The British Nuclear Deterrent After the Cold War

by Nicholas Witney


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The Trident nuclear-deterrent program is one of the United Kingdom's largest-ever military acquisitions. Planned and initiated during the Cold War, it is now coming to fruition at a time when the most obvious justification for it — the Soviet threat to Western Europe — has disappeared. With the money largely spent or committed, Britain's continuance as a nuclear-weapon state until well into the twenty-first century seems certain. But with what point and purpose? This report examines the history, the underlying issues, the policy options, and the risks related to redefining a rationale for Britain's nuclear-deterrence program. The author reviews the role the United States has played in the development of Britain's nuclear policy and discusses how a new rationale might affect U.S.-U.K. relationships.

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