US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has decided not to sit by while Britain continues its debate on renewing its costly nuclear weapons program, publicly warning this weekend that Britain must keep funding nukes to retain its global standing.
Carter said Britain has an “outsized” role in world affairs “because of its moral standing,” but mostly because it has a bunch of nuclear weapons, and suggested both Britain’s global role and its “special relationship” with the US depend on it retaining submarine-based nuclear weaponry.
Official British government estimates are that the cost will be about $45 billion, though independent estimates have suggested the overall cost will be around $234 billion. Either way, this is a lot of money for nuclear weapons, and has fueled some opposition from Labour members, including leader Jeremy Corbyn.
While Corbyn supports unilateral disarmament as an ethical anti-nuclear position, many others see the question as more about throwing tens and likely hundreds of billions of dollars to retain the arsenal. The ruling Conservatives back the plan, and Carter’s comments likely will add to the pressure to keep spending.