Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for the ‘Britain’ Category

Britain’s Nuclear Future—And Nuclear Payment to Australia’s Aboriginals

Posted by K.E. White on January 15, 2010

With the Iraq War fallout, Britain has been forced to reassess its military posture. The Financial Times offers an aged—but still—fantastic panel discussion on Britain’s military future.

For this blog, David Davis’ contribution on Britain’s nuclear arsenal merits particular note:

In January, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former chief of the defence staff, General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach described it as “virtually irrelevant” and argued for the funds behind it to be used to provide the army “with what they need to meet the commitments actually laid upon them”.

I do not agree with this argument. It seems to me perverse that we have a nuclear deterrent when we face one or two hostile nuclear powers, both with stable (albeit unpleasant) governments, but abandon it when we have a proliferation of relatively unstable nuclear antagonists.

But that does not mean we should squander money on an upgrade. The reason we decommissioned the cheaper air-dropped WE177 nuclear bombs in the 1990s and kept Trident was because the Trident system was designed to survive an all-out Soviet attack with sufficient power to retaliate. That threat is much reduced, and the bigger threat is of one or two probably inaccurate nuclear weapons from a rogue state…

Is Davis right? Are nuclear weapons useful tools to deter or punish terrorist actions? Or does preventing nuclear terrorism require nuclear-armed nations to reduce or disarm their stockpiles?

Note that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council also represent the only five legally recognized nuclear-armed states under the NPT. Would one of the P-5 disarming, however small their arsenal may be, help reinforce international norms against proliferation?

Whatever the answers, by avoiding it Davis fails to prove the worth of a U.K. nuclear deterrent.

P.S. Britain and Australia have completed decontaminating and returning aboriginal lands used for 1950s nuclear tests.

Posted in Britain, Nuclear Weapons | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Britain Risks Losing Its Nuclear Deterrent

Posted by K.E. White on March 19, 2009

Britain might lose its nuclear deterrent owing to construction delays in revamping  UK submarine forces. It’s a good thing PM Brown is talking about cutting back their nuclear forces. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, British nuclear forces are in American hands.

From Bloomberg:

The U.K. risks losing its nuclear weapons deterrent if its plan to build a new generation of Trident nuclear submarines falls behind schedule as many other defense projects have, a panel of lawmakers said today.

The Public Accounts Committee, including members of Parliament from the three main parties, said the submarine program is still in the “concept phase” and needs critical decisions by next September to remain on time. The Ministry of Defense plans to begin building the ships before the design is complete to maintain its schedule, the report said.

“The department’s timetable for completing the design and build process for the replacement of the submarines is extremely tight,” Edward Leigh, a Conservative member of Parliament who leads the committee, said in a statement in London. Its track record on delivering projects on time “is not exemplary.” 

And from BBC News:

“Our programme to have a renewed nuclear deterrent will depend on yet to be taken decisions by the US on the dimensions of the successor missile,” he said.

“The MoD is taking steps to reduce the risk of a new missile not fitting in our submarines but there is no guarantee it will.”

But the MoD said there was no doubt that missiles and missile components in future submarines would be compatible.

Defence procurement minister Quentin Davies said the UK’s ability to maintain the submarine deterrent on a continuous basis was not in doubt.

Gordon Brown said earlier this week that he was prepared to include the UK’s nuclear arsenal in multilateral arms control talks. 

Posted in Britain | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brown and Zardari Talk Terrorism

Posted by proliferationpresswm on September 19, 2008

An interesting (if two-day old) Guardian report on anti-terrorism talks between President Zardari and Prime Minister Brown:

It is thought that Zardari outlined to Brown Pakistan’s plan to combat terrorism, which included a proposal to set up a dedicated cell inside the Pakistani high commission in London to help track British Pakistanis suspected of extremism. Most of the known terror plots in the UK have had some connection to Pakistan and often involved a visit there for training.

Zardari sought Brown’s help in promoting the idea of an anti-terror conference of Pakistan, Afghanistan and its neighbours Iran, China, Russia and India, along with Britain and the US as observers.

The idea is to reach a consensus among the countries most directly affected by the extremists based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in an attempt to claim the ownership of the anti-terror fight as an indigenous struggle. A Zardari aide said: “We want to broaden the base for this war, to stop it being seen as … George Bush’s crusade. Otherwise, it just won’t wash at home.”

Posted in Britain, Diplomacy, Pakistan | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Irish Nuclear-Free Zone? Ministers Make Joint Appeal Against British Nuclear Energy Plans

Posted by K.E. White on February 3, 2008

From BBC News:

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and Irish Environment Minister John Gormley made a joint call.

They are concerned about proposals to include nuclear power as a means of reducing the UK‘s carbon footprint.

“It is bad enough having a nuclear threat off our shores. We should not contemplate having one within our shores,” Ms Ritchie, SDLP, said.

“The shift back towards a nuclear power energy policy in Great Britain greatly concerns me, especially given its close proximity.

Quick Historical Note: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) came out of a 1958 Irish proposal that aimed to freeze nuclear weapons proliferation.

Posted in Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, NPT, Nuclear, nuclear energy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New M15 Chief Jonathan Evans Warns of Child Terrorists

Posted by K.E. White on November 5, 2007

 

Jonathan EvansA disturbing trend is noted by today’s Guardian:

Children in the UK as young as 15 and 16 have been implicated in “terrorist-related” activity as extremists “methodically” target them to help their aims, the head of MI5 said today.

In his first public speech since becoming MI5’s director general in April this year, Jonathan Evans, an expert in Islamist extremism, said terrorists’ increasing use of children was a worrying development.

Mr Evans, who also warned that Russia’s “unreconstructed” attempts to spy on the UK were tying up resources, said: “As I speak, terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country. They are radicalising, indoctrinating and grooming young, vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism.”

The MI5 director general said the country’s rightful concern to protect children from exploitation needed to be extended to cover violent extremism.

Speaking more generally, he said the UK’s greatest security threat continued to be al-Qaida, which was conducting a “deliberate campaign against the United Kingdom” and there was “no sign of it reducing”.

“I not think that this problem has yet reached its peak,” he added. Speaking to newspaper editors at a hotel in Manchester, Mr Evans said that when his predecessor, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, made a similar speech this time last year she said MI5 had identified 1,600 supporters of terrorism who were a “direct threat to national security and public safety”.

BBC News also reports on Evans’ speech, adding this:

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said the speech contained the message that MI5 needed the public’s help.

“It’s about tackling the ideology at grass roots. They can only really tackle the symptoms. They can’t go up to people and say, ‘Do you follow al-Qaeda?'”

Shiraz Maher, a former member of radical Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, said the recruitment of young people by militant groups was a reality.

Youth initiatives, including football training and anti-drugs schemes, were being used to groom “impressionable and idealistic” young people, he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One programme.

Posted in Britain, Great Britain, Jonathan Evans, M15, Terrorism | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Russia Update: Still Denying Blame for the Georgia Missile Flap; Russia Expels British Diplomats; Joint China-Russia Terror Exercise Performed

Posted by K.E. White on August 22, 2007

Summary: The bear is roaring in Russia. Russia is maintaining its hard-line stance in Georgia and on the Alexander Litvinenko murder. The reason? Russia is reasserting its diplomatic weight. And, in even more SCO news, China and Russia hold their first joint terror drills.

Two independent groups agree with Georgia in the missile dispute between Russia and Georgia.

But, if accurate, what was the rationale for this peculiar action?

The most recent PINR report delves into this issue. Seeing Georgia as a “catalyst of Russo-Western tensions in the wider Black Sea region” Dr. Federico Bordonaro confirms the ‘missile’ verdict: finding Russia guilty of violating Georgian airspace.

The reason? Push back against Western influence in the region. Russia has taken harder positions on Kosovo and US-backed plans for a European missile shield. There seems to be a battle for influence: with Russia preferring OSCE to be the central playing ground in Europe, not NATO. The reason? Russia’s veto power in OSCE. The Western preference is NATO, naturally.

From the PINR report:

The timing of the incident also raises questions. Russia is saber-rattling: strategic bombers are now regularly flying again beyond Russian airspace, like in the Cold War years; military expenses are on the rise; Moscowannounced a moratorium on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty and openly accuses\nWashington of unilaterally destroying the\nEuropean strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D.\nsystem without consulting Russia. At the same\ntime, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on\nKosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia. The impression is that Russia wants to\nreposition itself clearly as a re-established\nglobal power before the United States elects a\nnew president in the fall of 2008. American\npre-election tactics, Washington’s difficult\nMiddle East campaign, and high oil and gas prices\ngive Russia an opportunity to accelerate its\ncomeback. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that\nMoscow will seek an extreme diplomatic crisis\nwith Washington in the coming months and years.\nInstead, it will presumably formulate a broad\nproposal, designed to re-negotiate its strategic\nrelations with the West. Briefly said, Russia\nwants to re-negotiate what it had to do in\n1990-1992 from a weak position, during its deep\npolitical, economic, and military crisis that\nfollowed the perestroika years. The Tsitelubani incident\nand the following inquiry have some important\nramifications and implications for both global\nand regional actors. The U.S. and E.U. low-key\nprotests signal the weakness of the Euro-Atlantic\nalliance at this moment. Apart from some\nsensationalist articles in the press, which try\nto validate the theory of a full-blown neo-Cold\nWar, Western diplomatic reactions have been\ncautious. Western divisions, which\nstem from the different security and strategic\ncultures in Europe and the United States,\ncontinue to hamper the birth of a comprehensive\nAtlantic geostrategy in the wider Black Sea\nregion — notwithstanding the sea of printed\nproposals and studies on the issue. Russia is\nsuccessfully exploiting such a void, especially\nat a time of U.S. fatigue in the Middle East and\nAfghanistan. As a consequence of such\nWestern tactical difficulties and strategic\ndilemmas, Russia will remain confident and at\ntimes threatening in the South Caucasus, despite\ninternational condemnation for actions such as\nthose carried out in Upper Kodori or South\nOssetia.”, and openly accuses Washington of unilaterally destroying the European strategic balance by setting up a B.M.D. system without consulting Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin has adopted rigid stances on Kosovo, Transnistria, and Georgia.

The results of the missile incident’s ongoing inquiry appear to contradict Russian claims and will presumably augment Moscow’s negative image among Euro-Atlantic decision-makers. However, this seems to be a calculated risk by Russia. At the moment, the Kremlin gives less importance to its international image than to its ability to put pressure on some geostrategic hotspots.

Driving a wedge between pro-Western elites in former Soviet states and the enlarged N.A.T.O. is critical for Russia’s geopolitical interests. Therefore, look for Moscow to insist on a series of negotiations on the wider Black Sea region’s frozen conflicts and Kosovo, which will seek to secure Russian interests and influence. The and E.U. will now have to make a fundamental decision: either they opt for a harder stance and try to continue the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic geostrategic realm deep inside, or they will need to take Russian interests seriously. This latter possibility would mean that the broad arc of instability extending from Belarus to Central Asia through the wider Black Sea region will assume a bipolar structure (the Euro-Atlantic combine and Moscow being the two poles), where Russia will be able to project power and influence, notwithstanding the E.U. and N.A.T.O.’s enlargement.

Now an accommodation can be made, but the Russian broadcast is clear: Europe will have to take Russian interests into account.

In other news, China and Russia are conducting joint terrorism exercises next month in Moscow:

China‘s armed police and the interior forces of Russia will conduct for the first time a joint anti-terrorism drill in Moscow in early September.

“Cooperation 2007” will be the first international anti-terrorism exercise for China’s armed police outside the country.

The drill was in accordance with the principles of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and related agreements signed by the two countries, Xinhua news agency reported.

And remember the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko? Britain does. And Britain’s demand for answers continue to brew trouble against the countries. But fret not:

“I think British-Russian relations will develop normally. We are interested in the development of relations both from the Russian side and from the British,” Putin said on the sidelines of an ethnic festival in western Russia.

“I am sure that this mini-crisis will be overcome,” he added.

Posted in Alexander Litvinenko, Britain, China, Federico Bordonaro, Georgia, missile, NATO, OSCE, Putin, Russia, SCO | Leave a Comment »

Blair’s Legacy: Conservative Rule in Britain?

Posted by K.E. White on April 8, 2007

The Labourites are in a jam. Their old leader has fallen badly into disrepute and his supposed heir—Gordon Brown—is not sealing support among the ranks.

 The result? Labour may be on course for a messy and reckless leadership brawl.

 The Sidney Morning Herald reports:

Gordon BrownSenior Blairites say that in recent weeks the party’s private polling has shown the Chancellor’s popularity falling badly among voters – particularly after a 2 per cent cut in income tax was denounced as a budget “con trick” by the Conservative Party and he was found to have acted against warnings from his civil servants in his decision to stage a “raid” on pension funds in 1997 that has cost £100 million ($240 million).

Ministers close to Mr Blair also say the next Labour leader should be English (Mr Brown is Scots). They suggested that Mr Blair feared Mr Brown would “wreck” Labour’s achievements.

A close ally of the Chancellor hit back on Saturday night, saying: “Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are working flat out to win every Labour vote they can in the local elections. That is what every person with Labour’s interests at heart should be doing and we will not be distracted from that effort by this self-indulgent, divisive nonsense.”

The Economist weighs in—bemoaning Brown’s attempts to muzzle any leadership contest:

So far the only heavyweight figure who seems to be thinking seriously of mounting a challenge to Mr Brown is Charles Clarke, the former home secretary. Mr Clarke is no admirer of Mr Brown and he has distinguished himself in a series of thoughtful speeches in recent months. He has argued for co-payments by users to help finance public services, more green taxes and a stronger commitment to Europe. He has also expressed doubts over the rush to replace Trident, Britain’s nuclear deterrent. Last week he criticised moves to split up the Home Office.

Whether Mr Clarke runs will depend in part on whether he can muster the required 44 supporting signatures from Labour MPs. As long as the Brownites persist in seeing any backing of a rival candidate as a hanging offence, Mr Clarke, who cuts quite a lonely figure at Westminster these days and has only a few brave backers, will struggle to get himself on the ballot.

For their part, the chancellor’s supporters are bent on getting their man into Number 10 with the least possible difficulty or upset. They appear to care little that the resulting stitch-up will strike many voters as shabby and unconvincing. It is time they realised that the more tarnished Mr Brown has become, the more urgently he needs the purifying fire that only a proper contest can provide.

David MilibandBut it seems that Clark is not the man to run, but Environment Secretary David Miliband:

So, it’s game on, is it? As further polls erode the position of Gordon Brown, and an ever wider array of newspaper columnists turn on him, an old-style New Labour spin operation lets it be known that Tony Blair, no less, believes that David Miliband could and should challenge the chancellor for the leadership. Suddenly, despite denial from Downing Street, what was certain seems less so. Not a coronation after all, perhaps, but a bare-knuckle fight. It isn’t just the rising sap of spring that has refreshed the mood at Westminster, but relish for a proper political scrap. (The Guardian)

David Cameron, the clear conservative leader come the 2009 Parliamentary elections, seems to take Miliband seriously:

CameronDavid Cameron has ordered Conservative Campaign Headquarters to prepare for a Labour leadership crisis by setting up a special unit to target David Miliband.

Officials have been told to start tracking every aspect of the Environment Secretary’s activity, including his speeches, media appearances and even his Internet blog. (Evening Standard)

So is Labour on its way out in Britain? It’s far too early to make any predictions. But one thing is clear, Britons are in need of change—and the next Prime Minister will be presented a with the rare opportunity to realign the British electorate.

Posted in Britain, David Cameron, David Miliband, Gordon Brown, leadership fight | 2 Comments »

Blair Preserves UK’s Nuclear Deterrent, For Now: Post-Vote Wrap Up on the Trident System

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2007

The Bulletin offers excellent coverage of the Trident issue. 

Tony Wins Today, But What About Tomorrow?But here are some highlights of the post-vote coverage. 

From the Bulletin

After Prime Minister Tony Blair relied on Conservative leader David Cameron to force through the white paper on renewing Trident, MPs from several parties joined protesters outside the Houses of Parliament and vowed to continue the campaign to persuade the government to implement its treaty obligations and eliminate Britain’s nuclear arsenal. In rallies in Edinburgh and London, they made clear that this was a long-term security issue, and it would have to be won by long-term, persistent campaigning. Civil resistance at Faslane and Aldermaston is only just getting started, and local and Scottish parliament votes scheduled for May 3 are likely to be viewed as a referendum on Blair’s legacy, including his nuclear proliferation policies.

As predicted, the government’s motion was carried. With both main parties imposing a three-line whip–the strongest level of party instruction–409 voted in favor, with 161 opposed. To the uninitiated, these figures might make Blair’s victory look comfortable: It was not. In a dramatic blow to Blair’s prestige, almost half of Labour’s backbenchers–88 in total–rebelled and joined the Liberal Democrats and others in voting against the white paper.

The Australian pitches the same theme more directly: 

Eighty-seven MPs from Mr Blair’s Labour Party voted yesterday against his plan to spend £15billion to £20billion ($37billion to $49 billion) on new nuclear-armed submarines to replace those due to be decommissioned in about 2024.

It was the biggest revolt against Mr Blair since a 2003 vote backing war in Iraq and the largest on a domestic issue in his decade in power.

The revolt could have overturned Mr Blair’s 67-seat majority in the 646-member lower house of parliament, but backing from the opposition Conservatives helped him secure a 409-161 vote in favour of renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.

And the Cambridge Evening News portrays a more personal portrayal of the vote, and gives us words from the Conservative leader, David Cameron:

Jim Paice, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, pictured far right, was among those who voted with the Government to ensure it had a majority of 248 in a House of Commons vote.

He voted despite being inconvenienced by a broken leg suffered when he fell off a bale of hay at his smallholding in Hardwick.

David CameronHe said: “We voted with the Government because it was in the national interest. That is part of being a responsible opposition.”

His leader, David Cameron, said:

“In a dangerous and uncertain world, unilateral nuclear disarmament has never been and will never be the right answer.”

And BBC News makes clear that the fate of the Trident System is still far from set in Labour continues to hold Parliament:

Mr Blair’s decision to press ahead with the vote – something he appeared keen to do as part of his legacy – appears to have removed that threat even though the issue is likely to return in a few years’ time.

Few issues can divide Labour so instantly or comprehensively as this one and the party spent much of the 1980s with a unilateralist manifesto which, it is claimed by New Labour politicians, helped keep them out of power.

During the latest debate, party bosses often abandoned attempts to argue the case for and against Trident with rebels, resorting instead to warning them of the dangers of a return to those days.

In the end the opponents were left able to claim the government may have won the vote, but had failed to win the argument.

They will certainly want to ensure this is not the last time they get their say.

While Labour backbenchers may be upset now, Blair’s decision to force the vote may have just secured Gordon Brown as Britain’s next Prime Minister.

Can Labour afford to be seen as ‘weak on defense’ before the next general election? Obviously the Labour party has not decided yet, and it will probably take another general election result to get them to consensus.

But this is for certain: it’s a debate Labour would rather not have as a newly minted opposition party.

Posted in Britain, David Cameron, Nuclear, Tony Blair, Trident | Leave a Comment »

Greenpeace Activists Scale Paraliament Building

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2007

Image from IntheNews

ITN News Image

Sky News Image

Americans won’t be seeing this at the U.S. Capitol Building

Posted in Britain, Greenpeace, Paraliament Protest, Trident | Leave a Comment »

Iran’s Isolation Growing? U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France Discuss a Possible New Batch of Sanctions

Posted by K.E. White on March 8, 2007

There is new movement on another sanctions slap on Iran by the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council.

While negotiations are ongoing, it seems clear that Iran is growing more isolated.

Iran has continued to pursue what Iran’s leadership considers a civilian nuclear energy program, ignoring calls by the United States and others to cease the provocative action.

Readers can find an excellent backdrop to this new development at this blog posting from The Reliant.

Posted in Britain, China, France, Iran, Nuclear crisis, Russia, sanctions, Security Council, United Nations | 1 Comment »