Nuclear weapons have a kitschy old-school feel. The threat of nuclear Armageddon is what our parents grew up with, not us. It is not something we tend to think about from day to day. We did some research, though, and were surprised to find the likelihood of nuclear war today is higher than we might think.
The closest the world ever came to nuclear devastation was completely by accident. On September 26th 1983 Soviet Russia picked up signals that a US ballistic missile was heading their way. The poor sod in charge, Stanislav Petrov, had to make the call whether or not to retaliate with their own missiles. Refusing to be ‘that guy’ who started World War III, Petrov decided it was a false alarm and did nothing. Luckily he was right – and the world was spared millions of deaths. Neat. Close call though.
And now for something completely obvious: This would not have happened if nuclear weapons didn’t exist.
Well duh-doy. Donald Trump wouldn’t keep happening if he didn’t exist. Then again, the world’s nations haven’t signed a treaty promising to rid the planet of him, like they have with nuclear weapons.
Ever since 1970 with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty or NPT, the whole world, including Britain, has been officially committed to global nuclear disarmament. If we all agree with the UN party line: getting rid of nuclear weapons makes the world a safer place.
Meanwhile, in Britain, senior members of every major political party insist that Britain should keep and update its own nuclear weapons in order to make Britain a safer place. Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have even said they would resign if the new Labour leader did not support the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident. [What is Trident?] A Telegraph column stated recently that possessing nuclear weapons is what keeps European countries protected and free.
Hang on just a tick. How can eliminating nuclear weapons make the world safer while at the same time Britain needs nuclear weapons in order to be safe?
The logic that solves this conundrum is called deterrence theory.
Deterrence theory is very simple: Take two enemy countries: Country X and Country Y. If Country X possesses nuclear weapons, they are capable of inflicting such enormous damage that Country Y wouldn’t dare attack them.
If both countries have nuclear weapons, their early-warning systems mean that if they are attacked, they will have time to retaliate with their own missile before they are hit. If Country Y was to launch a nuclear missile on country X, deterrence theory suggests that they can expect to have a missile launched right back at them.
The result is that no one dares do anything.
So – according to this theory – possessing nuclear weapons deters other countries from making aggressive moves. A recipe for everlasting peace?
Perhaps, except when false alarms very nearly lead to nuclear war like it did in 1983. Since we’re only human and liable to make mistakes from time to time, would it not still be safer for the world to get rid of all these weapons of mass destruction? Keep Out of Reach of Humans?
The problem with this: now that nuclear weapons exist, we can never un-exist them. They are out there now, like the bad smell of a cooking experiment gone wrong. And like bad smells, not everyone wants to own up to making them.
There are 15,000 nuclear bombs in the world. Here is a map to show you where those bombs are. Five of the eight countries who possess nuclear weapons have signed the non-proliferation treaty, recognising that any aggressive use of their nuclear weapons would be illegal under international law and stating that they will take concrete steps towards worldwide disarmament. These countries are Britain, China, France, Russia and the US.
Meanwhile, Israel is believed to have been developing nuclear weapons since the 1950s and there has been major diplomatic work in the last year to ensure Iran is not making nuclear weapons on the sly.
The key word here is uncertainty. Some reckon that nuclear states like Britain would be mad to get rid of their nuclear deterrents at a time like this. This is because no one can be 100% certain which other countries may or may not possess weapons of mass destruction, and how they intend to use them. Better safe than sorry?
But uncertainty can easily turn into scaremongering: rogue states like North Korea are not the number one threat the UK faces. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament points out that the UK government’s National Security Strategy sees international terrorism, cyber-attacks and climate change are greater threats than nuclear war. These problems cannot be solved with a nuclear deterrent. As the old saying goes, you can’t nuke a terrorist.
What does this mean for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme, Trident? (Tell me again, what’s Trident?). The programme, funding and nuclear technology are outdated and due for renewal – and the House of Commons will vote next year on how, and if, this should be done.
Every major political party, except the Scottish National Party, supports Trident renewal in principal. So Trident = good?
Not everyone thinks so. The No to Trident campaign argues that the £100 billion needed to renew the programme would be better spent on other methods of national defence, seeing as the threats Britain faces like terrorism and climate change cannot be tackled with nuclear weapons.
This £100 billion cost for renewing the Trident programme is disputed.
According to the Guardian, the Commons library estimates the cost of renewing the programme to be closer to £25 billion.
Whichever estimate convinces you, it’s a lot of monies.
Is Trident an expensive but necessary investment in UK security, or is it a very pricey safety net that we do not need?
The safety of the nation is not the only thing in question. Britain’s status in the world as a nuclear power is what guarantees it a place on the Security Council.
It’s not all or nothing. Britain does have the option of remaining a nuclear power, but reducing its stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The UK has in fact been gradually dismantling its own nuclear warheads from 225 to a goal of 180 by the mid 2020s. This may not seem like much, but it is similar to the agreed joint-reduction of nuclear warheads by the US and Russia that earned President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize.
Are these the concrete steps towards global nuclear disarmament the UK has signed up to under the non-proliferation treaty? Are they enough? Would renewing Trident negate these actions, or is it still a necessary part of Britain’s defence?
Nuclear weapons explained: When nuclear weapons were invented, we opened a Pandora’s box that cannot be shut.
We now live in a world where we cannot be certain who does and does not possess weapons of mass destruction. Because of this, some would argue that it is better to be safe than sorry, and to use nuclear weapons as a deterrent: the most deadly defence mechanism ever. The counterargument is that nuclear weapons are not what we need to tackle the problems we actually face today, and that they are an unnecessary, expensive and potentially deadly safety net. It is difficult to face the ugly truth of how peace works now, and there are decisions and judgement calls we have to make that we wish would go away, but won’t.
Take Action as part of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
End Austerity! What even is austerity? Cuts to public services – the SNP want no more of it! Instead of cutting, the SNP will put in tiny increases into public spending of 0.5% for each year of parliament.
The SNP will have an additional £140 billion to play with to invest in things like the NHS and education (that’s across the whole of the UK, not just Scotland). They’ll find the money from introducing more taxes…
– Hello 50p tax rate for top earners – so those earning the most contribute more to help the most vulnerable.
– Bankers get ready to pay an extra tax on those nice bonuses you get.
– A bank levy (posh name for a tax).
– A mansion tax (posh name for a house worth over a certain amount, you’d be surprised what is considered a ‘mansion’ in London).
– A crackdown on tax avoidance.
– No more non-doms (Dick and Dom can stay).
Vote to increase NHS spending in the UK by £24 billion by 2021 – adding £2 billion to the NHS Scotland budget.
The SNP will always vote against any privatisation of the NHS in England.
Oppose plans to renew Trident nuclear weapons (explainer). Instead that £100 billion – yes £100 billion – can be invested into nice(r) things. Like better childcare. And better education. And of course: a better NHS.
Minimum wage is going up… £8.70 to be precise. Not immediately but by 2020.
The SNP support the living wage across the whole of the UK. The SNP also want you to know that the Scottish Government already pays all its employees the living wage (pat on the back), and it urges the UK government to do the same (you’ve been warned UK).
Say no to….cuts to Child Benefit. Instead increase benefits so that incomes of the poorest in society do not fall even further behind the cost of living. The SNP got ya back peeps.
Absolutely zero cuts to the Disability Living Allowance, and the SNP will always vote against it too.
So long Bedroom Tax, it’s been fun.
Increase Carer’s Allowance so it matches Jobseekers’ Allowance (explainer). Carer’s Allowance is currently £62.10 per week.
Guarantee free university education in Scotland, and support the reduction of fees in the rest of the UK.
Give Educational Maintenance Allowance in Scotland to 22,000 more pupils and part-time students.
30,000 more apprenticeships for young people.
Expand free nursery education from 16 hours a week to 30 hours a week.
The SNP love being part of the EU and they will do all they can to make sure it stays that way.
The Help to Buy scheme which helps people get their feet on that tricky housing ladder – SNP will support its growth and aren’t against it.
SNP aim: 100,000 more affordable homes a year in the UK.
End those infamous zero-hour contracts.
Encourage people on benefits back to work by supporting an increase of 20% in Work Allowance – aka the amount people are allowed to earn before their benefit is cut.
Review plans to change retirement age from 66 to 67… it will make a difference to when people can start receiving their pensions.
SNP will encourage the UK government to follow their lead on ambitious carbon reduction targets – that’s making the UK a cleaner and greener country for everyone.
Delay and suspend fracking.
Make me safe: 1,000 extra police officers.
50/50 Men and Women on public and private boards please.
Equal pay – is it that much to ask?
Females listen to this: no VAT on sanitary products!
Goodbye Lords: Hello new, ELECTED second chamber.
First Past The Post is so yesterday – the SNP call for Proportional Representation as the new voting system – that’s where a party is allocated a number of seats in Parliament that is directly proportional to the number of votes they gained nationwide.
The SNP want you to know they will ALWAYS support independence and want Scotland to be its own country in its own right (flashback to 2014 and the SNP losing that referendum).
In the meantime: SNP MPs in Westminster will use their influence to make sure Scotland get what they deserve – aka promises of greater powers are kept and put into action.
The Scottish Parliament would be completely responsible for all their monies.
The SNP are also pretty anti a Conservative government, just so you know. #enemies
YOU’VE HEARD THE 2015 SNP MANIFESTO.
THERE’S NOT LONG TO GO NOW… WHO WILL YOU VOTE FOR?
ELECTION DAY: MAY 7TH.
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Oversight of the morning: believing the news were banging on about chewing gum.
TRIDENT = UK NUCLEAR WEAPON SYSTEM, NOT GUM.
The Trident system sees nuclear-armed missiles kept at-sea around the clock on one of four submarines, patrolling the deep oceans ready to strike if an attack were launched on Britain. The missiles can hit a city 7,000 miles away and travel at speeds of up to 13,000 miles an hour.
Where is it?Faslane Naval Base on Gare Loch, Argyll and Bute, Scotland. The base is one of three operating bases in the UK for the Navy. Others include Devonport, Falmouth and Portsmouth, this is also where you’ll find the majority of UK Navy ships.
Members of Parliament will vote next year on whether all this should be renewed.
Why does anything need to be renewed?
For the same reasons you have to replace your car or pants every few years, or at least every twenty years. Trident was last renewed in 1994.
The Vanguard class of ballistic-missile submarines would benefit from a new class, maintaining continuous at-sea deterrence beyond the Vanguard lifespan” – in other words, it can be made better, to last longer and there might be a way to cut some costs.
Even though the Labour party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, had voted not to talk about Trident at their conference this week, BBC Radio 4 politics programme The Today Show kind of spoiled that decision – asking Corbyn to tell them, in his new open and honest style of politics, whether or not he would personally push the button on nuclear warfare if he were Prime Minister. He said he wouldn’t, and Twitter blew up like a large bomb of some sort.