Sunday, May 07, 2006

Blair and Britain's Nuclear Deterrent

Talking on C-SPAN today, U.K. Times Washington bureau chief Tom Baldwin gave an interesting assessment of British politics in the wake of Labour's defeat in the recent local elections, and the subsequent drastic cabinet reshuffle. With Prime Minister Blair obviously on the way out, the signs are that a campaign to replace him with his New Labour colleague Gordon Brown may be about to begin within the party. As Baldwin pointed out, this is likely to have long-term implications for U.K.-U.S. relations, particularly in the field of defence. The big question at present is whether the current Labour government will commit its successors to the indefinite retention of nuclear weapons,and there are powerful lobbies and pressure groups arguing against it. Though the present Trident system will not become obsolete for another 20 years, if its replacement is to be practically implemented, work needs to start now, and a substantial contingency plan has been built into the U.K.'s defence budget for this purpose. The cost of the replacement is likely to be in the region of 15 billion GBP (28 billion USD).

Baldwin suggested that Brown is less likely than Blair to favour a new delivery system. And he predicted that in the present political climate Blair won't last more than another year as Britain's PM.
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