Global Zero Condemns UK Plans to Increase Stockpile Cap by Over 40 Percent

UNITED KINGDOM — Today, the United Kingdom released its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development, and Foreign Policy, announcing it will increase the cap on its nuclear stockpile by over 40 percent, from 180 warheads to 260. The report also states the UK will no longer provide information about the size of its stockpile or its deployment, embracing deliberate ambiguity in its nuclear strategy. The two dangerous moves increase the risk of nuclear escalation and undermine global security. 

In reaction to the review, Derek Johnson, CEO of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following comment:

“It appears the British government’s answer to the challenges of the day – a devastating public health crisis, economic crisis, and climate crisis – is to double-down on weapons of mass destruction and nuclear war-fighting. This is Brexit, but with nukes: a self-defeating and dangerous move that lacks strategic rigor and ignores the lessons of history. More nuclear weapons does not mean more security.

“The UK’s plans to dramatically increase its arsenal cap will increase instability and the risks of nuclear use. As a depository state of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the UK is legally committed to pursue good faith measures to end the arms race and move toward general and complete disarmament. Today’s announcement is clearly inconsistent with that obligation and undermines its global standing and role in reducing nuclear dangers.

“This move flies in the face of decades of commitment to nuclear reductions and explicitly rejects commitments made in order to secure the permanent extension of the NPT in 1995. It is devoid of any logical justification, relying instead on nebulous claims that new threats require new nuclear weapons. Worse, the additional decision to more fully embrace nuclear ambiguity – when all reliable evidence shows that ambiguity can fuel escalation and nuclear crises – will make the world and the UK’s allies less safe. It is exactly the wrong thing to do.

“Today’s announcement reflects an alarming trend among nuclear-armed states at a time when leadership in nuclear arms control is severely lacking. Despite recently extending the last remaining restrictions on their arsenals, Russia and the United States, which hold 90% of the world’s nuclear stockpile, continue to pursue plans for expensive new weapons. China, India, and Pakistan are expanding their arsenals. And while embarking on these programs, each state cites the other’s plans as a means to justify their own. Years of stalled progress toward nuclear disarmament are giving way to blatant arms racing.

“Russia and the United States need to reinvigorate arms control efforts and get back to the table to negotiate another round of nuclear reductions. In addition, all nuclear-armed states must commence talks to address the unacceptably high risk of nuclear use and concrete steps each can take to mitigate those risks. The best way to address emerging threats is through diplomatic engagement, not more nuclear weapons.

“As the world continues to grapple with a devastating pandemic – an event that has exposed the widening gulf between state’s national security priorities and what actually keeps us safe – governments are choosing to invest billions in destabilizing weapons that increase the risk of nuclear use. We can and must do better.”