Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Nuclear disarmament tops debate agenda…in New York, not in UK

“For over 45 years, the NPT has embodied our shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons…There are no shortcuts in this endeavor, and each step must be carefully taken to ensure that the security of all is increased along the way. We have not yet achieved the ultimate goals enshrined in the treaty – on this, we all agree – but it is only by seeking common ground and reinforcing shared interests that we will succeed in realizing a world free of nuclear dangers. …. When I was a young man, fresh out of college and newly minted in the Navy, I was sent to train at the Nuclear Chemical Biological warfare school. And I learned in graphic detail about what nuclear war would look like, about the damage that weapons of mass destruction can inflict. I learned about throw weights and circles of probable damage. And I learned about radiation – not just the immediate harm, but the long-term trauma that it can cause. And when I considered the huge number of nuclear weapons that we were living with back then – late 1960s – I was left with only one conclusion: This defies all reason…… Thankfully, I was and am today far from alone in that assessment. The vast majority of the world has come to the conclusion – united around the belief that nuclear weapons should one day be eliminated… Can we really create a future in which nuclear weapons exist only within the pages of history books? The answer is yes.”

Those were the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his address to the 9th  United Nations  quinquennial review conference (RevCon)  of the 190-member state Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), when it opened at the UN for a month-long meeting on 27 April.

Secretary Kerry also read a message from President Obama to the Conference in which he stressed:

“We have not yet achieved the ultimate goals enshrined in the Treaty—on this, we all agree—but it is only by seeking common ground and reinforcing shared interests that we will succeed in realizing a world free of nuclear dangers. Over the next few weeks and beyond the time of this conference, let us come together in a spirit of partnership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, advance the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and continue our journey on the path to peace and security.”

(Secretary of State John Kerry, Remarks at the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference,

On the next day, the United States Government released new information about the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. (“Obama Administration Releases New Nuclear Warhead Numbers; April 28, 2015,   Hans M. Kristensen, an analyst for the respected Federation of American Scientists, explained in a recent blog posting..

Kerry updated the Department of Defense nuclear stockpile history by declaring that the stockpile as of September 2014 included 4,717 nuclear warheads, ie  a reduction of 87 warheads since September 2013, when the DOD stockpile  had  included 4,804 warheads. This comprise  a reduction of about 500 warheads retired since President Obama took office in January 2009.

Kerry also revealed for the first time the official number of retired nuclear warheads in line for dismantlement. As of September 2014, the United States had approximately 2,500 additional warheads that have been retired - but which are still relatively intact and deployable -  and awaiting dismantlement.

Moreover, Kerry also unveiled that the Obama administration “will seek to accelerate the dismantlement of retired nuclear warheads by 20%....” adding “Over the last 20 years alone, we have dismantled 10,251 warheads.”

All of this adds up to an important unilateral diplomatic gesture by Britain’s closest  political ally, which  also provides the UK with its nuclear missiles, warhead designs and calibrations,  and nuclear safety R&D support for Trident. It is a very important piece of international news. But not one word of it has appeared in the British print or broadcast media, as a range of key political issues has been deliberated and debated in the 2015 General Election Campaign.

Only Twitter has done this diplomatic development justice.

What does that say about the news values of the British media, which instead has swamped viewers, listeners and readers with hours and pages of political trivia and tittle tattle for weeks?

The issue of Trident has only been discussed in the media as part of the mischief-making over whether the Scottish National Party (SNP) , which opposes Trident and wants it dismantled, would cosy-up to Labour in a post- election political pact.

Publicly, the main political (biggest) parties have given the impression they all want to replace Trident with a vastly expensive - 100 billion pounds over its operational  lifetime- nuclear weapon of mass destruction: As CND summarized:

The Conservatives are committed to a four submarine replacement fleet operating around the clock – what’s become known as a 'like for like' replacement. They pledge, 'We will retain the Trident continuous at sea nuclear deterrent to provide the ultimate guarantee of our safety and build the new fleet of four Successor Ballistic Missile Submarines - securing thousands of highly-skilled engineering jobs in the UK.'
Labour's manifesto states its commitment to a new fleet, also operating round the clock, but has not said whether this will mean four new submarines – it’s possible the same level of patrol could work with three subs.
In Labour’s words,
‘it remains committed to a minimum, credible, independent nuclear capability, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. We will actively work to increase momentum on global multilateral disarmament efforts and negotiations, and look at further reductions in global stockpiles and the numbers of weapons.’
The Liberal Democrats, credited with the Coalition government’s decision to delay the Trident replacement decision to 2016, offer something different.
They would also develop a new nuclear weapons submarine fleet, but would take it off round the clock patrol,
by 'moving from continuous at sea deterrence to a contingency posture of regular patrols, enabling a surge to armed patrols when the international security context makes this appropriate'. This would allow them to 'reduce the UK nuclear warhead stockpile'. The Liberal Democrats have also stated they would be open to coalition negotiations with either Labour or Conservatives.

Labour leader Ed Miliband asserted in last Thursday's BBC Question Time TV leaders’ debate with the audience in Leeds "I’m not going to give in to SNP demands around Trident".

Later that night, former Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Portillo slammed the notion of  Trident replacement, when appearing  on BBC’s  This Week asserting:
"A former defence secretary and some Generals [this week] wrote a letter demanding the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons programme. You're probably familiar with these men who are worried about their own virility and buy large sports cars, and this I think is a case in point. Our independent nuclear deterrent is not independent and doesn't constitute a deterrent against anybody that we regard as an enemy. It is a waste of money and it is a diversion of funds that might otherwise be spent on perfectly useful and useable weapons and troops. But some people have not caught up with this reality."

Moreover, in a Parliamentary debate on 20 January  on the Trident WMD programme the current Tory defence secretary  Michael Fallon told MPs
"we also share the vision of a world that is without nuclear weapons, achieved through multilateral disarmament.” (emphasis added) (


Why have these issues  been ignored by the mainstream media? In whose interests is this beyond a smooth run to making huge profits from the taxpayer by arms sales company BAE Systems, who would build the replacement submarines for Trident?

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