Tim Farron writes: A nuclear weapons-free world?

 

I recently revisited an article that I wrote ahead of Autumn Conference in 2015. My article opened with the line, “Another Lib Dem conference and we find ourselves talking about our nuclear deterrent once more.”

And they say politics has changed in the last eighteen months!

In York this week, we will again debate the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent. At conference’s request, the FPC has commissioned a policy paper on nuclear weapons (pdf). The paper, written by party members after long consideration, advocates a step down the nuclear ladder by moving to a medium-readiness posture, and proposes an end to continuous at-sea deterrence. It also calls on the UK to become a leader in the disarmament and control of nuclear weapons. This position reflects the UK’s continued need for a minimum nuclear deterrent, suitable for the 21st century, which sits alongside the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to working for a world free of nuclear weapons, working within international institutions, particularly the UN.

Eighteen months ago, I asked those advocating a one-sided UK nuclear disarmament to answer a series of questions. Those questions are still relevant today, and I’ll be backing the policy motion at conference, because it provides credible answers to them.

In that article, I wrote, “We need to be absolutely sure that neither our security, nor that of our neighbours is compromised.” We are living in a world that is more volatile than in 2013, when the party’s current policy was written. The challenges the UK faces include Putin’s aggressive build-up of the Russian military, a potential fracturing of the European Union, and a volatile and unpredictable President in the White House, to name just a few.

NATO is an avowedly nuclear alliance, and the policy paper argues, correctly, that now, more than ever, the UK needs to be a fully committed member of NATO. President Trump has already said he considers NATO to be irrelevant. I’m sure Putin would be delighted if the UK were to get rid of its nuclear weapons, but our allies, and in particular the Baltic states, would be dismayed.

However, I do not believe that “like-for-like” replacement of the Trident programme, as the government is now pursuing, is needed to address all the threats the UK faces. Lib Dems have been arguing against a continuous deterrent for many years, and last autumn, our MPs voted against the government’s planned Successor programme.

And what about the UK’s international obligations? As the policy paper states, the UK has a legal responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and as a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to reinvigorate international nuclear disarmament initiatives.

So I was delighted to see that the paper advocates a leading role for the UK in the creation of a nuclear weapons-free world and strengthens our commitment to using international institutions to promote global security and stability. If we genuinely want a world without nuclear weapons then we will only do so by taking other nuclear powers with us. Otherwise the British people would feel their government is making them vulnerable whilst not actually making any real steps towards peace and a world free of nuclear weapons.

The paper sets out a range of measures the UK should take, including strengthening the legal framework around nuclear weapons, using the UK’s expertise in verification to build confidence between states.

As an outward looking, internationalist party, Liberal Democrats want the UK to work closely as part of the UN, NATO and the EU to reduce global weapons stocks. We don’t want to walk away from our international commitments.

I am under no illusion about the seriousness with which we as a party must treat the question of the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons. I want us as a party to have a credible policy which keeps the UK safe, but which also makes the world safer. This policy paper, and its motion, does that.

Liberal Democrats are internationalists, and the proposed policy sets out a progressive framework for making the world a safer place.

At this Spring Conference we have an important opportunity to lay the foundation for a vision which all Liberals can support: a nuclear weapons-free world. Let’s take it.

* Tim Farron is Leader of the Liberal Democrats, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale and a former President of the Liberal Democrats.

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38 Comments

  • George Potter 15th Mar '17 - 4:03pm

    I’m sorry to disagree with Tim but this position is nonsense since it ends up maintaining Liberal Democrat policy as being to have a part time submarine.

    Either we need Trident for our national security, in which case we need full renewal, or we don’t, in which case we should scrap the renewal.

    It makes no sense to try and split the difference between these two alternatives in favour of a policy which no one really believes in and which is wide open to ridicule.

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Mar '17 - 4:29pm

    The amendment supports strengthening our conventional forces, that’s what we need. Nobody is realistically going to invade Britain and get away with it. I hope not anyway. But possessing nukes does make us a potential target of a pre-emptive nuclear strike.

    I know it’s risky, but we need to stop pretending we would undertake a war crime such as nuking Moscow.

  • But possessing nukes does make us a potential target of a pre-emptive nuclear strike

    We are a potential target of a pre-emptive nuclear strike whether we possess nukes or not. Policy needs to be made with that fact in mind.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Mar '17 - 5:06pm

    How independent is our nuclear deterrent?
    (Unless it and its post firing guidance systems are under our autonomous control, there seems to be no real military point in having it.)

    How efficient/effective is it?
    How many test firings have worked and how many have failed?
    (Unless it is reliable, it seems to be both dangerous and a waste of money.)

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th Mar '17 - 5:36pm

    It would be morally unacceptable ever to use nuclear weapons. To do so would be the ultimate war crime, as it would inevitably result in the deaths of thousands, probably millions, of innocent civilians. If it would be morally unacceptable to use them, it is also unacceptable to possess them.
    Most countries in the world, including the vast majority of European countries, have chosen not to have nuclear weapons. I don’t think anyone really believes Britain is safer than, say, Switzerland because we have nuclear weapons.
    Britain should take the lead and decide to have no more to do with these weapons.
    I very much hope that a unilateralist amendment to this motion will be accepted for debate at Conference. If there is a unilateralist amendment, I will vote for it. Otherwise, I will vote against this disappointing motion.

  • Paul Pettinger 15th Mar '17 - 6:34pm

    Whatever we agree on Sunday, can we please agree to make de-escalation of nuclear weapons a foreign policy priority. Nuclear weapons are a long-term threat to humanity.

  • Alan Depauw 15th Mar '17 - 6:47pm

    A part-time nuclear force invites only ridicule. All it speaks of, is political compromise; but one that fails to satisfy either those who believe in a coherent nuclear force, or proponents of unilateral disarmament.

    The latter are surely aware that it would be morally equivocal to disarm whilst remaining under the protection of NATO’s nuclear umbrella. So they would be doubly dissatisfied by the policy to remain in the alliance.

    Moreover, does anyone seriously expect that the UK downgrading to a part-time force would deter states like Iran or N. Korea from developing their own weapons?

    As Tim says, NATO is an avowedly nuclear alliance. If we are to remain in it, we should live up to our historic responsibility as part holder of the umbrella and not abdicate it to the US and France. And we should do so properly, with an up-to-date and fully operational nuclear capability.

    Everyone wants nuclear disarmament. But it can only be achieved by tortuous, painstaking multilateral negotiations; not by pseudo unilateral posturing.

  • @Catherine Jane Crosland
    “It would be morally unacceptable ever to use nuclear weapons. To do so would be the ultimate war crime, as it would inevitably result in the deaths of thousands, probably millions, of innocent civilians.”

    Am not sure if you are just talking in the present and future tense, but was the nuclear bombing of Japan unacceptable and a war crime? Even though there is a strong argument that it saved lives by bringing about an unconditional surrender, hastening the end of the war and alleviating the need for what would have been an extremely costly (in terms of human lives lost on both sides) ground invasion?

    “Most countries in the world, including the vast majority of European countries, have chosen not to have nuclear weapons.”

    Because many European countries can piggyback on the existence of nuclear weapons held by the USA, UK and France which offers collective defence through NATO. And their choice of being nuclear-weapons free isn’t the only thing that they piggyback on when it comes to collective military security offered by NATO. Something that is giving the new President in the USA reason to doubt the credibility of and commitment to NATO

    “I don’t think anyone really believes Britain is safer than, say, Switzerland because we have nuclear weapons.”

    A country’s security isn’t just determined by its own policy and military status. What is going on in terms of its neighbours and wider region determines how secure it is, and therefore determines the defence policy needs of the individual country. Basically Switzerland has little to worry about, and can be high-minded, ideological and purist because of the regional security brought about by the pragmatism of other European and trans-Atlantic countries.

    (Multilateral) disarmament works and is sensible during a trend of global stabilisation. I doubt many people would think that the current trend is towards global stabilisation. And no, I don’t think nuclear weapons cause destabilisation, and I think they do the opposite when held by robust and functioning democracies (which 4 of the current nuclear-states are)

  • “Most countries in the world, including the vast majority of European countries, have chosen not to have nuclear weapons.”

    Do you know for a fact that many countries have “chosen” not to posseses nuclear weapons,perhaps many countries would like to have them but cannot afford them, or some countries,ie.Estonia freely admit that they rely upon the defence umbrella of the US and to an extent the UK for the major part for their defence,as has been admitted by their premier.
    There are a few countries in the world that cannot be trusted and are very unstable,we should not leave ourselves vulnerable to them.
    As abhorant as they are, nuclear weapons are the ultimate detterant, the British people would never support a government that choses to give up our ultimate defence.
    We should ,at least replace, like for like, our nuclear detterant and also encourage those NATO countries not paying their pledged contributions, to cough up their full amount and not sponge on those that do,after all,they have duty to protect us also,isn’t that the principal of NATO ?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '17 - 10:49pm

    I favour the retention of our nuclear detterent, an increase in conventional forces and capability and the renewal of Trident.

    If , to do all this, it seems the only option is to support the motion, so be it, is the ammendment the only way to improve the conventional forces and capability ?

    My notion of recognise things as they are and as a small party allow conscience votes for mps , is the best policy !

  • A Social Liberal 15th Mar '17 - 11:20pm

    Until the annexation of the Crimea I felt that the time had come when we could give up our nuclear capability, especially since we had so many better things we could spend our money on. However, the resurgence of Russian imperialism made me reconsider.

    I suggest that those who think that a nuclear weapon free UK would not be the target of a Russian pre-emptive nuclear strike are being naive and need to do a little reading.

    Soviet military doctrine was to include the UK in a nuclear attack, not just on it’s nuclear weapon sites (and possible mobile weapons leaving Greenham common) but all of the major military facilities. This means most coastal towns with half decent harbours, all the larger airfields – military and civilian – and such strategically important targets as Catterick, Parliament, Portsmouth etc etc etc.

    They did this not with invasion in mind, nor even the destruction of our nuclear capability but rather the degradation of our abililty to fight, denial of military start points (the UK is known as the largest aircraft carrier the US has) and taking away the UKs ability to govern.

    Just because Soviet Russia is no more doesn’t mean their nuclear doctrine has changed. Putin is a product of Soviet military training (albeit within the KGB) as are most of his Very Senior Officers. Further, much of the russian military materiel is old and substandard as was demonstrated by the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group steaming to and back from Syria – Russias falling behind in the arms race makes it more likely that in any future war against Europe they will resort early to the nuclear option.

    Because of this it is the height of stupidity to abandon even Constantly At Sea never mind removing our nuclear options, it won’t stop us being a target for Russias nuclear weapons but it will make us a sitting duck

  • We have them now (I wish nobody had, but there you go, that’s so called progress)
    They are a deterrent.
    To disarm unilaterally will be seen by others as a sign of weakness.
    This makes us more vulnerable.
    It may seem harsh, but it’s really that simple.

    What maters is how any disarmament would be viewed by other potentially aggressive countries, not what we think

    Unfortunately, that’s the harsh reality of the world we live in, I’m afraid.

  • I have to agree with George Potter and Alan Depauw: a part-time nuclear force invites ridicule and will be used to reinforce all the usual stereotypes of the Lib Dems as sandal-wearing and unserious.

    It also clashes with the logic of deterrence and makes use of nuclear weapons *more* likely. Deterrence works when there is certainty of nuclear retaliation. Everything you do to weaken a deterrent invites the other side to launch a first strike, and in a crisis, increases pressure on the side with a weak deterrent to strike first. Thus, this policy is unlikely to attract the support of arms control experts.

    I applaud the emphasis on international attempts at dealerting and disarmament. A more credible way for the UK to contribute unilaterally would be, for example, by opening nuclear facilities to inspection by potential adversaries. That can strengthen deterrence by creating greater certainty about the ability to retaliate but also raise confidence by demonstrating that weapons are well-controlled.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Mar '17 - 8:23am

    Alans, I should, of course have said “Most countries which could afford nuclear weapons have chosen not to have them.”
    It is true that the situation is complicated by the fact that some countries may feel that they do not need nuclear weapons because they rely on the “umbrella” of those that do.
    But my main point was that it would be morally unacceptable to use nuclear weapons, and therefore it is morally unacceptable to possess them.
    If we want to see a world free of nuclear weapons, we need to do something about it, and do it now. we need to take the lead, and make the decision that we will have no more to do with these terrible weapons.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Mar '17 - 8:40am

    It is true that it would be better if all the nuclear powers got rid of their nuclear weapons multilaterally. But the trouble with the “multilateralist” approach is that, in practice, it usually means just paying lip service to a desire for a world free of nuclear weapons, without doing anything to bring it about. How can we argue that other nations should get rid of their nuclear weapons, or that nations that do not yet have nuclear weapons should not acquire them, if we refuse to get rid of our own nuclear weapons?
    It could be argued that Britain unilaterally disarming would be a mere symbolic gesture. But it would be a step in the right direction, sending an eloquent message to the rest of the world.

  • grahame lamb 16th Mar '17 - 8:54am

    Fine words from Mr Farron. But of course, as everyone’s mother or auntie will tell you: fine words butter no parsnips. In the real world it is necessary to have the nuclear deterrent but merely desirable to have the parsnips (roasted preferably; that wonderful delicious caramelised flavour……………now I feel hungry).

    Seriously, KEEP THE THE INDEPENDENT NUCLEAR DETERRENT. And find the money to pay for it. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or if there is it will probably come at a price.

  • How can we argue that other nations should get rid of their nuclear weapons, or that nations that do not yet have nuclear weapons should not acquire them, if we refuse to get rid of our own nuclear weapons?

    But this is the logic that says that how can the police enforce gun laws, when they have armed response units?

    The fact is that nuclear weapons exist, and will continue to exist. Even if they were banned by international treaty, unscrupulous states would seek to acquire them — hasn’t the last year taught us that? Civilians in Syria gassed by weapons that are illegal under international law. North Koreans assassinated in airports, again with weapons that, legally, should not exist.

    Now nuclear weapons have been invented, a ‘nuclear-weapon-free world’ is simply not possible, and policies have to be developed on the assumption that other states will possess nuclear weapons and would be willing, in the right circumstances [ie, if they could get away with it without reprisal] to use them on us.

    And so we must make sure those circumstances never arise, by ensuring that they know that if attacked we retaliate in kind.

  • Steve Coltman 16th Mar '17 - 11:42am

    Britain’s current nuclear deterrent is already a minimum deterrent and might even be less than the minimum we need. The proposed new submarines might have 12 or even 8 missile tubes and only one submarine on patrol at any given time. How much advance in anti-ballistic missile technology and submarine detection does it take to render the proposed renewed deterrent not good enough? We need a deterrent for the reasons outlined above. Keeping the submarines in harbour and their warheads in storage is not a “medium-level deterrent” or even a minimum, it is no deterrent at all. If anything we need more submarines at sea with nuclear weapons on board not fewer. The Lib – Dem inspired Review of Alternatives to Trident was a wonderful opportunity to re-examine the deterrent question from first principles but the then party leadership squandered the opportunity, just taking the Review findings at face value. It is now getting too late to change existing government policy (but not too late to make an even worse one).

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 16th Mar '17 - 11:46am

    James Pugh, You ask whether I consider the nuclear bombing of Japan to have been unacceptable and a war crime, even though it could be argued that it saved lives by hastening the end of the war. Yes, I do consider it to have been unacceptable and a war crime, because surely there are some acts that are always morally wrong, whatever the circumstances, and even if it could be argued that they will prevent still worse things from occurring.
    A theoretical ethical question is often put : If you had a time machine that would enable you to go back to 1889, would you kill Hitler as a baby, knowing that by doing so you would save millions of lives? Whatever the theoretical pros and cons of this argument, I am sure that most of us, if we found ourselves standing by the cot in which baby Adolf was sleeping, would realise that we could not possibly kill a baby who was still innocent, who was not born evil, and whose future was as yet unwritten. We would also realise that there were other possible options. To digress a bit, in my own recent article about nuclear weapons, I mentioned Kate Atkinson’s novel, Life After Life. In that novel, a character speculates about what would have happened if Hitler had been kidnapped as a baby, and brought up by a Quaker family… The point is, if most of us would realise that it was morally unacceptable to kill even Hitler as a still innocent baby, then how can we possibly justify the killing of the many innocent babies who died at Hiroshima?

  • @Catherine Jane Crossland,

    I don’t agree with your point that “it would be morally unacceptable to use nuclear weapons, and therefore it is morally unacceptable to possess them.”

    Indeed the paper itself addresses this.

    1. nuclear weapons exist
    2. If your possession of nuclear weapons is to prevent others using them then that is morally acceptable.
    3. If your possession of nuclear weapons is to use them to destroy the world (or another country) it is not

  • Peter Watson 16th Mar '17 - 1:21pm

    @George Potter “Either we need Trident for our national security, in which case we need full renewal, or we don’t, in which case we should scrap the renewal. It makes no sense to try and split the difference between these two alternatives in favour of a policy which no one really believes in and which is wide open to ridicule.”
    I completely agree. It looks like the worst sort of fudge that won’t satisfy anybody but will achieve its sole objective of not scaring voters away. If anybody wants a good example of “the soggy centre” instead of “common ground”, this is it.

  • David Grace 16th Mar '17 - 4:11pm

    “…the paper advocates a leading role for the UK in the creation of a nuclear weapons-free world..” No, Tim, it doesn’t. It endorses the government’s Successor programme with the variation of ending CASD and the so-called “medium-readiness posture”. That’s as near like-for-like as you can get and costs the same. You welcome a leading role for the UK in negotiations. So does the amendment and so do we all but don’t pretend for a moment that multilateral disarmament has been a success. You argue that the UK needs nukes to protect itself and its friends and allies. I argue that the UK needs to spend the money on conventional forces for exactly the same reason. British nuclear weapons (which by the way are utterly dependent on the USA as you know) are irrelevant to the balance of terror. Nobody is going to give up their weapons in return for us doing it. I don’t pretend they will. The truth behind the motion is not fear of Russia nor Trump. It is fear of public opinion. Britain needs proper defence. We can pay for that or we can pay for nuclear weapons. It’s time the Liberal Democrats told people the truth about this white elephant.

  • If it really is true that our NATO allies would be “dismayed” if we get rid of our nuclear weapons then why aren’t they buying their own?

    Perhaps the reason they are dismayed is precisely because if we get rid of ours then they would have to build their own, because they know they are necessary, and they would rather we were the ones paying for them?

  • Kevin White 16th Mar '17 - 4:32pm

    As a fellow member of the Nuclear Weapons Working alongside David Grace, I agree with David. Trident is vulnerable to new technology inc. Drones and cyber attack. It is a monstrous waste of scarce financial resources that would be better employed in dealing with realistic threats by improving our conventional defence capabilities. I know that many of our members who have been military personnel agree with me. Tim, please wake up and smell the coffee.

  • A Social Liberal 16th Mar '17 - 4:36pm

    Geoffrey Payne advocates that if Germany or Italy desire a nuclear umbrella then they should purchase their own.

    Fortunately, Geoffrey, being signaturies to the Non Proliferation Treaty neither country can obtain by any means a nuclear capability.

  • Fortunately, Geoffrey, being signaturies to the Non Proliferation Treaty neither country can obtain by any means a nuclear capability

    Being a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty doesn’t in itself prevent a country from obtaining a nuclear capability,

    As an example, Iran is a signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty and has in the past tried to obtain (and may still be trying to obtain) a nuclear weapons capability.

  • Chris Randall 16th Mar '17 - 6:27pm

    Its very easy for me we cannot afford to look after the old and the sick, but worse we don’t have a strong enough conventional armed forces, even when spending 2.3% of GDP. So what is to be cut the last of the Navy the RAF or Army its a no brainer get rid of Trident bring spending down to 2% of GDP and have a decent set of conventional forces rather then the inappropriate mess left by the coalition and fully invest in cyber-terrorism.

  • Stephen Yolland 17th Mar '17 - 12:41am

    I am deeply disappointed with Tim’s position on this, and the proposal from the Working Party, which is a meaningless fudge. (Again.)

    The argument that nuclear weapons keep us (and the world) safer is a myth. All they have achieved since World War 2 is to transfer belligerence to proxy nations fighting wars on behalf of the major world powers. Some may consider that a step forward: I do not. Neither, I would argue, would the populations of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, most of Central America, and now Syria. Umpteen millions have died, tens of millions of families have been torn apart, entire societies have been rendered unfeasible. How were those people “kept safe” by nuclear weapons? Answer: they weren’t.

    Nuclear weapons are a fig-leaf allowing the major powers of the world to pursue their empire building safe from conflict with each other. They don’t fight one another “because the conflict could go nuclear, and that means we’d all die”. So instead, we fight proxy wars in which plenty of people die anyway.

    Getting rid of nuclear weapons (and replacing them with effective conventional forces) would force the major powers to confront the reality of hugely destructive conventional wars. They would be forced to deal with each other more intelligently. Humankind would have to grow up.

  • Stephen Yolland 17th Mar '17 - 12:41am

    This is just one of the reasons nuclear “deterrence” is a total myth. Another is the argument that they would “deter an attack on the UK”.

    The question needs to be asked, “Who by?” Russia shows no signs whatsoever of being interested in invading Western Europe. We’re too far away from China. Will America attack us?

    However, if Russia perceived that a pre-emptive nuclear strike using Trident and the rest of Nato’s forces were possible, it might be tempted to launch an overwhelming attack on Britain and elsewhere. The only role of Trident then would be to inflict massive retaliatory damage on the Russian continent, but not enough damage to eradicate their entire defence system or their population – all of whom would be entirely innocent, of course. Intelligence from the Soviet era shows that the then Russian leadership actively contemplated such scenarios. In any event, Trident would have totally failed to protect Britain. The only other scenario in which Trident could possibly be used would be in just such a pre-emptive strike, which would not only be morally unsupportable but utterly suicidal.

    Trident is also, of course, completely useless in protecting us from assymetrical warfare typical of the current world, such as terrorist attack.

    In essence, an “independent” British nuclear deterrent (which is a nonsense, as there are no circumstances in which it would ever be used independently of our allies), is too expensive, strategically meaningless, makes us less safe, and is the result of wooly-minded political judgement that makes us look as stupid as some other parties. We deserve better from our party establishment.

    The alternative? “Jaw jaw” to prevent “war war”. From that arch-advocate of preparedness, Winston Churchill.

    I think the main motion is all about “not frightening the horses” and presenting us as a vague centrist mish-mash alternative to Corbyn and his crew. That’s just not bloody good enough. We ought to have the courage to propose a bold new policy, to “unstick” the multilateral negotiations (which have not reduced the threat from nuclear weapons by one iota, ever), and to say to the world “the solution to humankind’s problems is actually co-operation.

    THAT’S being proudly internationalist.

  • Mick Taylor 17th Mar '17 - 5:02am

    It just won’t wash Tim. The proposed policy is a dog’s breakfast and will not be taken seriously by anyone and may well put a serious question mark against the Lib Dems ability to make serious policy.
    Have the courage of your convictions so ably expressed before you became leader and let’s get rid of Trident and not go for any replacement at all. You’ve done well so far in not pandering to men in suits brigade who tell every leader that this or that policy just won’t do. Here’s a real chance to be different. This policy is a farce and must be rejected.
    Hopefully FCC will allow a proper unilateralist amendment to be debated. You, Tim, should take a lead and back it.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Mar '17 - 8:16am

    Stephen Yolland

    First, on empire building. Would you kindly enlarge on this as I cannot, off the top of my head, think of a western nuclear power which has indulged itself in a policy of imperialism in the last fifty years (even if you consider the prior hostilities as ’empire building’ which is a simplistic view of the geo-politics of the time).

    Second. Your views on Soviet military nuclear strategy do not bear any resemblance to the actuality. As I explained before, the Warsaw Pact were prepared to use nuclear warfare not as a precurser to invasion but to prevent troops getting to the combat area, stop aircraft movement to and in the area where hostilities are taking place and finally to take away the ability of our government to govern. Now, you might consider all this history, but I would point out that given that a resurgent Russian military is up to its old tricks – sending bombers up to and encroaching into our airspace, placing spy ships into our territirorial waters and increasing their espionage activities – they will still be relying on soviet era nuclear strategies.

    Third, in your alluding to ‘proxy wars’ you totally ignore the actuality. Russia has annexed Crimea – not a proxy war but the invasion of the Crimea followed by the manipulation of a referenda which was neither free nor fair. They are similarly fighting in and amongst the Russian speaking Ukrainian rebels in order to affect an annexation of Eastern Ukraine. Russia is also agitating through its fifth columns in the Baltic states and such is its attempts at destablising the area that Sweden has taken the extraordinary decision to bring back compulsary military service.

    Fourth. Your two posts completely (deliberately?) ignore the activities I have highlighted in point three, you prefer instead to misrepresent history in your quoting of Churchill. I would point out that when faced with the militarisation of the Nazi state Churchill was alone in our political class in calling for our own military build up. It was Chamberlain who prefered “Jaw Jaw” in his appeasement of Hitler.

    Finally you cast aspersions on the deterrent affect of the wests nuclear capability, something the anti nuclear lobby constantly offer in their arguments. In doing so you and your colleagues totally ignore the points my post highlights.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Mar '17 - 8:33am

    Chris Randall

    With regards to spending on the military. It is a sad fact that we are speedily returning to the position we were in during the Cold War. A beligerent Russia willing to use its military to expand its influence throughout Europe, a government using military and commercial espionage to influence outcomes in countries which would oppose that expansion.

    to combat this we are going to need a huge increase in our conventional forces backed up by our nuclear weapons. It may well be that we will have to increase our military spend well above the 2% membership of NATO demands in order to bring our military establishment to the levels commensurate to the task of standing up to a resurgent Russian military.

  • Stephen Yolland 17th Mar '17 - 2:14pm

    To overtake Labour we need a distinctive, workable, radical set of policies that are not afraid to upset the status quo if the status quo is a nonsense. The Lib Dems can start that process this very weekend by voting for the amendment on the Trident motion and staking out a bold new future for the world that doesn’t rely on nuclear weapons to shuffle off international tensions into proxy wars that kill millions. The fundamental road to peace – and the peace dividend – is co-operation and dialogue, not mutual assured destruction. It’s time the world grew up.

    To “A social Liberal”, specifically.

    I do apologise, but if you aren’t prepared to put your name to your comments I don’t feel obliged to answer them.

  • Richard Underhill 17th Mar '17 - 8:15pm

    Reportedly the US administration is not ruling out a first strike in North Korea.

  • A Social Liberal 17th Mar '17 - 11:08pm

    Stephen Yolland

    My name is Stephen Walpole. I live in Skipton, North Yorkshire. I take it you are now free to reply to my post?

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    Sue is an excellent local candidate who has worked hard for many years in Southport as part of the team supporting John and before him...