LONDON -- Three retired senior military officers on Friday condemned Britain's plans to renew its independent nuclear deterrent, saying the Trident system was "completely useless" against modern threats.
A British submarine armed with Trident ballistic missiles. Three retired senior military officers on Friday condemned Britain's plans to renew its independent nuclear deterrent, saying the Trident system was "completely useless" against modern threats. [Agencies]
"Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently, or are likely to, face -- particularly international terrorism," they wrote in The Times.
The idea of an independent deterrent was redundant, they said, as it was "unthinkable" that Britain would launch its nuclear weapons without the backing and support of the United States.
Lawmakers voted in March 2007 to renew the Trident submarine nuclear missile system, at a cost of about 20 billion pounds (now 30 billion dollars, 22 billion euros), arguing it was an integral part of Britain's national defence.
But a significant number of lawmakers in then prime minister Tony Blair's ruling Labour party opposed the move, arguing that renewing Trident breached the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and was too costly.
In their letter, the retired military officers said the advantages of being in the nuclear club -- all the permanent members of the UN Security Council have nuclear weapons -- "no longer has the resonance it once did".
"Political clout derives much more from economic strength," they said.
The money would be better spent on equipment for Britain's armed forces, they said, noting: "In the present economic climate it may well prove impossible to afford both."
The signatories are Field Marshal Lord Bramall, a former head of the armed forces, and retired generals Lord David Ramsbotham and Sir Hugh Beach.
Kate Hudson, chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, welcomed the weapons call, saying: "These generals are no pacifists -- they are purely practical about Britain's needs and have concluded that we are better off without them."
The Ministry of Defence said it was committed to a world without nuclear weapons and was working to achieve that goal. It had also reduced the number of warheads it held to the minimum required for a deterrence.
"However, the government believes it should take the decisions necessary to ensure our national security, and in the current security environment that includes retention of a minimum nuclear deterrent," a spokeswoman said.