It is a sad irony that a week after the long-awaited Chilcot report highlighted the worrying extent of group-think in Whitehall and Westminster, a large number of MPs will be traipsing through the Lobby in support of the principle of renewing a deterrent that represents a 20th century solution to the 21st century defence and security problems that we all experience today. Those MPs could include those who believed the UK Government’s claptrap on Iraq. Perhaps nothing has been learned from Chilcot, and those MPs will be doing exactly the same on Trident.
The Defence Committee has recently completed an inquiry into the implications of an increased Russian assertiveness for UK security. In evidence session after evidence session, I struggled to find any real evidence of why I should support the renewal of Trident at a cost of up to £205 billion. In fact, as witness after witness listed the very real 21st century threats faced by the UK and our NATO and EU allies, most, if not all, could be filed under the heading of hybrid warfare, or terrorism.
Closer to home, we see an increase in Russian naval and air activities in our own territory, and the pattern is very similar to that experienced in Ukraine. There is no outright aggression, but a determination to poke, prod, check and test reaction times, which, from the UK perspective, have often been laughably slow. For example, the last time the Russian carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, took shelter in Scottish waters, it took 24 hours for a frigate to arrive from Portsmouth to escort it from the Moray Firth.