Nuclear weapons

1 February 2023Feature

Nuclear bullying of non-nuclear states is a core part of Britain's nuclear doctrine

Sometimes, Western nuclear threats against non-nuclear weapon states have been covert operations, signalled secretly by mobilising strategic nuclear weapon systems (like the British V-bombers sent out to Singapore during the Malaysian Confrontation – see PN 2659).

Sometimes, Western nuclear threats have been very, very public.

Such was the case in the run-up to the March 2003 US-UK assault on Iraq.

It was a very long run-up to war, for reasons discussed…

1 February 2023News in Brief

On 10 January, John LaForge, a co-director of Nukewatch US, entered a German prison to serve a 50-day sentence, becoming the first US citizen ever to be imprisoned for a nuclear weapons protest in Germany.

John had been convicted of trespassing at Büchel air force base in two 2018 protests against the US B61 nuclear bombs stored there (PN 2658).

John was sent to JVA Billwerder prison in Hamburg after refusing to pay a €600 fine. He has appealed the conviction.

1 December 2022News

Lakenheath protest against return of US nuclear weapons to the UK 

Hundreds of people gathered outside Lakenheath, the US air force (USAF) base in Suffolk, at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) demonstration on 19 November.

They were protesting against the return of US nuclear weapons to the UK.

Originally scheduled for spring 2023, the arrival of the new B61-12 free-fall/glide nuclear bomb at USAF Lakenheath seems to have been brought forward to December.

Speakers at the demo included CND chair Tom Unterrainer, Trident…

23 November 2022Blog

A review of the polling evidence since 1954

Below is a list of the UK public opinion polls used to draw up the chart on p17 of PN 2661, reproduced below. This chart showed that, consulting 24 polls during the period 1954 – 2015, only three showed public support for unilateral nuclear disarmament dipping – briefly – below 20 percent (1963: 15 percent / 1964: 16 percent / 2014: 18 percent). The other 21 polls showed much stronger support for British unilateral nuclear…

1 October 2022Review

Ban the bomb!: Ibidem, 2021; 290pp; £26  Rebel verdict: Irene, 2022; 512pp; £25.50 from pmpress.org.uk or £22.50 (+ p&p if ordering) from Housmans bookshop: https://housmans.com/

Among the first books I read when I got involved in the peace movement in the late 1990s, three were by Michael Randle: Civil resistance (on the history, theory and practice of nonviolence), How to defend yourself in court (a useful instructional) and The Blake Escape (co-authored with Pat Pottle, their thrilling account of how and why they helped to break superspy George Blake out of Wormwood Scrubs prison and smuggle him out of the country).

Unhappily all…

1 October 2022News

More countries sign and ratify anti-nuke treaty

On 22 September, five more countries signed the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and two more ratified it, making 91 signatories and 68 ratifiers in total.

Barbados, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti and Sierra Leone were the signers, and the Dominican Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo the latest ratifiers.

They were called the ‘Magnificent Seven’ by the chair of Britain’s Nuclear Free Local Authorities, David Blackburn of Leeds city…

1 October 2022Comment

The war in Ukraine is deepening the grave threat to future generations, argues Milan Rai

Every time the US has increased its military support for Ukraine, Russia has responded by escalating in some way.

We’re approaching a very dangerous point now, where a Russian nuclear attack starts to become a real possibility (see p7), with catastrophic consequences not just for Ukraine, but almost certainly for the world.

However, as Noam Chomsky recently pointed out to Truthout: ‘The impact of the war goes far beyond: to the millions facing starvation with the…

1 October 2022Feature

A democratic argument for Scotland to be independent and free of nuclear weapons

In late August, Costa Rica put forward a statement at the UN in New York calling for the total elimination of all nuclear weapons. 147 of the 193 UN member states supported this statement.

Scotland should be Nation 148.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are the key elements in gaining a world without nuclear weapons.

ICAN is a network started…

1 October 2022Feature

Did you know that First Use is government policy?

Nuclear disarmament campaigns have often focused on hardware, on warheads and missiles and submarines.

Nuclear doctrine, or how governments plan to use their nuclear weapons, have had a lot less attention.

This is a pity because there are a lot of easy wins available for the peace movement on doctrine. (Also, the strength of the movement in the 1980s was as much to do with doctrine as it was to do with hardware, I would argue.)

As I noted last issue, an…

1 October 2022Feature

Is Putin copying 1990s British nuclear policy?

‘If the choice for Russia is fighting a losing war, and losing badly and Putin falling, or some kind of nuclear demonstration, I wouldn’t bet that they wouldn’t go for the nuclear demonstration.’ That was Tony Brenton, a former UK ambassador to Russia, talking to Reuters in August.

Western experts have explained some of the ‘demonstration’ options for Putin, if he does use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, detonating a single ‘low-yield’ warhead in a way that does not kill anyone: ‘It could…

1 August 2022News in Brief

According to Scottish CND and Nukewatch, there were nuclear warhead convoys at the end of the month in May, June and July.

The convoys do a return journey from AWE Burghfield in southern England (where the bombs are maintained) to Coulport on the west coast of Scotland (where they’re loaded onto Trident submarines). They travel through Glasgow, a city of 1.6 million people.

Each truck was probably carrying two nuclear warheads.

On 10 June, according to Nukewatch, a…

1 August 2022Feature

Campaigning wisdom from the heyday of CND, one of Bruce Kent's first pieces in PN

1982: Since I have been asked to do so, and not because I have any exclusive wisdom, experience or success in this field, I would like to share a few thoughts on the work of trying to mobilise public opinion for disarmament.

In recent years, public opinion for disarmament has been mobilised on a massive scale. That process has now to continue to the point when public opinion actually forces changes in national policies. To gather in a park is a most impressive act of witness. To…

1 August 2022Feature

A report on the first meeting of states that have ratified the Nuclear Ban Treaty

‘Just like the people of Kazakhstan reclaimed their agency [their ability to make their own decisions and to affect things], non-nuclear weapons states can reclaim their agency through the TPNW’, said Togzhan Kassenova, a Kazakh activist, speaking at ICAN's Nuclear Ban Forum in Vienna in June.

Togzhan, the author of Atomic Steppe: How Kazakhstan Gave Up the Bomb (Stanford University Press, 2022), used personal testimony and research to set the tone for the week ahead. She…

1 August 2022Feature

At least a fifth of the UK population has always been unilateralist

Of the many causes that Bruce Kent fought for, the one he is most identified with is unilateral nuclear disarmament. Bruce was general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) from 1980 to 1985, and CND chair from 1987 to 1990. CND’s core demand is for unilateral nuclear disarmament – for the UK government to dismantle all its nuclear weapons immediately, whether or not other countries also disarm.

1 August 2022Feature

Our campaign to Ban Nuclear Threats continues...

If you’re a Western disarmament group, and you choose not to mention or engage with the long history of Western nuclear threats against non-nuclear weapon states, I think that’s a problem, morally, politically and in terms of strategy – but it’s kind of business as usual.

If you’re a Western disarmament group, and you choose to engage with the threatened use of nuclear weapons in international crisis situations, but you choose to talk only about nuclear threats issued by enemies of…