The UK leases the missiles for the Trident nuclear weapons system from the United States at an estimated cost according to the CND of £350 million[i]. No doubt a further significant proportion of the total estimated cost of £205 billion to upgrade Trident will also be heading to the USA. This is excellent business for the US but why would they take such a risk? Can they really trust the UK not to launch such weapons, thereby resulting in their own destruction?
There are two plausible explanations.
- The US have built a concealed, fail-safe facility into the UK’s ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent under which it cannot be used without US approval. This would not be difficult to implement given the advanced technology involved and easy to conceal from a nation that considers itself the USA’s ‘most trusted’ ally.
- It is the US missiles that have the built in fail-safe mechanism. Thus at times of international crisis, it is the UK’s missiles that would launch, while those of the USA would remain snug in their silos, leaving the US President to point the figure at a lunatic and out of control UK Prime Minister. In these circumstances, the UK and the US’s enemies would be obliterated but the USA itself might escape.
These possibilities are not mutually exclusive. The thought of Boris Johnson’s chubby little finger repeatedly pressing the red button while nothing happens has its reassuring, even amusing, aspect, but the prospect of any Prime Minister content to become a posthumous war criminal by even trying to launch missiles is deeply disturbing. Jeremy Corbyn was our first potential Prime Minister who declared that under no circumstances would he ‘push the red button’. The sooner we have a replacement for Boris Johnson with a similar commitment, the better for us all. Clearly Keir Starmer is not that replacement.