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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Needless to say, it would be nice to be done entirely with such expensive and dangerous weapons, but Britain alone cannot not achieve anything with unilateral moves, except disadvantage the UK’s strategic position.
However, nuclear disarmament can only work if all potential competitors agree to do likewise, and in a simultaneous and verifiable fashion.
Who would that be for Britain/France/EU? And what other factors might drive their nuclear programmes?
Iran: Strategically this is a fairly direct neighbour. Iran claims in addition to us and the French, the US and Israel as concerns. Rivalry of course also with Russia.
Russia: Whilst there may not be much threat of any kind of serious conflict, we cannot know what the future holds, and in addition growing energy dependence on Russia would mean that our nuclear climbdown would shift the balance of power and influence excessively to Russia. So, what drives Russian nuclear arms policy? Its additional strategic neighbours and competitors are Iran, China and the US.

What follows from this? These countries would now have to be considered in a disarmament deal. So, like above:
Israel: To offset its numerical and spatial disadvantage vis a vis its neighbours, and because of Iran's programme, any Israeli disarmament moves are effectively impossible. And who knows who will follow in the region once Iran goes nuclear and the US-UK coalition abandons the region to its own devices: Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the most likely candidates; but more on this later.
China: Obviously the US is the main concern for China and additionally India plays a role, just as North Korea will be of some concern. Additionally a failure to contain North Korea and the weakening of American leadership would lead to more proliferation: most likely Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and maybe Australia.
US: Strategic concerns about Iran, Russia, China and North Korea.

So again: What follows from this? These countries would now have to be considered in a disarmament deal. So, like above:
North Korea: nukes used to extract international aid, strategic concern about the US and China.
India: Rivalry with Pakistan and China.

If we now add in Pakistan (vis a vis India, perhaps Iran), we have all the world's nuclear powers involved. From this we can conclude that the nuclear disarmament of Western Europe will only be possible within a framework that sees total global nuclear disarmament.
Whilst the likelihood of this is fairly small, formulating this as an end goal for British foreign policy to support is nonetheless right.
But before this can come about, Britain is right to keep its nukes, while making sure that the numbers are as small as possible. And on this, the Government for once seems to have got it right.

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