Thursday, January 24, 2013

UK Slides Towards Unilateral Disarmament

Trident: No Need For Like-For-Like Replacement, Says Danny Alexander (excerpt)

The UK does not need to replace the Trident fleet with "like-for-like" nuclear submarines that will cost the country billions of pounds at a time of national austerity, the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, insists.

In an interview with the Guardian, Alexander said MPs from all parties and senior officers in the military should accept there are "credible and compelling alternatives" to continuous at-sea deterrence, and he warned that the Treasury did not have "a magic pot of money" to pay for a new generation of Successor submarines.

The world had changed, he said, and so had the defence assumptions that underpinned the position since the cold war.

Alexander, who is now in charge of the Cabinet Office-led Trident Alternatives Review, said: "Given all the financial pressures across the whole of the public sector, all the things the government has to do and wants to pay for, and all the pressures in different areas, I just think the idea that somehow, out of thin air, we can carve a multibillion pocket to pay for this, that is not financially realistic."

He described as a "non-starter" the idea that the Treasury could find new cash to help the Ministry of Defence pay for new submarines, which is the privately held assumption of some Conservative MPs and officials at the MoD.

"We are in a position where the costs of the Successor have to be paid for from within the MoD budget. There is no magic pot of money that is going to be created out of thin air to go on top of that. As a government, we have been very clear about that. Certainly myself and the chancellor.

"That very financial imperative is one of the reasons why I think this review is so important. We have already set out that it is going to take another three years to deal with the deficit. That means budgets across the board naturally have to be squeezed, including defence."

The Liberal Democrats demanded a review into alternatives to replacing Trident as part of the coalition agreement, and it was initially led by the then armed forces minister, Nick Harvey.

When Harvey was moved from the MoD last September, Alexander took charge of the detailed study, which is due to be completed and published by June this year.

In his first interview since taking charge of the review, Alexander said nothing he had seen or heard in the last four months had challenged his view that replacing the Trident fleet was unnecessary – and unnecessarily expensive. (end of excerpt)

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Given the UK coalition government’s reckless dismantling of its armed forces on the back of the inane Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010 – the retirement of the aircraft carriers and of the Harrier force; scrapping of the Nimrod MR4 and resultant loss of maritime patrol capability; reduction of the frigate flotilla; huge cuts in military manning levels, to name but a few – this interview certainly reinforces the impression that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Its most worrying aspect is that it shows that Alexander considers defense as just one of “all the things the government has to do and wants to pay for,” instead of being the principal and overriding duty of any government.

And, when Alexander says that “…it is going to take another three years to deal with the deficit [and] that means budgets across the board naturally have to be squeezed, including defence," he is admitting that the UK military is being gutted simply to meet self-imposed goals for debt reduction. Britain thus risks becoming the first European country to have been effectively disarmed by rating agencies.

Finally this interview demonstrates the danger of giving “bean counters” a say over issues of which they have no understanding. To the uninformed, it can be tempting to believe that three missile submarines are just as effective as four, and that since having two at sea at any one time is very costly, one could do just as well. Reality is different.

Giving bean counters the power to decide policy has already brought us the subprime crisis, the banking crisis, and the current recession across Europe, which even the IMF now belatedly admits was a costly mistake. But giving them the keys to defense policy and to the military is as irresponsible as government gets.)

Click here for the full story, on the Guardian website

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