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Exactly. That leads us back to the heart of what the concept of deterrence requires in order to work. Deterrence means that a potential aggressor must not only face a degree of retaliation that is unacceptable if inflicted, but be convinced that that retaliation is unavoidable.
The key point about nuclear deterrence was made in a 1945 study by the leading defence scientist when nuclear weapons were first being considered as a concept. I love quoting the example—I have done so on previous occasions—given by Professor Sir Henry Tizard, who was one of the chief scientific advisers to the wartime Government, when he first considered what the atomic bomb would mean if it worked. He said that he could see no way of preventing an atomic bomb from being used except by the fear of retaliation, and he illustrated that by saying:
“A knowledge that we were prepared, in the last resort”— our deterrent has always been the final resort, if the future existence of the nation is at stake—
“might well deter an aggressive nation. Duelling was a recognised method of settling quarrels between men of high social standing so long as the duellists stood twenty paces apart and ?red at each other with pistols of a primitive type. If the rule had been that they should stand a yard apart with pistols at each other’s hearts, we doubt whether it would long have remained a recognised method of settling affairs of honour.”
The hon. Member for Moray referred to a number of things that I will touch on briefly. He talked about our obligations under article VI of the non-proliferation treaty, which states:
“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”
The only thing that is time-limited in that commitment is the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date. We are not engaged in a nuclear arms race with anyone. We never have been and we have successively, as I said earlier, been reducing our capacity with little or no response from the other nuclear powers.
The other two, open-ended commitments are to achieve nuclear disarmament and to achieve general and complete disarmament. The article wisely recognises the link between the two, because one thing we do not wish to do by removing the balance of terror and by achieving even multilateral nuclear disarmament is to make the world safe again for conventional conflict between the major powers.