‘Mr Brown will signal tomorrow that he is ready to negotiate at a meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation. It follows President Obama’s decision to ditch the US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe. That move, and Russia’s delighted response, has bolstered hopes that a new non-proliferation treaty could be agreed next spring.
Officials travelling with the Prime Minister to New York insisted that there was no question of surrendering Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. They claimed that current advice from military chiefs was that a continuous at-sea deterrent could still be maintained with just three boats.’
As well as saving a little money, this is a clever piece of diplomacy. If the military chiefs are correct, decommissioning will not lessen Britain’s deterrent: reducing the number of submarines will not affect operational capacity and this plan will not necessarily decrease Britain’s warhead arsenal beyond the planned 20% reduction under the 2006 white paper. Britain might be an irrelevance compared to the US and Russia, but this is a magnanimous, forward looking gesture designed to bring Iran to the negotiating table. That might be wishful thinking, but if Obama can get Russia to adopt multi-lateral action Ahmadinejad’s hand might be forced. North Korea remains a problem.