Trident and Nuclear Weapons, Put Simply

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By Editor in Chief Cameron Broome

Whether or not Trident should be renewed is a debate that’s likely to feature during the 2017 general election campaigns, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a lifelong supporter of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Get to grips with the debate with our short summary of what Trident is, and the arguments for and against its renewal.

What is Trident?

  • Submarine carrying nuclear weapons
  • Submarines can carry up to eight Trident missiles
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: if nation-state launches a nuclear attack and destroys nation’s defence, silent submarine will still launch a retaliatory strike

Unliteral and multilateral nuclear disarmament

  • Unliteral nuclear disarmament: when a nation-state reduces or eliminates its nuclear weapons, regardless of whether other nation-states offer concessions and promise to also reduce their nuclear capabilities
  • Multilateral nuclear disarmament: when nation-states negotiate and simultaneously reduce their nuclear capabilities step-by-step

Arguments in favour of UK renewal of Trident

  • Politically uncertain world: need all defence capabilities available
  • Aggression of North Korean and Russia: “they have one so we do too” logic
  • Employment: up to 15,000 jobs arguably linked to Trident

Argument against UK renewal of Trident

  • Opportunity cost: £40 billion could be better spent
  • Inhumane/unethical to blackmail countries using threat of nuclear attack
  • Debates over whether it would ever be used practice (e.g. Jeremy Corbyn said he would “never” use nuclear deterrent)

2016 UN Summit: Nuclear Arms Resolution

Several months ago, the UN Security council voted to tighten restrictions on North Korea, following a recent (and what was to date their largest) nuclear weapons test. These sanctions targeted the nation state’s hard currency revenues by imposing a coal export cap. Overall, the resolution consists of a broad range of proposed sanctions against North Korea following a nuclear test in September 2016; there have been further nuclear tests in recent weeks, and thus international debates on the issue are likely to resurface over the next few months.

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Image rights: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC @ Flickr

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