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by Tom Freeman
30 July 2014
Secret agreements to rule the waves

Secret agreements to rule the waves

Barack Obama announced to congress the 1958 UK-US Mutual Defence Agreement (MDA) had been updated for the next 10 years. The UK, according to the President, “intends to continue to maintain viable nuclear forces into the foreseeable future.”

He pledged America would continue to help Britain maintain “a credible nuclear deterrent”.

Good of Obama to let us know, because meanwhile David Cameron hasn’t even bothered to tell Parliament, let alone the public.

As you might expect, CND are outraged, calling the secret agreement “a sinister sidestepping of democratic process”.

When the UK is looking at replacing its nuclear deterrent, it needs US collaboration over their nuclear weapons programmes, and MDA is central to that.

It seems likely Scotland came up in the transatlantic conversation. After all, removing Trident from Scottish waters is a central part of the independence movement. Did Cameron and Obama discuss an alternative home for the UK’s submarines, should they be kicked off the Clyde?

In May think tank Chatham House warned scrapping Trident after independence could accelerate a shift of power from West to East and see the UK kicked out of the United Nations Security Council. Presumably Lord Robertson’s ‘forces of darkness’ would be rubbing their hands at the prospect. Cameron would be desperate not to oversee such a decline in British global influence.

The Trident programme’s purpose was “the minimum effective nuclear deterrent as the ultimate means to deter the most extreme threat”, but in the post-cold war era nuclear weapons are less about defence and more about status and influence. It has been labelled the UK’s ‘stick on hairy chest’. Despite severe cuts to defence spending, the UK still has the fourth largest arms budget in the world, and much of it is on naval power.

British naval muscle is an emotive issue. “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves,” goes the anthem, denouncing foreign tyrants and stirring up British national pride. It’s played at the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms. It was also written by a Scotsman.

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