Europe Scandals

Why did Britain decide to increase the number of nuclear warheads?

This March was marked by a global nuclear scandal.

Britain, known for its reputation as the quietest nuclear state, seems to have decided to change its approach. In the year when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force and the month of the NPT Review Conference was already set, London suddenly took the initiative to increase its nuclear arsenal.

The Joint Review on Security, Defense, and Foreign Policy officially stated its intention to increase the number of nuclear warheads to 260.

Despite the fact that even with such a 40% increase, the still remains at the end of the list of nuclear states in terms of the number of warheads, the trend looks shocking.

In the thirty years since the end of the Cold War, London has consistently followed the path of reducing its nuclear arsenal.

And if in the early 1990s the had an arsenal of 500 nuclear warheads, then by 2010 it decided to reduce it to 225, and in the 2020s-to 180 units.

All the more unexpected was the statement about the breaking of such a trend.

This step in the Review is explained by the “changed strategic situation”, which is largely justified by the policy of the Russian Federation. Along with “balancing on the brink of war”, the document lists “political interference, murder, and poisoning, propaganda, and disinformation”, which have long been the tools of Moscow.

London’s decision to build up its nuclear capabilities violates the NPT. This refers to article 6, according to which the nuclear-weapon States “undertake in good faith to negotiate an end to the arms race and… nuclear disarmament”.

In this context, London’s statement that it is committed to continuing on the path of nuclear disarmament and promoting the implementation of the JNR sounds almost mocking.

However, even with the planned build-up of nuclear forces, their modernization, and increased opacity of information about deployed warheads, the remains the smallest nuclear state of the official ones, reducing the future gap with France by only 40 warheads.

It seems that Paris is not at all concerned about such a step, because given the current level of defense partnership between the states, the growth of British nuclear power will only free France from unnecessary responsibility for European affairs.

French expert Bruno Tertre defiantly declares that “ now the resembles us… An unrepentant and shameless nuclear state that did not hesitate to trumpet an increase in its nuclear arsenal only a few weeks after the entry into force of the NPT.”

In general, France welcomes the situation when the Allies take on greater responsibility.

By the way, the Review recalls that the United Kingdom is one of the two nuclear states (along with the United States) responsible for the security of NATO, which, given the growing strategic challenges associated with the development of new weapons systems, requires greater nuclear capabilities.

Moreover, London declares not only the build-up of nuclear forces, but also the development of the entire range of technical means: cyber, precision weapons, and fifth-generation strike aircraft…

Is this a consequence of Brexit, a bid for leadership in Europe, or just a desire to keep up with the rest of the nuclear five? Or the usual realpolitical-inevitable in the world after 2014, when our eastern neighbor demonstrated to the world the eternal law of the jungle: brute military force is still a key element of politics.

It seems that the British colleagues came to this conclusion after more than five years, but given their initially almost anti-nuclear liberal positions, this speaks volumes.

Probably, even as a certain trend in international relations, which cannot be reversed either by agreements on the destruction of nuclear weapons or by other liberal initiatives.

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