Jeremy Corbyn came under attack yesterday for his refusal to countenance the use of nuclear weapons, writes Commander Robert Green. But his stance is honourable and both legally and strategically correct – especially with his opposition to renewing the Trident nuclear missile system.
As a former operator of British nuclear weapons, I support your rejection of Trident replacement.
I write as a retired Royal Navy Commander. I have served my country in the crew of a Buccaneer nuclear strike aircraft with a target in Russia, and subsequently on Sea King anti-submarine helicopters equipped with nuclear depth-bombs.
Here are my reasons, in response to some of the pro-nuclear advocates’ arguments.
‘Since 1945 nuclear deterrence has prevented war and provided stability between the major powers.’
The Soviet motive in occupying Eastern Europe was to create a defensive buffer zone and ensure that Germany could never threaten them again. Soviet archives show that NATO’s conventional capability and soft power were seen as far more significant than its nuclear posture.
Nuclear deterrence meant that nuclear war was avoided by luck. We have come perilously close to nuclear war on several occasions:
- Cuban missile crisis 1962;
- Exercise Able Archer miscalculation 1983;
- Russian misidentification of a Norwegian meteorological research rocket 1995.
Also, it prolonged and intensified the Cold War.
As for stability, the reality is that nuclear deterrence stimulates arms racing – and some 1,500 US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons remain at dangerously high alert states, especially with the reckless nuclear posturing over Ukraine.
‘The 1996 advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice did not conclude that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be unlawful, especially when a nation’s survival is at stake.’
The Court, under heavy pressure from the three NATO nuclear weapon states, did not specifically pronounce on the legal status of nuclear deterrence.
However, it determined unanimously that any threat or use of nuclear weapons must conform to international humanitarian law, and confirmed that the principles of the law of armed conflict apply to nuclear weapons.
The envisaged use of even a single 100 kiloton UK Trident warhead could never meet these requirements.
Read more at Jeremy Corbyn is right to reject Trident