PM Brown’s decision to consider reducing the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent

Gordon Brown’s push to reduce the numbers of nuclear-armed submarines operating within Britain’s military took US diplomats by surprise, another cable released by WikiLeaks shows today. Last September, the ex-UK prime minister made a speech to the United Nations calling for a reduction in nuclear arms. In the speech, he suggested that Britain should reduce the number of nuclear-armed Trident submarines from four to three.

According to the cable, senior officials secretly assured US officials in London that Brown’s speech did not mean Britain was preparing to reduce its nuclear arsenal. They also said that cabinet would have liked to have had a chance to vet the speech:

“Dr. Richard Freer (strictly protect) Head of Defence and Security Policy in the Cabinet Office’s Foreign and Defence Policy Secretariat, told Poloff [political officer] September 23 that ‘in an ideal world, we’d have done a bit more pre-vetting’. One of Freer’s Cabinet Office deputies was blunter, separately telling Poloff [political officer] that the announcement was ‘unexpected’ by Cabinet Office staff. MOD officials separately told DAO Embassy London that the announcement was unexpected.”

Another cabinet official also said that there would be more consultation with the US regarding future developments to ensure there would be ‘no daylight’ between the nuclear polices of the US and UK.



Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) bilaterals with UK, France, and Germany

French government officials privately expressed their concerns to the US government about a potential UK push to nuclear disarmament, with US officials noting at the time that differing policies on non-proliferation were causing “considerable unease” between the two nations.

One official was quoted as telling embassy diplomats that: “the UK is starting to seem really convinced that disarmament is possible, since it may abandon its Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile program”. While another said that the United States and France needed to stick together on nuclear arms policy, even though they were “not nervous” about any possible UK disarmament.

In another cable, the French further expressed their concerns to the US government about nuclear non-proliferation. Embassy officials noted that the French were at “great pains” to coordinate with the US to soothe their own concerns and to present a “united front” to other nations.

Meanwhile, here is Bernard Keane’s latest update of cables that discuss climate change:



Morales Continues to Attempt to Derail Copenhagen Accord

Key point: Danes unimpressed with Morales’ behaviour at Copenhagen, Chinese diplomats also unhappy with Bolivian position, want Brazil to bring them around. Morales keen to use climate change to carve out an anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation position differentiated from Hugo Chavez.

Dispatch: “An animated Morales told her he was surrounded by well-wishers in Copenhagen urging him ‘not to abandon them,’ while Chavez was alone in the corner.”



In a repeat Of 2008, divisions exist between EU member states on climate change policy

Key point: Divisions between eastern and western EU countries over the burden of addressing climate change feared to undermine European position at Copenhagen.

“At a recent EU Energy and Environment Ministers meeting, Poland is leading what appears to be the same group of Central and Eastern European Member States in opposing the concept that they should pay for reducing carbon emissions in developing countries with much larger GDPs, notably China.

“Despite indications that internal questions had been settled, the economic recession is exacerbating the divisions among Member States. Additionally, in working toward the EU’s emissions reduction target, now 20% from 1990 levels in 2020 but with the possibility of going to 30% with ‘comparable’ efforts from other developed countries, the EU has painted itself into a corner.”