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RifkindQuote The Daily Telegraph today publishes key extracts from a speech that Sir Malcolm Rifkind has given on his hope for a "Global Zero"; a nuclear free world.

Although the former Foreign Secretary says that total elimination would be "extremely difficult" he says that the pursuit of the task would be very good for the world:

"If we can reduce the current number dramatically, and radically improve verification and inspection, we will have started a process that could lead to zero; we will have ensured the continuation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which the vast majority of countries respect and observe; we will have made it much easier for the Security Council to put successful pressure on North Korea and Iran; and far more difficult for terrorists to get their hands on fissile material. That would be a historic achievement – and one that our children and grandchildren would most certainly thank us for."

I have sympathy with Sir Malcolm's point that a reduction in nuclear weaponry would reduce the possibility of terrorists getting their hands on fissile material but not with his implications for the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea.  As I have written before, Tehran and Pyongyang actually have an added incentive to acquire a nuclear weapon if other world powers disarm.  The reason can actually be found within Sir Malcolm's speech:

"If the United States destroyed all its nuclear weapons but Russia, secretly, retained one or two, it would have the power to blackmail Washington without fear of comparable retaliation."

The difficulty of verification means and the ease with which nuclear weapons could be 're-acquired' by hostile powers means that all talk of complete disarmament is unhelpful.  As Margaret Thatcher said in 2000, nuclear weapons cannot be disinvented.  Leading Tory politicians would be better advised to support American investment in missile defence systems.  The Obama administration has sent out conflicting signals on its commitment to continue President Bush's deployment efforts.

Tim Montgomerie

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