Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The argument that Russia is an existential Nuclear threat whichjustifies the renewal of Trident is unpersuasive.

We need a Nuclear deterrent to stand up to those States threatening us with Nuclear weapons. Remind me again which are they ?

The answer to the above question which I posed on Twitter was, not surprisingly, "Russia". And certainly Vladamir Putin has been posturing plenty in recent times and that posturing could be characterised as presenting an existential threat. But if in its post war history the Soviet Union never used Nuclear weapons - at a time when it was challenged ideologically and militarily by the West - why would it's successor, Russia, contemplate using them now? 

The West is fighting no proxy wars against Russia - even in Ukraine where some would say we should be involved despite there being no obligation on us to do so and in a country which, like it or not, arguably is in Russia's back yard. And whilst the Soviet Union actively opposed the West around the world Russia tends to stay within its borders. 

The West actually has no quarrel with Putin's Russia. Or, to be more accurate, no quarrel which in any way compares with the opposition to the USSR of the Cold War. On Human Rights grounds there is plenty to be repulsed by in Russia, but the same applies (and more so) to States like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which we actually arm with British manufactured weapons! 

The question "Cui Bono?" (Who benefits?) can be applied to Russia. It is impossible to think of any scenario under which Russia would benefit from the use of Nuclear weapons. Those who argue that the threat is real need to answer that question. For the USSR to have used such weapons to protect its hegemony behind the Iron Curtain in the late 1980s is just about imaginable. It didn't happen of course (Deo gracias!) but defending territorial integrity is the most common cause of war and it could have happened. But it didn't.

If Putin's predecessors didn't defend the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons to prevent it disintegrating    why and under what circumstances would Putin use them now? Nobody in the West is challenging Russia to give up any of its territory. Chechnya is not a high interest subject and there is no possibility of NATO intervenng. Ukraine is problematic but would Putin risk a nuclear conflict to further his ambitions (whatever they are) there? Obviously not. And is Putin actually threatening any of the ex USSR member States which are now independent ? I don't think so,

So is Russia really a Nuclear threat to the West? I find, bombast aside, no evidence to suggest so. For Britain to be allied with our fellow Europeans and the United States and others to repulse the real threats of these times (especially terrorism)  is desirable. Our conventional forces as part of these alliances have a role to play. But if the only rationale for the renewal of Trident is because Russia is a threat I just don't buy it. And nor should we. 


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