UK's Nuclear Weapon Stockpile Set To Expand By More Than 40% Following Fresh Defence Review
Boris Johnson is set to announce the UK's nuclear weapon stockpile will increase
Downing Street are set to scrap a policy aimed at the gradual disarmament of nuclear weapons following a major review into the UK's defence capabilities.
The long-awaited Integrated Review into the country's defence, security and foreign policy has concluded that it was "no longer possible" to continue reducing the UK's nuclear weapons as they warned of a new "range of technological and doctrinal threats".
The report, published on Tuesday, announced the cap on nuclear weapons would be lifted from its current level of 180 to "no more than" 260 "in recognition of the evolving security environment".
The post-Brexit defence review said the purpose of the UK's nuclear weapons programme was to "preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression".
"In 2010 the Government stated an intent to reduce our overall nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling from not more than 225 to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s," the report added.
"However, in recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats, this is no longer possible, and the UK will move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads."
In a foreword to the report, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the review would enable the country to be "better-equipped for a more competitive world – defending our democratic institutions and economy from state threats, terrorists and organised crime groups."He added: "We will remain a nuclear-armed power with global reach and integrated military capabilities...
"Our democracy will be underwritten by the credibility of our deterrent and our ability to project power."
Meanwhile, the report outlined plans for the UK's at-sea nuclear deterrent to be continued with at least one nuclear armed submarine on duty at all times, saying the government "remain committed to maintain the minimum destructive power needed to guarantee the UK's nuclear deterrent remains credible and effective against the full range of state nuclear threats from any direction".
The decision to increase the UK's nuclear stockpile came amid growing fears over the "active threat" from Russia, with the foreign policy review branding the country as "the most acute direct threat to the UK".
But the plans have already faced criticism, with SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald branding the decision as "nothing short of abhorrent".
"For Boris Johnson to stand up and champion the international rules-based system before announcing in the same breath that the UK plans to violate its commitments to the international treaty on non-proliferation beggars belief", he said.
"Renewing Trident nuclear weapons was already a shameful and regressive decision, however, increasing the cap on the number of Trident weapons the UK can stockpile by more than 40% is nothing short of abhorrent.
"It speaks volumes of the Tory Government's spending priorities that it is intent on increasing its collection of weapons of mass destruction – which will sit and gather dust unless the UK has plans to indiscriminately wipe out entire populations – rather than address the serious challenges and inequalities in our societ that have been further exposed by the pandemic."
Other measures in the review include a major investment in space, while it repeated the previous announcement of a new national cyber force to increase the UK's capability to tackle cyber-attacks and online crime.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is set to confirm the UK's planned cuts to the UK's global aid budget while the country recovers from the economic impact of the Covid pandemic, but will saying the commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid will return "once the fiscal situation allows."