Letter: Defence options: a poll on Ulster; weapons obsessions

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The Independent Online
Sir: Malcolm Rifkind appears to be claiming that disposing of four brand new Upholder Class submarines, which cost a total of pounds 900m, is a saving for the taxpayer. Such is the mind-numbing logic of the Ministry of Defence.

Real cuts in the pounds 23.5bn defence budget are long overdue. However, claiming the throwing away of pounds 900m as a saving is typical of the short-sighted, piecemeal and inefficient approach being taken by the MoD to reorganising the armed forces.

Britain's armed forces are still those which were primarily designed for defending Western Europe and the North Atlantic against attack by the Soviet Union. The forces and technology put together to do that job are not the ones required for peace-keeping in the new world disorder. The MoD says it realises this but continues to do nothing about it.

What is needed is a complete review of what Britain requires in order to make its fair contribution to building and maintaining peace in all parts of the world. We agree with the Government that direct military intervention in the Balkans would be a complete disaster. However, surely the logic of this is that the Government should look at expenditure on non-military means of keeping the peace. These could include help and support for the local independent media, for local groups working for peaceful solutions and for progressive multicultural political forces.

So far the Government has ignored all the alternatives to continuing to waste money on the promotion of expensive hi-tech weaponry such as the European Fighter Aircraft, the Tactical Air to Surface Missile and Upholder. The time has come to stop pandering to the Cold War dinosaurs and look at all the options available to meet our real defence needs.



Joint Campaign Co-ordinator

Conscience, the Peace Tax Campaign

London, WC1

6 July