December, 2016. PICTURED: Now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks at Chatham House when he was Sec. of State for Foreign Affairs. Photo credit: Chatham House. CC 2.0.
LONDON, England. March 16th, 2021. In a statement by Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister announced Her Majesty’s Government’s intention of increasing their nuclear weapons stockpile for the first time since the Cold War.
Reversing a decrease of Trident warheads carried out in 2010, the number of operational weapons will rise to 260 among a number of other increases in defense spending as part of the conclusion of the 2020 Integrated Review of Security.
“We will exceed our manifesto and NATO spending commitments, with defence spending now standing at 2.2% of GDP, and drive forward a modernisation programme that embraces the newer domains of cyber and space, equipping our armed forces with cutting-edge technology,” writes Johnson in his foreword to the report
He also announced a number of new centers and agencies for dealing with more modern security threats, such as cyber and conventional terrorism, notably from Islamic extremists in retaliation for Britain’s involvement in the wars in the Middle-East, particularly in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.
“In recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats … the UK will move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads,” the report says, without specifying what “doctrinal threats” are, or whether the average UK voter might be told about them.
In the 1970s the UK maintained about 500 warheads. Now, as then, the UK identifies her greatest threat as Russia, followed by China.
Across the Atlantic the Pentagon released it’s “China Military Power Report” in which it anticipates a “probable” doubling of China’s nuclear warhead stockpile over the next ten years on the grounds that it “probably has enough nuclear material” to do so.
It also says that China “probably intends to develop new nuclear warheads and delivery platforms,” that would rival those possessed by the Russian Federation and the United States. The latter two agreed quickly, following the election of Mr. Biden, on an extension to the last significant nuclear arms limitation treaty between the two superpowers, the New START Treaty.
During New START talks under the Trump Administration, the U.S. and Russia repeatedly attempted to involve China in the limitations agreements, but China’s condition was that the former two reduce their stockpiles to the level maintained by China, and there would lie the peace.
China was assumed to possess around 280-310 functional warheads at the time, while the Cold War powers having around 3,000 operational warheads between them, and thousands more currently on ice.