"I find hope in the work of long-established groups such as the Arms Control Association...[and] I find hope in younger anti-nuclear activists and the movement around the world to formally ban the bomb."

– Vincent Intondi
Author, "African Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement
July 1, 2020
United Kingdom

UK Arms Dealer Sentenced for Smuggling

Marcus Taylor

A British arms dealer was sentenced to jail Oct. 26 for arms smuggling and tax fraud, the United Kingdom’s tax agency said in a press statement.

Gary Hyde was found guilty of arranging the illegal shipment of 40,000 AK-47s, 30,000 rifles, 10,000 Makarov nine-millimeter pistols, and 32 million rounds of ammunition from China directly to Nigeria some time between March 2006 and December 2007, according to the tax agency, which brought the charges against him. He coordinated the purchase and shipment of the weapons through his company in the United Kingdom, the agency said.

According to the agency’s statement, his conviction stemmed from his failure to acquire a license for the arms transfer, which violated a 2003 British law. Additionally, the statement said, Hyde hid his $1 million commission from the deal in an offshore bank account in Liechtenstein, which resulted in a conviction for concealing criminal property.

The tax agency said in the statement that it established Hyde’s involvement in the transaction through e-mail records and by using his cellphone’s GPS data to establish that he was in the United Kingdom when he negotiated the deal, thereby making him subject to British arms export law.

In response to the verdict, Hyde’s lawyer, Stephen Solley, said, “The idea Mr. Hyde sat down and made a decision to breach this law…knowing full well the consequences” is “ludicrous.” He added, “There’s nothing wrong with arms dealing,” describing the deal as taking place between two countries.

In January, the original charges against Hyde were dropped by the presiding judge in the case because the 2003 law was replaced by a new version in 2009. But the case was taken up again by the Court of Appeals, which, in handing down the Oct. 26 verdict, ruled that Hyde was responsible for following the law that was in force at the time of the transaction.

Hyde is currently facing separate charges in the United States, where he stands accused of illegally exporting to the United States 5,000 Chinese-made AK-47 drum magazines capable of holding 75 rounds each, in violation of U.S. arms import laws. U.S. court documents accuse Hyde and his co-defendant Karl Kleber of fraudulently altering the markings on the drums to indicate that they were manufactured in Bulgaria.

According to news accounts, Hyde is the former owner of two British firearms companies, York Guns and Jago Ltd.

A British arms dealer was sentenced to jail Oct. 26 for arms smuggling and tax fraud, the United Kingdom’s tax agency said in a press statement.

UK Takes Initial Steps to Replace Trident

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom has approved the preliminary investment in its next generation of Trident nuclear submarines and selected a design for the submarines, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the House of Commons last month.

This “initial gate” investment represents the first of two decisions that must be made for the replacement to go forward. The second (“main gate”) decision to begin constructing the submarines is scheduled for 2016, as the British government outlined in its strategic defense review last October. (See ACT, November 2010.)

In a May 18 speech, Fox said the new fleet of submarines “will be powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system,” which “will allow our submarines to deliver our nuclear deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required.” The government also agreed on the outline of the submarine’s design and the amount of material and parts that will need to be purchased prior to the main gate decision, he added.

Fox explained the United Kingdom’s continued need for a nuclear capability by saying that “we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the U.K. might re-emerge.” In remarks to the House of Commons that same day, British Prime Minister David Cameron called London’s nuclear weapons “the ultimate insurance policy against blackmail or attack by other countries.” The United Kingdom’s entire nuclear arsenal of fewer than 160 operational nuclear warheads is deployed aboard four submarines armed with Trident ballistic missiles; this number is slated to fall to no more than 120 by the mid-2020s.

In advance of the main gate decision, the government will conduct a review of “the costs, feasibility, and credibility of alternative systems and postures” to the proposed replacement plan, Fox said. The review is to be led by Nick Harvey, the minister of state for the armed forces and a member of the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party’s partners in the coalition government that assumed power last year, generally oppose the current plan and favor greater steps toward nuclear disarmament. In contrast to the current plan of maintaining “continuous at-sea deterrence” based on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the review will consider options such as putting nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, Harvey told the Financial Times May 24. This would be cheaper and could provide a future government with more flexibility, Harvey said.

Fox estimated the cost of the submarine replacement to be 20-25 billion pounds ($33-41 billion), of which approximately 3 billion pounds is scheduled to be spent before 2016.


The United Kingdom approved the initial investment in its next generation of nuclear submarines and chose a design for the new fleet.

UK Calls for International Cyber Conference

Timothy Farnsworth

British Foreign Secretary William Hague last month called on the international community to come together this year and begin discussing norms for state behavior in cyberspace.

In Feb. 4 remarks at the Munich Security Conference, Hague said cyberspace “has opened up new channels for hostile governments to probe our defences and attempt to steal our confidential information or intellectual property” and “has promoted fears of future ‘cyber war.’” He said it was time for a “collective response” to cyberthreats and offered to host an international conference this year.

In a Feb. 11 interview, James Lewis, the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is unlikely the international community will be able to come together before 2012, when the United Nations is expected to begin discussing norms associated with state behavior in cyberspace.

On the same day as Hague’s remarks, the EastWest Institute released a proposal for governing cyberconflict. The report lays out five recommendations that it says are “immediately actionable” and “would be effective in preserving key humanitarian principles of the Laws of War.” The recommendations included determining what the protected entities are, determining if cyberweapons fall under current international law, and establishing a clear definition of cyberwar.

Policy experts have given mixed reviews to the recommendations in the proposal. Lewis said defining protected and nonprotected entities and creating a dialogue are good starts but some of the recommendations will face political obstacles, such as differing definitions of cyberthreats among states. According to Lewis, such differences make it unlikely that the international community will agree to a convention in the near feature. “It is more likely that like-minded states will come together sooner to lay out rules of cyber activity,” he said.


British Foreign Secretary William Hague last month called on the international community to come together this year and begin discussing norms for state behavior in cyberspace.

UK Postpones Trident Replacement Amid Cuts

Robert Golan-Vilella

The United Kingdom will postpone the final decision on whether to replace its Trident nuclear submarines until 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons last month.

Cameron’s Oct. 19 address marked the conclusion of a broad reassessment of British strategic and defense policy. The National Security Strategy, published Oct. 18, assessed threats and set strategic priorities; the Strategic Defense and Security Review, released the following day, detailed the steps that the government will take in accordance with those priorities.

Cameron said the British government will extend the life of its Vanguard-class nuclear submarines “so that the first replacement submarine is not required until 2028.” As a result, he said, the final decision “to start construction of the new submarines need not now be taken until around 2016.” That date is after the next British general elections, which will take place no later than May 2015.

For the Trident replacement to go forward, it must pass through two approval points: the “initial gate” decision allowing preparatory work to proceed and the “main gate” decision to begin building the new submarines. The initial step “will be approved, and the next phase of the project commenced, by the end of this year,” the defense review said.

The United Kingdom currently deploys its entire nuclear arsenal aboard four Vanguard-class submarines, each of which is armed with Trident ballistic missiles.

In addition, the United Kingdom will cut the size of its nuclear arsenal, the review said. The government will reduce its stockpile of operational nuclear warheads from fewer than 160 to no more than 120, and the maximum number of warheads on each submarine will decrease from 48 to 40. Likewise, the overall size of the nuclear stockpile, including nondeployed weapons, will drop from “not more than 225 to not more than 180 by the mid 2020s,” the review said.

British officials cautioned against interpreting the changes as a weakened commitment to their country’s nuclear deterrent. Speaking in Washington Oct. 28, Minister of State for Security and Counter-terrorism Pauline Neville-Jones said, “We do not believe that it makes a great deal of sense, given that we have a nuclear deterrent, to decide that we’re going to dispense with it…. We will remain in the nuclear club.”

On the subject of nuclear declaratory policy, the review strengthened London’s negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states. The report said, “We are now able to give an assurance that the UK will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states parties” to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It noted that this assurance “would not apply to any state in material breach of those non-proliferation obligations” and reserved the right to review its assurance if future advances in chemical or biological weapons made it necessary. The new British posture is similar to the one expressed in the United States’ most recent Nuclear Posture Review, completed this April. (See ACT, May 2010.)

The strategic and defense reviews took place in an atmosphere of severe financial pressures. Since taking office in May, Cameron has vowed to reduce the size of government significantly in an attempt to address budget deficits. On Oct. 20, the government released its Comprehensive Spending Review, in which it declared that the budgets of all government departments other than health and overseas aid would be cut by an average of 19 percent over the next four years.

The Ministry of Defense avoided the deepest cuts. However, the defense budget will still decrease by 8 percent in real terms over four years, Cameron said. According to the defense review, this will include reductions of 17,000 service personnel and 25,000 Ministry of Defense civil servants by 2015.

In the week prior to the review’s release, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed concern about the impending defense cuts in the United Kingdom and other NATO countries. When asked if that prospect worried the Obama administration, she said, “It does, and the reason it does is because I think we do have to have an alliance where there’s a commitment to the common defense.”

After the review’s publication, Clinton issued a statement in which she said the United States was “reassured that the UK conducted its review in a thoughtful and clear-eyed manner.” She expressed her appreciation for the British “commitment to retain the full spectrum of military capabilities that enable our forces to partner together so effectively in so many areas of the world.”


The United Kingdom will postpone the final decision on whether to replace its Trident nuclear submarines until 2016, Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons last month.

Cameron’s Oct. 19 address marked the conclusion of a broad reassessment of British strategic and defense policy. The National Security Strategy, published Oct. 18, assessed threats and set strategic priorities; the Strategic Defense and Security Review, released the following day, detailed the steps that the government will take in accordance with those priorities.


UK Strategic Defense and Security Review Avoids the Main Strategic Question

HMS Vanguard, one of four Royal Navy SSBN vessels By ACA intern Daniel Salisbury The U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has been ruffling feathers in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in recent weeks. He has ruled that Trident, the U.K. nuclear deterrent , will now be paid for by the MoD and not a special Treasury fund. This is putting the already strained MoD budget under even more pressure. The Financial Times reports that he made the following comment when questioned during his recent India trip: "All budgets have pressure. I don't think there's anything particularly unique about...

UK Revokes Arms Export Licenses to Israel

Rachel A. Weise

Following public outcry from British citizens and members of Parliament, the United Kingdom in July revoked five licenses for the export of arms components to Israel. The British decision could encourage other European Union (EU) members to review their current Israel export policy, a European Commission (EC) official said. According to a British government official, an EU working group will meet in Brussels Sept. 4 to discuss exports to Israel.

The July 13 British decision came after a lengthy review of all arms-related exports to Israel, following what the United Kingdom has called Israel’s “disproportionate” actions in Gaza in January. The licenses are widely believed to be related to Israel’s Saar-class Navy missile boats that fired on the Gaza coastline to support ground activities during Operation Cast Lead, the code name for Israel’s Gaza offensive to stop Hamas rocket fire. But the British official simply said that this was “speculation” and added that the government has not released information regarding the specific export licenses revoked.

Palestinian officials say that more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the conflict and that most of them were noncombatants. Israel estimates that fewer than 1,200 were killed and claims that most were affiliated with Hamas, an organization that Israel and the United States have labeled a terrorist movement.

Following Israel’s 22-day campaign in Gaza, the British Parliament, particularly the Committees on Arms Export Control (CAEC), demanded that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office review export licenses to Israel to ensure that no British components were used in Gaza. The review led the British government to revoke five of its 182 extant licenses to export arms to Israel.

Under EU policy, a member state that revokes an export license must circulate its reasons for doing so among the other 26 members. That requirement raises the possibility that other EU members will follow the United Kingdom’s lead. According to the EC official, although the United Kingdom’s action does not create a legal obligation on the other countries to follow suit, it is now “incumbent on EU members to actively consider this” as they evaluate their own export licenses. The purpose of the EU Code of Conduct, which regulates export policy, is to “harmonize” export practices across member states, the official said in an Aug. 8 interview. He said, “We take the Code of Conduct very seriously. That’s why we want to harmonize our [trade] practices…. Unless people want to challenge the U.K., probably, the EU will adopt those measures.” But because the specific exports in question were unique to the United Kingdom, there could be questions about the applicability of the British precedent, he said.

Israel has issued statements saying that the British decision will not have an effect on its military. The United Kingdom is not one of Israel’s major arms suppliers. Israel receives the vast majority of its arms imports from the United States, according to an Amnesty International report released in February.

Prior to the decision and in response to the CAEC’s sustained calls for a review of export licenses, Foreign Secretary David Miliband released a written ministerial statement to Parliament. In the April 21 statement, Miliband said all export licenses are assessed against British and EU criteria, which include the EU Code of Conduct and other relevant export policies. Criteria 2, 3, 4, and 7 of the code apply to the Israeli case, Miliband said. Criterion 2 prohibits exports where there is a “clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression,” while Criterion 3 limits exports that would “provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of final destination.” Criterion 4 is related to the “preservation of regional peace, security and stability,” and Criterion 7 requires that exports have a low risk of being “diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions.” The licenses and the review process are not public, which makes it difficult to assess the vigor with which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office evaluates export licenses, said Roy Isbister, an arms transfer analyst at Saferworld, a London-based nongovernmental organization.

Miliband’s statement addressed a variety of claims made about Israel’s use of British exports in Gaza, saying that all existing licenses would be reviewed. He said that most of the claims were unsupported but also said “there are credible reports” about Israel using British components for a 76 mm gun outfitted on Saar 4.5-class vessels, fueling speculation that these components were exported under the recently revoked licenses.

Immediately following the decision, the British Embassy in Israel issued a statement saying that termination of these licenses was not a partial arms embargo, but part of the United Kingdom’s standard export review process. According to the July 13 statement, the United Kingdom also revoked a number of licenses to Russia and Georgia after last year’s conflict in Georgia.

Although the United Kingdom frequently reviews its export licenses, the CAEC’s continued call for a license review and the general outcry from British citizens about Operation Cast Lead contributed to the unusual level of publicity surrounding the license termination, Isbister said.

A similar situation occurred in 2002, when the United Kingdom reviewed its exports to Israel after Israel seized the town of Jenin in the West Bank in response to the second intifada, a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000. The British Parliament and citizenry strongly protested British arms exports to Israel when they learned that Israel had sent into the Palestinian territories armored personnel carriers that had been built on the chassis of old British Centurion tanks. In a letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Nov. 29, 2000, Israel had pledged that “no UK originated equipment nor any UK originated systems/sub-systems/components are used as part of the Israel Defence Force’s activities in the Territories.” After the 2002 events, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary at the time, said the United Kingdom would no longer accept Israeli assurances and that the United Kingdom would evaluate each export against EU and British licensing criteria. This resulted in a number of refusals to export items to Israel based on Criteria 2, 3, 4, and 7, the British official said. This period of increased scrutiny apparently ended after a few months, in July 2002, when the United Kingdom allowed the export of F-16 components to the United States although the United States exports F-16s to Israel.

This page was corrected on January 13, 2010. The original article failed to note that the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports was replaced on December 8, 2008, by the EU Common Position (2008/944/CFSP) defining rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.

Following public outcry from British citizens and members of Parliament, the United Kingdom in July revoked five licenses for the export of arms components to Israel. The British decision could encourage other European Union (EU) members to review their current Israel export policy, a European Commission (EC) official said. According to a British government official, an EU working group will meet in Brussels Sept. 4 to discuss exports to Israel. (Continue)

United Kingdom Promotes Disarmament

Cole Harvey

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered an address March 17 to the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference in London in which he reaffirmed the importance of disarmament in a "global nuclear bargain for our times." Brown spoke two days before a parliamentary report was released warning that the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrence could be at risk if plans to design and build a new fleet of strategic submarines are delayed.

Brown argued that the agreement enshrined in the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, that non-nuclear-weapon states have a right to civilian nuclear power but must forgo nuclear weapons and that the nuclear-weapon states must work toward disarmament, is a "fair and even-handed bargain" that both groups must uphold.

The United Kingdom is eager to host a conference on nuclear disarmament for the recognized nuclear-weapon states, Brown said. The conference would focus on disarmament issues such as confidence building and verification. Additionally, Brown recalled the work being done by experts in Norway and the United Kingdom to develop new techniques to verify the destruction of nuclear warheads without revealing information about the design of the warhead. Brown stated that his government will "gladly share" the results of that work "for the benefit of all."

Brown claimed that the United Kingdom "stands ready to participate and to act" in future nuclear arms reduction agreements once the arsenals of Russia and the United States are cut further. The British government is committed to retaining a minimum level of deterrence, Brown said. He added that the government estimates that it could maintain that level of deterrence with 12 missile tubes on the new model of submarine, rather than the 16 tubes present on the Vanguard vessels. The British Trident missiles are believed to hold three warheads each. A fleet of four submarines with 12 missile tubes would require 144 warheads.

The Public Accounts Committee of the British House of Commons, an oversight panel composed of members of parliament, released a report March 19 describing the challenges facing the planned replacement for the United Kingdom's current Vanguard-class submarines. Two new submarines must be operational by the year 2024, when two of the four Vanguard submarines begin to retire, in order to maintain the United Kingdom's policy of continuous at-sea deterrence. The new submarine will likely outlast the U.S.-designed Trident D5 missiles currently employed by the British fleet and must be compatible with any successor to Trident built by the United States.

In order to replace the Vanguard submarines on time, the new vessel will need to be designed and built on a compressed schedule. The committee reports that the British Ministry of Defense will address this issue by overlapping the design and construction phases of the development of the submarine for one year. As the report reiterates, "This approach will mean that construction will commence before the completion of submarine design."

The committee notes with concern that the Defense Ministry "has a long history of delivering major defense projects late," citing the current Astute submarine program. Development of the Astute submarine is already three years behind schedule and has exceeded its budget by 47 percent. The Defense Ministry is aware, according to the report, that there is no room for similar delays in the design and construction of a new strategic submarine "if it is to avoid jeopardizing" continuous at-sea deterrence.

Fundamental design issues remain unresolved concerning the new submarine, including the type of nuclear reactor it will use and the design and size of its missile compartments. The Defense Ministry expects to finalize those decisions by September 2009.

The committee's report warns that "[l]ack of cooperation between the United States' missile design and the United Kingdom's future submarine design may cause the missile compartment to be incompatible" with a successor to the Trident missile. "Any dislocation or delay" in that collaboration could put the long-term strategic deterrence capability of the United Kingdom at risk, according to the report.

Brown pointed out in his address that the United Kingdom has reduced its nuclear arsenal by 50 percent since 1997, to fewer than 160 warheads. "If it is possible to reduce the number of UK warheads further, consistent with our national deterrence and with the progress of multilateral discussions," Brown said, "Britain will be ready to do so."


UK Auditor Criticizes Trident Renewal Plan

Manasi Kakatkar

The United Kingdom's National Audit Office (NAO) has questioned the Ministry of Defense's ability to replace its aging Trident nuclear missile submarines before they start being retired from service in the early 2020s. In a Nov. 5 report, the NAO raised concerns over the tight schedule of the program as well as its cost, design, and management. The government stated, however, that the program is on schedule.

The Trident system in service since 1994 consists of four Vanguard-class submarines, each carrying 16 U.S.-supplied Trident D5 missiles equipped with up to three nuclear warheads. (See ACT, December 2005.) The submarines are due to be retired in 2024, and a minority of lawmakers had suggested several years ago that the United Kingdom did not need to rush to replace a system that would be in service for several decades. Some had argued that there was no necessity for an independent British nuclear arsenal in a post-Cold War world and asserted that building new nuclear-armed submarines would represent a lack of British commitment to the disarmament obligation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). (See ACT, April 2007.)

At the behest of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, however, parliament voted in 2007 to maintain the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent by replacing the submarines with a new class of submarines in 2024 and extending the life of the Trident D5 missiles. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $22-30 billion and is aimed at providing an effective and operational nuclear deterrent until the 2040s.

In a December 2006 white paper, "The Future of The United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent," the British government announced a reduction in its overall warhead stockpile by 20 percent, from fewer than 200 warheads to fewer than 160 operationally available warheads. The paper indicated that the United Kingdom has the smallest stockpile of nuclear weapons among the five NPT nuclear-weapon states, a distinction China has also claimed.

In its report, the NAO criticized the Trident replacement program for insufficient budget oversight, lack of contingency planning, and monopoly suppliers. It found that the current cost estimates do not reflect the whole-life costs for the system and do not account for any contingencies or value-added tax. The NAO also warned of insufficient oversight of the budget. It has asked the government to prepare robust estimates of the whole-life costs and the possible extension of the lives of the submarines by September 2009.

The NAO expressed concern over the monopoly of BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce in supplying the submarines and the nuclear reactors on them. It worried about how the government would incentivize the suppliers to maintain schedules and achieve value. Stressing its point about meeting deadlines, the NAO pointed to a program to provide the navy with Astute-class submarines that is 41 months late and more than $1 billion over budget.

It also warned about the shortage of navy personnel skilled in operating nuclear reactors and monitoring nuclear missiles, which could jeopardize the United Kingdom's primary nuclear deterrent. The problem is likely to get worse in the years to come, according to the NAO.

The 2007 vote authorized British participation in a U.S. plan to extend the life of the Trident D5 missiles to 2042, after which they would retire from service. The United States has so far not provided any guarantees of the compatibility of the new missiles to be developed as replacements for the Tridents with the new submarines that the United Kingdom plans to build.

Some critics argued for extending the lives of the submarines to 40-45 years from the current 25-year life span. According to the Defense Ministry, however, it would be risky to extend their life more than five years. A longer extension, defense officials said, would be costlier than the current plan. It would require replacing many of the major parts, such as control systems, electrical systems, and possibly even the main engine and gearbox mechanism. The new submarines would include advanced safety standards, computer systems, and improved nuclear reactors that generate more power for the same amount of fuel, saving money.

The United Kingdom's National Audit Office (NAO) has questioned the Ministry of Defense's ability to replace its aging Trident nuclear missile submarines before they start being retired from service in the early 2020s. In a Nov. 5 report, the NAO raised concerns over the tight schedule of the program as well as its cost, design, and management. The government stated, however, that the program is on schedule.

U.S., UK Sign Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty

Daniel Arnaudo

On June 26, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush signed the Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty (DTCT). If ratified by both countries, the treaty would create a streamlined system for defense trade within a community encompassing the two governments and approved British and U.S. arms manufacturers. The agreement comes after years of discussion and numerous proposals to reduce the amount of paperwork involved for arms companies to gain export licenses to friendly nations. As a treaty, it would need to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. It also needs to avoid scrutiny in the House, which has stymied previous efforts at modifying export control laws.

According to Department of State officials who have seen drafts of the treaty, it would create an “approved community” of defense firms in the United Kingdom and the United States that would be pre-approved by both governments and authorized to export material into and within the community. In an Aug. 10 press release, the State Department explained that authorized end uses would fall under four major categories: “Combined U.S.-UK military or counterterrorism operations; joint U.S.-UK cooperative security and defense research, development, production, and support programs; specific security and defense projects that are for UK Government use only; and U.S. Government end-use.”

All transfers to the United Kingdom would be covered by its Official Secrets Act and would be considered classified, whatever the level of security designated in the United States. Therefore, companies that violated the rules would be subject to tougher prosecutions. Re-exports outside of the community would require a company to obtain a license, but the details of how the United States or the United Kingdom could directly block exports to a third party are still being worked out in the implementing arrangements.

Further specifics of these arrangements, contained in 21 articles of the treaty, remain to be seen. Senate members and their aides are withholding judgment until they are given the full and final text.

A senior Senate aide told Arms Control Today that Senate reaction to the treaty had been mixed. Lawmakers would be reluctant to stop a deal for a close ally such as the United Kingdom but are also intent on defending their constitutional authority and complying with pre-existing law. The aide also questioned the administration’s tactic of signing the treaty without prior consultation with key senators or their staff, leaving many past questions unaddressed.

Items that are still to be decided include which exports on the U.S. Munitions List will be exempt from the treaty and which will still require licenses, how companies will be approved for entrance into the community, how they will be monitored, and what criteria would constitute cause for expulsion.

Much of this effort stems from an earlier agreement, the Defense Trade Security Initiative (DTSI), forged under President Bill Clinton in 2000. (See ACT, June 2000.) The DTSI also sought to cut down the amount of paperwork required by the Departments of State and Defense for export licenses to NATO allies, Australia, and Japan.

The DTSI consisted of 17 separate initiatives to expedite arms exports to allies, relax or waive licenses for countries that signed bilateral agreements, and reduce in general the amount of paperwork in the process. Bilateral agreements were slow in coming, however, and an attempt to amend the Arms Export Control Act for Australia and the United Kingdom failed after opposition in the House in 2004. It remains unclear if the act would have to be amended to facilitate the new treaty.

Despite streamlining under the DTSI, the United States still struggles to keep pace with an increasing number of export license requests from allies. The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls reported that it reviewed more than 70,000 cases in 2006. In testimony to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on July 26, Stephen Mull, acting assistant secretary of state for political military affairs, said that this number was up from 66,000 in 2005 and was anticipated to rise to 80,000 in the current fiscal year.

The new treaty appears to address many of the concerns that brought down the more far-reaching elements of the DTSI, including concerns about re-exportation to third parties and the legal standards of the United Kingdom, according to sources who have seen drafts of the treaty.

John Rood, assistant U.S. secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, remained positive in comments to the press. “We are still in the process of consulting and briefing and informing the relevant staff and members about the treaty,” he stated, “but I’d say based on our initial conversations that we’re optimistic this is something that can get the advice and consent of the Senate,” adding that he would expect action on the treaty by the end of the year.

Rood also confirmed that Congress would still have to approve the sale of individual items worth more than $25 million and of batches of items or services worth more than $100 million.

Still, the State Department is emphasizing the special relationship with the United Kingdom and appears unsure whether to extend or replicate the treaty to other countries. Rood said the treaty with the United Kingdom “is fitting” and that “[i]f other countries approach us we’d have to ask, ‘Do they have the same close relationship?’ I don’t know if we’ll do anything like that or not.”

Canada can already obtain waivers on licenses to export items on the U.S. Munitions List but not technology, so the treaty would be unique. The U.S. government is also hoping for easier access to counterterrorism methods and materials that the British have developed.

Although the DTCT would not have to be approved by the House, Senate aides said they would consult closely with their congressional counterparts. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed some misgivings at the July 26 hearing. He said that he would withhold judgment until the details of the treaty were worked out but that “these types of agreements are not a panacea for reducing [the State Department’s] licensing workload…. I strongly advise the administration to reflect on past experiences and to consult with Congress this time around, especially the foreign affairs committees of the House and the Senate, before finalizing these changes.”

Uncertainty in the British defense industry may also cause problems. The premier British defense contractor, BAE Systems, is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for corruption in dealings with Saudi Arabia.

The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office started, but did not conclude, an investigation into BAE’s al-Yamamah deal with Saudi Arabia. According to reports in The Guardian newspaper, the British government under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allegedly facilitated a bribe of more than a billion dollars from BAE to Saudi Arabian officials to close a multibillion-dollar aircraft contract to Riyadh. Blair’s government halted inquiry into the deal on national security grounds last December.

UK Nuclear Submarine Plan Wins Vote

Wade Boese

Despite some opposition within the ruling Labour Party, British lawmakers recently approved a plan to start designing a new class of nuclear-armed submarines. The vote puts the country on course toward retaining nuclear weapons until around midcentury, although top officials say that could still change.

Last December, Prime Minister Tony Blair's government proposed building successors to the four current submarines composing the United Kingdom 's entire nuclear delivery force. (See ACT , January/February 2007. ) The first two boats of the existing Vanguard-class fleet are expected to be retired by 2024, and the government contends the inaugural replacement vessel must be operational by then to maintain the current posture of always having one submarine on patrol.

Estimating that it will take 17 years to get the first new submarine from the drawing board to the sea, Blair called on legislators to support the project this year. The House of Commons complied March 14, voting 409-161 to start the proposed submarine design phase. Immediately before, lawmakers defeated 413-167 an initiative to postpone the vote.

Opponents offered a variety of reasons for why a decision was unnecessary this year. Some lawmakers said that the Vanguard-class submarines might be modified to last longer than presumed, while some argued that the new class of boats should take no longer to develop than the 14 years required for the Vanguard fleet. Other lawmakers said it was premature to consent to such a consequential and long-term endeavor at such an early stage.

Blair and his backers, however, argued that the claim that development of the Vanguard fleet took only 14 years neglected to take into account all the work needed to complete the system. They also said that lawmakers should welcome the opportunity to give their input sooner rather than later and warned that if delays mounted, British industry might not be staffed and positioned properly to carry out the project.

Blair assured the House of Commons March 14 that this would not be the final opportunity for lawmakers to have a say on the program. “This parliament cannot bind the decisions of a future parliament, and it is always open to us to come back and look at these issues,” the prime minister stated. He implied one chance would be between 2012 and 2014 when the main contracts for design and construction are supposed to be awarded.

Approximately one-quarter of the 352 members of the Labour Party, which campaigned for unilateral British nuclear disarmament during much of the 1980s, were on the losing side of the two votes. Their defection was offset by strong support for the proposal from the main opposition party, the Conservatives.

The final measure included a commitment to pursue additional steps toward nuclear disarmament in compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Countries without nuclear weapons pledged to forswear them through that 1968 accord, while nuclear-armed states, including the United Kingdom , promised to eventually eliminate their atomic arsenals.

Whether London would break its NPT obligation by building new submarines was a key issue pitting Labour Party members against each other. Indeed, four members of the government resigned their positions in protest over Blair's proposal. One of them, Nigel Griffiths, who was deputy leader of the House of Commons, argued March 14 that “we must lead the world in campaigning for the eradication of the nuclear threat and we must lead by example.”

Other Labour members echoed Griffiths during the nearly six-hour debate that preceded the two votes. They warned that developing another generation of nuclear-armed submarines would undermine the NPT by signaling that nuclear weapons were vital for preserving a country's security. One Labour member, Jeremy Corbyn, questioned whether adding “vastly enhanced” submarines would be “contrary to the whole spirit of the treaty and likely to encourage proliferation rather than reduce it.”

Blair, other Labour officials, and Conservative speakers asserted the United Kingdom was and would remain in compliance with the NPT, citing past and proposed nuclear reductions. Although developing new submarines is the core of the prime minister's plan, it also calls for shrinking the country's operational nuclear forces by 20 percent, to fewer than 160 warheads. London 's secret stock of reserve warheads is supposed to undergo an equivalent cut.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett blasted as “complete and utter rubbish” the notion that constructing new submarines would provoke the spread of nuclear weapons. She further dismissed the possibility of other countries following the United Kingdom 's lead even if it abolished nuclear weapons, saying, “[W]e have been disarming over the course of the past 10 years, with singularly little response.” Since the Cold War's end, the United Kingdom is the sole recognized nuclear-weapon state that has trimmed its nuclear capability to a single type of delivery option and claims to have reduced its nuclear explosive power by about 75 percent.

Submarine proponents repeatedly pointed to other countries' possession of nuclear arms and the suspected pursuit of such arms by other states. The prime minister and his supporters also contended the new submarines would be insurance against the uncertainty of the future, particularly the risk that “rogue” states or terrorists might acquire and use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.

Opponents responded that terrorists would not be deterred regardless of what armaments the United Kingdom brandished and that such a threat was less likely than other dangers, such as global climate change, requiring attention and money. Michael Ancram, a rare Conservative critic, asserted the submarine acquisition costs constituted “a pretty hefty premium against a pretty unlikely threat.”

The government projects that it might cost up to $39 billion to procure four new submarines and nearly $3 billion annually to operate them. Costs could be reduced if London builds only three new submarines, an option Blair has floated.

Skeptics say spending will be higher than estimated because arms programs are prone to exceeding budgets. They point to the United Kingdom 's ongoing and roughly $2 billion over budget Astute-class conventional attack submarine program as the latest example.

A majority of Labour members backed Blair despite, or perhaps because of, their party's past abolition advocacy. Some members appear to attribute, at least partially, the party's poor electoral results during the 1980s to that policy. Explaining his support for Blair's proposal, Labour member Gerald Kaufman stated, “It is one thing to revisit the scene of the crime; it is quite another to revisit the scene of the suicide.”

Still, Beckett said, “today's decision does not mean that we are committing ourselves irreversibly to maintaining a nuclear deterrent for the next 50 years.” She noted lawmakers will have chances in the coming years to affect the United Kingdom's nuclear status by deciding on replacing or renewing British nuclear warheads as well as the U.S.-made and -leased Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles that carry the warheads.


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