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Britain’s Growing Nuclear Arsenal

March 19, 2021

Episode Notes:

The United Kingdom has announced that it will increase a self-imposed cap on its stockpile of nuclear warheads by some forty percent, from 180 to 260 warheads. In addition, the British government will no longer publicly comment on the number of warheads and missiles deployed on its ballistic missile submarines. Nor will it comment on how many warheads in its arsenal are operational at any given time. London, which published the changes this week in a larger integrated review of defense in foreign policy, identified an evolving security environment and doctrinal and technological threats as key drivers behind its decisions. Britain’s moves to expand the country’s arsenal and inject some opacity into its nuclear posture reverses decades of nuclear cuts, and has raised eyebrows among those who have long considered the country to be a leader in global nuclear disarmament efforts.


Dr. Matthew Harries, a senior research fellow in the proliferation and nuclear policy program at the Royal United Services Institute, joins the Warcast to discuss the significant changes to Britain’s nuclear posture.


[ 01:26 ] What is the strategic rationale for Britain’s decision to increase its nuclear stockpile?

[ 04:34 ] To what extent did programmatic considerations influence the country’s nuclear posture shift?

[ 07:04 ] How will these move impact the United Kingdom’s standing in multilateral nuclear diplomacy?

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