Top military chiefs go cold on nuclear deterrent - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Top military chiefs go cold on nuclear deterrent

 

Senior military commanders have privately questioned whether Britain needs to maintain its current level of nuclear deterrence when the country's ageing Trident submarines are decommissioned.

Nick Harvey, the former defence minister who until September had responsibility for the Government's nuclear capability review, said officers had expressed reservations to him about both the costs and the benefits of such a deterrent.

And he warned that Britain's armed forces are facing a "perfect storm" of additional costs in the next five years that meant any decision to replace Trident would force cutbacks in other areas.

Serving military commanders told The Independent that while the decision on the future of the Trident had to be a political one the economic imperatives "must lead" to an "evaluation of what is ideal to have and what is more realistic in the situation we face".

"There are all kinds of considerations beyond purely military ones, such as whether not having a nuclear deterrent have any impact on our seat in the [UN] Security Council," said one of the most senior generals in the Army.

The senior general added that in terms of pure defence we must explore whether the money spent on Trident can't be spent better elsewhere, considering the very stringent cuts we face thanks to the SDSR.

"We are certainly up for a debate on this," he said.

The Government is due to publish the findings of its own review into the options for replacing Trident at the start of next year. Ministers have put the bill for a full scale new system at between £15bn and £20bn which is due to come out of existing Ministry of Defence budgets.

In his first public comments on the issue since leaving office Mr Harvey said senior officers were now beginning to question to wisdom of the status quo.

"Believe you me there are very senior people within all three services who are highly aware of the perfect storm of costs that are coming," he said.

"They don't believe that the Treasury is going to ride to their rescue with a cheque. They are asking the question: do we really want to do this. Is the opportunity cost of having another generation of nuclear weapons too high in terms of what it would prevent us doing on other fronts?"

Mr Harvey said that by 2020 the armed forces would have to find the money to pay for the joint striker aircraft, a new generation of unmanned aircraft as well as the Type 26 frigate.

This, he added, was in addition to re-kitting the army which, he said, had not had a proper programme of new equipment "for about 50 years".

"All of that will come at the same time as this massive outlay for Trident.

"I believe that the army, the air force and the surface part of the navy will look at the competing costs facing defence in 2020 and there will be an open debate as to whether replacing Trident with another full scale programme of nuclear weapons is an absolute must."

He added: "Serving military officers have to say what they've got to say behind closed doors but you can sometimes hear from what retired military officers say what the military community thinks."

Mr Harvey said he hoped that the nuclear review would spark a wider political debate about whether Britain needed to keep a cold war style nuclear deterrence for the sake of international prestige or whether there were cheaper alternatives available.

"I think we might struggle to persuade the British public to get off the nuclear ladder altogether," he said.

"But we might persuade them to keep our nuclear capability but put it away and not have it as part of your everyday activity."

And he dismissed that argument of that the wider economic benefits of replacing Trident made it a worthwhile programme.

"The idea that you should produce weapons of mass destruction in order to keep 1,500 jobs going in the Barrow shipyard is simply ludicrous," he said.

"Frankly you could give them all a couple of million quid and send them to the Bahamas for the rest of their lives - and you would have saved an awful lot of money."

Former commanders have been openly questioning the wisdom of Trident replacement. General Lord Ramsbotham stated: "What is the point in spending a vast proportion of our defence budget on it when that portion could be better spent on better equipping our conventional armed forces and giving them the precision guided weapons that they need."

A serving senior officer added: "The imperative is to ensure we have adequate conventional defences and this should not be sacrificed for the sake of replacing Trident."

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week