British nuclear deterrent debate
The first stumbling block was the shock US decision to halt nuclear co-operation with Britain at the end of World War II. From being partners in the fabled Manhattan Project, Britain was left initially largely to its own (nuclear) devices.
But the then Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, declared that Britain had to have a nuclear weapon with a "bloody Union Jack on top of it".
Britain did become the third country, after the US and the Soviet Union, to test an atomic device, in October 1952. But just 17 months later, the Americans detonated their first, much more powerful thermonuclear device - or hydrogen bomb - at Bikini Atoll.
Until the 1990s the UK deployed a wide variety of nuclear weapons around the world, such as V bombers in Singapore in the 1960s, aircraft on Cyprus and on Royal Navy carriers in the 1960s and 1970s. Until August 1998, the UK retained the WE.177 nuclear weapon manufactured in the mid-1960s to late 1970s, in air-dropped free-fall bomb and depth charge versions. Its withdrawal left the four Vanguard class submarines, which replaced the Polaris ones in the early 1990s, as Britain's only nuclear weapons platform. It has been estimated by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that the United Kingdom has built around 1,200 warheads since the first Hurricane device of 1952. In terms of number of warheads, the UK arsenal was at its maximum size of about 520 in the 1970s, but this figure does not include the large numbers of US-owned warheads, bombs, nuclear depth bombs supplied from US stocks in Europe for use by NATO allies. At its peak, these numbered 327 for the British Army of the Rhine in Germany alone.
The strategic concept of deterrence aims to prevent war. It is the justification virtually every nuclear state uses for...