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White Paper

Government White Paper Cm 6994 The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent (December 2006)

The following text is a summary edited from the white paper its self.

None of the present recognised nuclear weapons States intends to renounce nuclear weapons, in the absence of an agreement to disarm multilaterally, we cannot be sure that a major nuclear threat to our vital interests will not emerge over the longer term.

There are a range of other risks and challenges to future global stability. Weak and failing states will continue to offer safe havens for international terrorists and potentially create wider instability. Increasing pressure on key resources such as energy and water (which could be driven by a range of factors, potentially including population growth, increasing global economic development and climate change) may increase interstate tension. The rapid and uncontrollable development of militarily-relevant technology by the civil sector will make potential adversaries increasingly capable. These factors potentially could lead to increasing levels of international instability and risk of interstate conflict. We are concerned that, over the period from 2020 to 2050, this potential prospect, combined with possible further nuclear proliferation, could lead to an increased risk of conflict involving a nuclear-armed state.

Trident provides Prime Ministers with the necessary assurance that no aggressor can escalate a crisis beyond UK control. An independent deterrent ensures our vital interests will be safeguarded.

We therefore see an enduring role for the UK’s nuclear forces as an essential part of our capability for deterring blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests by nuclear-armed opponents.

In terms of their destructive power, nuclear weapons pose a uniquely terrible threat and consequently have a capability to deter acts of aggression that is of a completely different scale to any other form of deterrence. Nuclear weapons remain a necessary element of the capability we need to deter threats from others possessing nuclear weapons.

The UK’s nuclear weapons are not designed for military use during conflict but instead to deter and prevent nuclear blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means.

Insuring against an Uncertain Future is a key responsibility of government to be sure that the UK is properly protected should the future turn out to be less secure than we hope. There are limits to the extent to which intelligence can inform us about medium to long-term changes in the nuclear capabilities of others, or give prior warning of a possible change in intent by an existing nuclear weapon State.

We must therefore be realistic about our ability precisely to predict the nature of any future threats to our vital interests over the extended timescales associated with decisions about the renewal of our nuclear deterrent.