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Britain change policy so it can use nuclear weapons in response to emerging technologies

Britain change policy so it can use nuclear weapons

March 17, 2021: The U.K. has changed its defense policy, enabling it to use nuclear weapons in response to “emerging technologies.”

The country’s 111-page Integrated Defense Review, published on Tuesday, including a delicate line on when the U.K. “reserves the right” to make use of nuclear weapons.

It says the U.K. could use nuclear weapons if different countries use “weapons of mass destruction” against it. Weapons like that include “emerging technologies that could have a comparable impact” to chemical, biological weapons.

Few British newspapers report that “emerging technologies” including cyberattacks, citing defense insiders, but the report doesn’t say that.


The Royal United Services Institute director thinks tank, Tom Plant, told CNBC, “I would not interpret it to include cyber-attacks in isolation, no.”

He also said that the “understanding of what constitutes emerging tech in government is not evenly distributed, cyber is not ’emerging,’ it’s pretty substantially emerged.”

“I think it is a marker that there is the potential in the future for combinations of technologies and behaviors to come together creating emergent risks, which would not arise through the developments of any one technology in isolation that is incredibly hard to predict and that there is the possibility that more than one of these as-yet-unknown emergent challenges might rival WMD in the threat they pose,” he said.

The U.K.’s nuclear program, known as Trident, was established in 1980, and it now costs the U.K. around £2 billion a year to operate.

The Integrated Defense Review confirmed that the U.K. allows a self-imposed cap on its nuclear weapon to increase to 260, abandoning the previous cap of 225 warheads and the current reduction target of 180 by the mid-2020s.

“This reverses the U.K. course of consistent post-Cold War nuclear reductions and runs counter to previous assurances that the program to replace the U.K.’s existing nuclear deterrent would not add to the number of nuclear warheads in service,” Plant wrote in a blog post.

He also said that the changes are presented as a reaction to a changing international security environment.

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