This letter was submitted to the Daily Telegraph today:
Your columnist Boris Johnson, who doubles as London Mayor, attacked what he asserts is Miliband’s Labour going soft on the nation’s defence, in arguing in his latest column (“If we want to be taken seriously, we have to defend ourselves: Britain must remain a credible military force if the Special Relationship is to survive,” Daily Telegraph, 16 Feb.):
“If a Labour-SNP coalition were to junk Trident, Britain would be vulnerable to nuclear blackmail; but it is worse than that. We would suffer a public and visible diminution of global authority; we would be sending a signal that we no longer wished to be taken seriously; that we were perfectly happy to abandon our seat on the UN Security Council to some suit from Brussels; that we were becoming a kind of military capon. Yes, the nukes are expensive – but so is all defence spending, these days.”
He adds to the argument drawing attention to a currently belligerent Russia, which is currently, he says, increasing defence spending by 35 per cent, and building huge new drones capable of long-range bombing.
As Boris is fighting to regain his Parliamentary seat in the General Election campaign, 190 nations will be meeting at the United Nations in New York, at the latest five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non Proliferation treaty (NPT) to discuss steps towards nuclear disarmament.
Just before Boris left London for the US visit he mentions in his article, the Foreign Office hosted a major diplomatic conference of the UN Security Council Permanent Five (P5) in London preparing for this NPT review, which included high-level diplomatic delegates: the FCO’s top disarmament diplomat, Peter Jones, Director for Defence and International Security met with Wang Qun, Director General, Department of Arms Control and Disarmament for China; Hélène Duchêne, Director for Strategic Affairs for France; Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security for the United States; and, as Boris might find interesting, Grigory Berdennikov, Ambassador-at-Large for Russia.
After their meeting on 6 February the P5 diplomats issued a joint statement through the Foreign Office which included a very interesting passage, considering it is co-signed by Russia, stating:
“At their 2015 Conference the P5 restated their belief that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remains the essential cornerstone for the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament, and is an essential contribution to international security and stability.”
Indeed, less than a month ago in a Parliamentary debate (on 20 January) on the Trident nuclear weapons system, Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told MPs
"we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.”
So while most British people would agree with Boris that “our Armed Forces are not a luxury,” and that “They are indispensable to our lives,” that does not have to mean possession of nuclear weapons. Please note, Boris!