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UK losing credibility with its new, ambiguous, nuclear weapons policy.

U.K. NUCLEAR WEAPONS: BEYOND THE NUMBERS,  War On The Rocks, HEATHER WILLIAMS, APRIL 6, 2021, Sometimes numbers only tell part of the story, even when talking about nuclear weapons. For instance, the United Kingdom recently announced that it was increasing the cap on its nuclear stockpile from 225 to 260 warheads. The move — outlined in its government’s highly anticipated review of security and defense policy, Global Britain in a Competitive Age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy — largely took nuclear policy experts by surprise and reversed decades of British reductions. The government explained that the decision to increase its nuclear stockpile for the first time in decades was due to a worsening strategic landscape and technological threats, particularly Russian advances in missile defense and hypersonic weapons. The fact that the United Kingdom decided to make this decision now should be a wakeup call to those concerned about the security of the West and the global nuclear order.

The decision to boost the number of warheads in its arsenal wasn’t the only major nuclear policy change that the United Kingdom included in the Integrated Review. The document explained that the United Kingdom would no longer provide specifics about its nuclear stockpile or the conditions under which it would consider nuclear weapons use. In other words, the United Kingdom has now fully committed to a doctrine of strategic ambiguity. This approach is similar in some respects to what the United StatesNATORussia, and China have done. But the increase in the warhead stockpile and reliance on strategic ambiguity come at a cost to nuclear diplomacy, and it will be difficult for the United Kingdom to balance these changes with its commitment to being a responsible nuclear power.

The announcement of an increase in the warhead stockpile, in particular, could not have come at a worse time for nuclear diplomacy. In August 2021, the United Kingdom and 190 other states will gather for a meeting of the parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which includes a commitment to the “cessation of the nuclear arms race” and “general and complete disarmament.” It will be a challenge for the United Kingdom to demonstrate progress towards nuclear disarmament five months after it has announced an increase in its stockpile cap. The reliance on strategic ambiguity also potentially undermines the country’s efforts to promote nuclear transparency among the treaty’s signatories. Obviously there are other considerations for the United Kingdom’s nuclear doctrine than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but these changes could damage its credibility on disarmament matters. The United Kingdom, therefore, should take additional steps to demonstrate its commitment to transparency, including providing more information on its nuclear modernization plans and leading on risk reduction efforts in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Reasons for a Larger Stockpile: Security and Technology

In its strategic reviews published in 2010 and 2015, the United Kingdom set a cap of 225 warheads and committed to reducing its stockpile ceiling to 180 warheads by the mid-2020s. The new Integrated Review increases the country’s nuclear stockpile ceiling to 260 warheads, a potential increase of approximately 15 percent from the current stockpile and 45 percent from the previous target.

The U.K. decision reverses decades of progress towards nuclear disarmament. …………

The Price of Ambiguity

Alas, the increased nuclear stockpile and the doctrine of strategic ambiguity will undermine the United Kingdom’s nuclear diplomacy. The move will open the country up to charges of hypocrisy. Future British delegations to international nonproliferation and disarmament negotiations should expect to be asked why other countries should make progress on these issues when the United Kingdom is building up its own nuclear arsenal. While this may seem relatively inconsequential compared to deterring Russian nuclear forces, it will make it harder for the United Kingdom to advance its interests in other areas that it cares about, especially within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty…………………….. https://warontherocks.com/2021/04/u-k-nuclear-weapons-beyond-the-numbers/

April 8, 2021 - Posted by | politics international, UK, weapons and war

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