Former Royal Navy Commanders to UK parliament: ‘Cut nuclear weapons budget, end Continuous-at-sea-deterrent and address Covid-19.

Three former Royal Navy Commanders send a letter to all UK parliamentarians questioning the practice of Continuous-at-sea-nuclear-deterence.

The letter notes that there is no security requirement for such a practice, and that its cost appears unjustifiable, especially as resources are desperately needed for addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three former UK Royal Navy Commanders* yesterday (01/04/2020) sent a letter to all UK members of parliament questioning the policy of maintaining a continuous at sea nuclear deterrent.

The commanders note that the £2 billion a year cost of maintaining this nuclear posture and readiness for war appear to be unjustifiable, especially as the economic costs of the coronavirus pandemic are mounting and while there appears no threat of a ‘bolt from the blue’ nuclear attack against the UK, for which the policy is intended to counter. In addition, the letter questions the decision by parliament to invest even more substantial resources in building new nuclear warheads and the submarines to carry them.

The letter, which was endorsed by a number of parliamentarians, academics and peace campaigners, was sent by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation to all members of the UK House of Commons, UK House of Lords, Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, and Northern Ireland Assembly.

“It is completely unacceptable that the UK continues to spend billions of pounds on deploying and modernising the Trident Nuclear Weapon System when faced with the threats to health, climate change and world economies that Coronavirus poses,” said Commander Robert Forsyth RN (Ret’d), a former nuclear submariner and a signatory to the letter.

“This pandemic and the inability of the British government to either prepare for or effectively respond to such an immediate threat to life demonstrates the twisted priorities at the heart of nuclear weapons spending,’ said Tom Unterrainer, Director of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. “Rather than work to guarantee real security this government prioritises the acquisition and deployment of weapons of mass murder,”

‘All of the nuclear weapons powers, and those states which are supportive of them, are wasting precious resources on the likes of Trident against the wishes of their peoples, when they should be addressing the real and deadly enemy in the form of COVID19,’ said Bill Kidd MSP, PNND Co-President and Convenor of the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Nuclear Disarmament. “With human beings and national economies under genuine threat, it is the duty of governments and parliamentarians to pull back from nuclear war planning and preparation, and to instead cooperate internationally on facing down this deadly pandemic.”

“Covid-19 is showing us that humanity’s worst threats- pandemics and climate change are shared globally,’ said Baroness Sue Miller, PNND Co-President and member of the House of Lords. ‘We should not waste resources on renewing nuclear weapons as we should be  using all resources we can in tackling these all too real issues.’

“At this time of national and global emergency, the like of which we have never previously witnessed, it is essential that British nuclear weapons submarines be recalled to base," said Dr Scilla Elworthy, Member of the World Future Council and three times nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. "Why? This is a time when our nation has the opportunity to set an example of how collaboration can replace competition, by inviting all other nuclear nations to put their weapons under safe-keeping, not least to obviate the risk of accidental nuclear war at this time. “

The signatories to the letter hope that their efforts to question the nuclear ‘Continuous At Sea Deterrent’ will encourage politicians and the wider public to begin to question the morality and the feasibility of nuclear weaponry.


For more information, including for further comment from Commander Forsyth contact: Tom Unterrainer, tomunterrainer@russfound.org, tel. +44 7779328418.

* The three former UK Royal Navy Commanders who signed the letter are:

  • Commander Robert Forsyth RN (Ret’d). 2nd in Command Polaris submarine, commanded two other submarines and the Commanding Officer’s Qualifying Course.
  • Commander Robert Green RN (Ret’d). Former nuclear-armed aircraft bombardier-navigator, Staff Officer (Intelligence) to CINFLEET in Falklands War
  • Commander Colin Tabeart RN (Ret’d). Former Senior Engineer Officer, Polaris submarine