is £20Bn then you can bet that the bottom line will be in the £40..100Bn range, and frankly no enemy gives a damn.
Britain either gets involved in wars where it would be unjust to use such force (“Nuke Buenos Aires? I don’t think so…”) or in hypothetical conflicts where we’d never get to use it because the Americans would beat us to the punch, if anyone.
It would be a “me too” weapon.
So why bother? Split the money on reifying the conventional forces and on relieving national debt.
While you’re here you really should watch Lorna in full flow: