Friday 19 April 2013

More defence disingenuity.

This week's Sunday Politics Scotland included an interesting interview with Franklin Miller (around 41 mins into the programme), a former special assistant to Dubya Bush, senior director of the US National Security Council, 20-year veteran of the US Department of Defence, and a member of the NATO nuclear policy committee, in which he poured scorn on the SNP's schizophrenic attitude to NATO ("totally inconsistent" and "illogical").

Of course, the SNP's Field Marshal Robertson was given the chance to respond to Mr Miller. His opening gambit was to cite Norway and Denmark as non-nuclear NATO members. But the only strategic nuclear weapon facilities those countries ever hosted was a US Air Force base in Greenland (established with the tacit approval of the Danes) which was wound down in the 1960s due to US defence policy changes. Quite frankly, there is no precedent within NATO for the eviction of strategic nuclear forces against the will of their owner.

Regardless, he went on to mention US tactical nuclear weapons being withdrawn from Canada and Greece. Perhaps Mr Robertson is unaware of the not-so-subtle difference between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. Tactical ones are intended for use in battlefield scenarios and do not form part of a nuclear deterrent. They also tend to be smaller and more portable than strategic ones. In Canada's case, most of these were actually located with Canadian forces in West Germany, and the last Canadian nuclear weapons weren't withdrawn until the aircraft that carried them had become obsolete. None of these weapons required facilities on the scale of HMNB Clyde - facilities for which there is no viable alternative, either now, or in the near future.

This fact he then implicitly acknowledged by then suggesting that a separate Scotland would "play its part" in NATO's pledge to work towards nuclear disarmament. But NATO's disarmament strategy is explicitly multilateral; in its own words, "as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance". How would forcing the UK to disarm unilaterally play a part in that, Angus?

In passing he also remarks that "no other country of five million has nuclear weapons". This is true. But who said anything about the UK passing ownership of its nuclear deterrent to a separate Scottish state? That would never be on the cards, for obvious reasons, not least of which is that it would contravene the Non-Proliferation Treaty. What exactly was his point there then?

A shame, then, that Mr Robertson and Mr Franklin weren't given the opportunity to debate directly. I think the results would have been most entertaining.

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