New UK nuclear warhead plan tarnishes reputation of "Global Britain"

Li Jiayao
2021-03-21 20:13:51

BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) -- As part of efforts to build a "Global Britain," the country decided to dramatically increase its nuclear arsenal earlier in the week. The plan came under fire immediately domestically before it went out globally, with many Britons criticizing it as a "provocative, illegal and morally obscene use of resources."

For the first time after the Cold War, Britain, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), reversed its previous policy of reducing its overall nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling and decided to increase the number of nuclear warheads by more than 40 percent, which it deemed as necessary due to the "evolving security environment."

However, the so-called "necessary" step is not convincing enough to many British people, let alone the international community, given Britain is in the middle of a crucial battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and its role as a signatory of the NPT, making the strategic reverse rather "dangerous," "reckless" and "toxic."

For one thing, by raising the nuke warheads cap, Britain clearly breaks international law and risks starting a "new nuclear arms race."

Stewart McDonald, the defense spokesman for the Scottish National Party, accused the British government of being wedded to an outdated defense policy, saying "for the prime minister (Boris Johnson) to stand up and champion the international rules-based system before announcing in the same breath that the UK plans to violate its commitments to the international treaty on non-proliferation beggars belief."

The fact that the United States and Russia agreed last month to further reduce their nuclear arsenals made Britain's decision even more inappropriate, as this is not the time to start a new nuclear arms race.

"This dangerous decision panders to right wing 'punch above weight' ideologies that have nothing to do with British security. It flies in the face of Britain's genuine security needs and appears ignorant of the widespread and increasing opposition to the UK's continued possession of nuclear weapons," the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons said in a statement.

Moreover, facing the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe, Britain cannot afford to make another reckless move by spending resources wrongfully.

"With the government strapped for cash, we don't need grandiose, money-wasting spending on weapons of mass destruction. We need essential investment in health, jobs and dealing with the climate catastrophe," said Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Putting it in a more direct way, the Scottish National Party called the planned expenditure "shameful," as that sum of money "could be used to tackle child poverty instead."

Suffering a double whammy with the pandemic and Brexit, Britain's gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 2.9 percent monthly in January, leaving the British economy around 10 percent below its pre-pandemic level.

Under such circumstances, butter goes before guns. The expenditure on these ultimate weapons of mass destruction "should instead be directed toward real and urgent challenges, especially climate change and the pandemic, as well as to other essential social needs such as health services, housing and jobs," said Linda Pentz Gunter from Beyond Nuclear, a nonprofit organization pushing for abandoning both nuclear power and nuclear arms.

Finally, the dangerous and reckless move will prove to be toxic as it will raise global security concerns and strain relations with countries that support the NPT.

"It will ... alienate Britain's allies and increase fears that the UK is on a hell-bent road to sabotage our future and the collective norms and laws on which our security depends," said Rebecca Johnson, founding co-chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The decision has also drawn criticism from the wider international community, as a UN spokesman warned it could have a damaging impact on global stability and efforts to pursue a world free of nuclear weapons.

All in all, the "dangerous," "reckless" and "toxic" move is not conducive to forging the reputation of a "Global Britain," which requires London to join more global cooperation to deal with the challenges the entire international community faces.

On the contrary, by ratcheting up global tensions and squandering resources on nuclear weapons, the British government undermines its own claim to be a responsible member of the global community.

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