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Scrap Trident or risk a “nuclear annihilation abyss”- former nuclear sub commander warns UK govt

Former nuclear sub commander pleads with Government to scrap Trident or risk a “nuclear annihilation abyss”, Sunday Herald, Rob Edwards, 24 June 18

TRIDENT must be scrapped to prevent humanity tipping “over the edge into a nuclear annihilation abyss”, a former nuclear submarine commander has said.

In a significant move, Rob Forsyth, who commanded nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered submarines in the 1970s for the Royal Navy, now thinks that Westminster’s case for keeping Trident on the Clyde is practically, legally and morally indefensible.

The notion that the UK has an independent nuclear deterrent is “no more than national hubris” and conventional military capability is being “sacrificed” to preserve Trident, he said.

Forsyth retired from the Royal Navy in 1980 to pursue a career in industry, but from 1972-74 he was second in command on the nuclear-armed Polaris submarine, HMS Repulse, for four patrols, one of which he was in charge of because the commander was ill.

He was promoted to commander in 1974, and captained the nuclear-powered but conventionally-armed hunter-killer submarine, HMS Sceptre, from 1977-79. Now 78, he lives in North Oxfordshire.

In a recent critique of the UK’s nuclear weapons policy for the latest issue of the defence magazine, Warships International Fleet Review, Forsyth revealed that before his first Polaris patrol in 1972, he formally discussed and agreed with his commanding officer that firing nuclear missiles in response to a nuclear attack was lawful. However, according to Forsyth the policy has since changed so that the UK no longer rules out a nuclear first strike. Westminster’s policy was now “deliberate uncertainty as to when and how the UK’s nuclear missiles would be used”, he said.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Forsyth pointed out that the UK Governmenthad attempted to stay within the law by adding riders exempting nuclear weapons from the international Geneva Conventions preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction. “This deeply shocked me,” he said.

“Trident is no longer a weapon of last resort to be used in extreme circumstances such as defence of the homeland. Present policy includes potential first use against rogue states if they ever used chemical or biological weapons against troops in the field. The general public are not aware of this.”

Forsyth pointed out that Trident is very dependent on shared US facilities. “I cannot conceive Britain would ever fire its Trident missiles without the Americans’ political support and, if they so wished, I am fully confident they would find a way to frustrate the UK,” he said.

“The Government assertion that the UK operates an independent deterrent is no more than national hubris.”

Some £2 billion a year is spent on ensuring that one of the four Trident submarines based at Faslane on Gareloch is always on patrol to ensure a Continuous at Sea Deterrent (CASD), he said, adding: “The UK’s conventional war-fighting capability is being sacrificed to preserve its nuclear one. Some serious questions need to be asked and answered by the national political and military leadership about not only the affordability of CASD, but also its necessity at all and/or – if it is retained – the moral context of its use.”

He called for CASD to be abandoned because “there is no threat that justifies such an aggressive posture at present”, and said the UK “should offer to cancel the Dreadnought submarine programme as a significant bargaining tool in multilateral negotiations.”

Forsyth also argued that the UK should stop ignoring the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons agreed by 122 countries in July 2017. “This would demonstrate to the rest of the world that the UK is taking multilateral disarmament seriously – for the first time in more than two decades,” he said.

He criticised Prime Minister Theresa May for suggesting in 2016 that anyone who failed to support Trident was a traitor. “I would suggest that is far from being the case,” he said.

“This patriot – who has served at the coal face of the at-sea deterrent – is merely asking the UK’s leaders to start thinking hard about the nation’s strategic choices and introduce some bold moves. The UK would be showing true global leadership at a time when the whole of humanity could so easily topple over the edge into a nuclear annihilation abyss.”

Forsyth told the Sunday Herald how he had come to change his mind about nuclear weapons. “Since commanding a nuclear missile capable submarine the 1970s I have thought hard and learnt much about Britain’s role today as a nuclear-armed nation,” he said.

“What I have found out has convinced me that we now ought to rethink whether we need a nuclear deterrent. We should make clear we will not fire first, take Trident submarines off continuous patrol and be prepared to trade in our nuclear weapons as our contribution to multilateral disarmament.”

Last week more than 40 campaigners under the banner of Trident Ploughshares chained themselves to the railings outside the Houses of Parliament in London. They demanded that the UK Government sign the nuclear ban treaty to to get rid of “these horrific weapons” and “denuclearise the world”……..


June 25, 2018 - Posted by | UK, weapons and war

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