Less Net



Warm Talk Of Nuke Treaties A Mere Mask

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference at the United Nations provided a stark reminder on the realities of power and the use of propaganda. One state without nuclear weapons is demonised as a clear threat to world peace, while another with five thousand nuclear warheads and a global war machine, is held up as the bedrock of international security and the world's best hope for nuclear disarmament.

Obama's warm words on the elimination of nuclear weapons at some indeterminate time in the future, followed by the limited cuts in the START treaty, disguised the real agenda which was to use the NPT as a smokescreen for nuclear modernisation. The US Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have a combined $30 billion budget to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure for a range delivery systems and nuclear warheads, including a new generation of 14 Ohio class nuclear submarines that will become operational from 2027, with 280 missiles capable of launching over a thousand warheads.

Predictably, the UK is following suit. The timetable for the replacement of Trident has been accelerated, with over a billion pound spent on upgrading facilities at Aldermaston, while design and early development of the submarine now stands at over £300 million. Although there is a possibility that adapted, Astute-class nuclear submarines may be used in an attempt to save money, no one should be under any doubt that the UK will have replacement ballistic missile system operational by the mid 2020s.

Parliamentary lobbying by the peace movement is a dead-end. Despite the clear majority in public opinion polls opposed to Trident modernisation and the £20 billion cost, all the major parties (including the Lib Dems in coalition) are committed to replacement. And academic reports intended to influence the mainstream debate such as the recent publication from the Royal United Services Institute advocating delays to a replacement and a new 'part-time deterrent', whereby submarines are stationed at home base and only deployed at times of international tension, have proved equally ineffective.




What we are dealing with is an extraordinarily powerful Military-Industrial Complex that controls security policy on both sides of the Atlantic. At stake for the United States is the continuation of the greatest imperial war machine since the days of Ancient Rome, reflected in further increases to military expenditure at a time of federal budget crisis. For the UK, it is the determination to cling onto world power status through nuclear weapons, even if the price to pay for access to US ballistic missile technology is complete subservience to the United States and permanent occupation, as with Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, the largest US spy base in the world.

These are incredibly dangerous times and the NPT, far from helping create a new international agenda for peace, has become a major barrier to disarmament. The existing nuclear powers continue to emphasise what they claim to be the deterrence value of nuclear weapons, and the United States is very clear that there are circumstance in which it would consider using nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear power.

In fact, the only concrete policy to come out of the review is a multi-million dollar programme to encourage the expansion of civil nuclear power as a sort of incentive for international controls on uranium enrichment. So we have the peculiar situation that a treaty whose original objective was the elimination of nuclear weapons has now become a vehicle for the promotion of nuclear power to developing countries.

This madness has to stop. Only direct action to disrupt the functioning of the MIC at sites like Aldermaston and Menwith Hill will have an impact. Even though people risk arrest, this is a small price to pay if it makes the nuclear weapons infrastructure inoperable and helps usher in a new era of comprehensive disarmament.