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UK is lobbying USA for a controversial new warhead for Trident missiles

UK lobbies US to support controversial new nuclear warheads

Letter from defence secretary seen by Guardian draws Britain into debate pitting Trump administration against many Democrats,  Guardian,   Julian Borger in Washington, 2 Aug 20, 

The UK has been lobbying the US Congress in support of a controversial new warhead for Trident missiles, claiming it is critical for “the future of Nato as a nuclear alliance”.

A letter from Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, seen by the Guardian, urged Congress to support initial spending on the warhead, the W93.

The letter, sent in April but not previously reported, draws the UK into a US political debate, pitting the Trump administration against many Democrats and arms control groups over whether the the $14bn W93 programme is necessary. The US navy already has two warheads to choose from for its submarine-launched Trident missiles.

The close cooperation on the W93 casts further doubt on the genuine independence of the UK deterrent – parliament first heard about it when US officials accidentally disclosed Britain’s involvement in February – and the commitment of both countries to disarmament.

The UK is also supporting the administration’s efforts to speed up work on the warhead and its surprise $53m request for initial weapon design work in the 2021 budget, two years ahead of the previous schedule.

Sceptics believe the rush is intended to lock in funding before the election. A Biden administration would be likely to review or even cancel the W93 programme……..

The demand for funding for the W93 is particularly controversial in the US as the W76 and a higher-yield submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) warhead, the W88, have already been subject to multibillion-dollar upgrades.

“This is excess on top of excess,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said. “We already have two SBLM warheads. The W76 just went through a major life extension programme and is slated to be good into the early 2040s, and the W88 is going through a major alteration.

“The US can continue to assist the UK’s arsenal without rushing the development of an unnecessary, at least $14bn new-design, third SLBM warhead,” Reif added.

The total cost of the US nuclear weapons modernisation programme is expected to be far in excess of $1tn.

The US and Russia, which is also upgrading its arsenal and developing new weapons, together account for more than 90% of all the nuclear warheads on the planet, and both countries are putting increasing emphasis on them in their rhetoric and defence postures.

Under Donald Trump, the US has now left three nuclear agreements and his administration is reluctant to extend the last major arms control deal with Russia, the 2010 New Start treaty, which is due to expire in February.

The bonfire of nuclear accords, combined with the huge amounts spent on weapons like the W93, are a threat to the 1968 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the fundamental bargain by which countries without nuclear arms pledged not to acquire them on condition the recognised nuclear powers (the US, UK, France, Russia and China) took steps to disarm, under article six of the treaty………

Alexandra Bell, a former state department official and now senior policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said the US-UK special relationship had shown greater solidarity in promoting new weapons than in arms control. ……….    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/01/uk-trident-missile-warhead-w93-us-lobbySun

August 3, 2020 - Posted by | UK, weapons and war

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