Socialist Worker

Missile system turns Britain into a target

by Tony Staunton, CND national council (pc)
Issue No. 2115

George Bush’s plans for a “missile defence shield” have already played a major part in goading Russia and destabilising the Caucasus. Now it could turn Britain into a target in any future nuclear confrontation.

The British government has already given the go ahead for crucial components of the US system to be based in Britain.

As tensions between the US and Russia escalate in the wake of the Georgian war, this decision puts us all in danger.

Last week Russia’s General Anatoly Nogovitsyn warned that Poland would now be a nuclear target following its government’s decision to sign up for the US missile system.

As parliament broke for summer last year, defence secretary Des Browne announced a major upgrade to the Menwith Hill listening station in Yorkshire.

The expansion of the RAF base – which is already under total US control – will allow it to become a satellite communications hub for a system that has been dubbed “Son of Star Wars”.


The Fylingdales radar a few miles down the road already performs similar duties. It transmits its findings to the Cheyenne Mountain defence centre in the US. Both bases in Britain would be targets for any country that felt threatened by the US’s new military system.

The US government claims that its “shield” is being developed to protect itself and its allies from attack by “rogue states”. But the truth is rather different.

The shield is not designed to offer any protection to European states. Only the US is to be safeguarded from nuclear missiles.

And nobody believes US claims that its missile defence is aimed at stopping missiles from Iran or North Korea – neither of which have a long range nuclear capability.

Recent events have made it clear that the shield is designed to neutralise the threat of nuclear warheads coming from Russia and possibly China.

The word “shield” conjures up images of a defensive system whose only purpose is to protect. But the real aim of missile defence is much more sinister.

Russia currently has around 5,700 active nuclear warheads. The number of interceptor missiles that will be housed in each silo in Poland numbers just ten.

According to the writer and campaigner George Monbiot, the real purpose of the system is to “mop up any Russian or Chinese missiles that had not been destroyed during a pre-emptive US attack”.

The shield would therefore render Russia’s nuclear weapons impotent while leaving those of Nato ready to wreak destruction. And Russia’s reaction to this has been entirely predictable.

It has issued repeated threats against neighbouring states to prevent them from joining the shield system. And it is also seeking to vastly increase the number of warheads it can launch in an effort to overcome the US system.

These nuclear missiles will not just point at silos in Poland – they will also target the guidance system and its British bases.

Ordinary people in Europe endured almost half a century of being pawns in a game played by great powers, living with a constant threat of nuclear annihilation and the diversion of resources to build bigger bombs.

In the years since the end of the Cold War we were promised a “peace dividend”, where public spending would return to improving people’s lives.

Instead we have seen governments lining up to take their place in a new Cold War that puts us all at risk again.

Millions of us marched against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We must now take our message to all those who are watching with horror as history threatens to repeat itself.

We must give them hope that we can build a movement united across all our borders to put an end to this madness.

The first step for us in Britain will be to make the Stop the War Coalition demonstration in Manchester next month an enormous success.

We must tell Des Browne and Gordon Brown that we will not return to the dark days of threat and counter-threat. We demand an end to war – and an end to weapons of mass destruction.

Demonstrate at the Labour Party conference
Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan
Manchester, Saturday 20 September

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Article information

Tue 19 Aug 2008, 18:36 BST
Issue No. 2115
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