1.U.S. Strategic Intentions: Political Deterrence over Military Deterrence

(a) The U.S. line on the Suffolk RAF base is to “neither confirm nor deny,” stating that the work is “routine” and “consistent with the terms of NATO’s military alliance and long-term policy.”

(b) The U.S. Strategic Air Force has more than 100 nuclear bombs deployed in four NATO countries (Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey), and military hardware facilities in Ramstein, Nörvenich, and Memmingen, Germany, with operational capability to redeploy nuclear weapons at any time. If the U.S. wanted a “direct” and “more sensitive” nuclear deterrent against Russia, it would choose to reactivate the German deployment rather than the U.K. one.

Based on (a) and (b), it seems that the U.S. has resumed the deployment of nuclear weapons in the U.K. not on the basis of imminence of “nuclear war” (otherwise it would have resumed deterrence via sites in Germany), but rather based on the primacy of political deterrence over military deterrence, and the primacy of the domestic “political game”(get votes) over the “direct game” against Russia(counter Russia’s nuclear deterrence).

2. UK’s Strategic Intentions: Expanding NATO’s Military Power and Britain’s Global Influence

The deployment of nuclear weapons should be analyzed in relation to events during the previous days:

(a) January 17: Grant Shapps, the defense secretary, said in a speech at Lancaster House in London that the post-cold war “peace dividend ” was over and that western countries needed to prepare for further conflicts involving China, Russia, North Korea and Iran over the next five years.

(b) January 24: Chief of Staff Patrick Sanders talked about the need for the UK’s “pre-war generation” to prepare for the possibility of war and said that this a “whole-of-nation undertaking”.

(c) January 25: Retired former British Army Commander General Patrick Sanders speaks about the need for the UK to replenish the Army with at least 45,000 reservists or civilians. On the same day, Richard Sherriff, former NATO Allied Force Commander, declared that the UK’s defense budget was insufficient to expand the armed forces on its own, and that the introduction of conscription, to prepare the country for potential war, should be considered.

Public statements (a), (b) & (c) demonstrate the “forward-looking” nature of UK’s defense policy. As America’s closest ally, the UK is “enthusiastic” about expanding NATO’s “military authority,” seeing this as a key element in maintaining “British global influence.” There are two core elements here, one is maintainance of deterrence against Russia, and the other is additional deterrence against China.

The UK is keenly aware of chances of a political shift in the US, with Trump’s rise to power likely to lead to a military collapse in Ukraine. Avoiding major changes on the Eastern Front in Europe is the core element of the British push for NATO to increase its “deterrence chips”. Moreover, the UK is one NATO country, which like the US, views China as a threat. The U.K. sees military conflict with the PLA as “imminent,” and therefore requires the ability to act strategically in order to demonstrate its “strong alliance” with the U.S.

In sum, the UK sees risk in US global policy, which it seeks to mitigate by bind itself tightly to the US military structure and seeking global influence. With domestic conventional capabilities lacking strength, borrowing nuclear weapons for redeployment represents the central and most effective “statement” of Britain’s global strategy.

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