Britain considering US nuclear missiles on British soil in new 'Cold War' with Russia
The UK could site American nuclear missiles on British soil amid heightened tensions with Russia, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
The comments raise the prospect of a return to a Cold War-type arms race with Russia over the use of nuclear missiles.
The Foreign Secretary said there were “worrying signs” about the increased activity of Russian forces and the UK would consider the pros and cons of taking US intermediate-range weapons.
The Pentagon is reportedly considering axing a Cold War-era treaty and deploying nuclear-capable missiles in Europe in response to Russia's breaches of international law.
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Asked if he would back plans to re-introduce US missiles to Europe, Mr Hammond said: “I would need to see the detailed case for that. I haven't seen a detailed case for it.
“I think it is right to be concerned about the way the Russians are developing what they call asymmetric warfare doctrine.”
Pressed on whether that would be a way to send a message to the Russian president, he replied: “It could be, but I think we have got a very delicate act to perform here."
"We have got to send a clear signal to Russia that we will not allow them to transgress our red lines.
“At the same time, we have to recognise that the Russians do have a sense of being surrounded and under attack and we don't want to make unnecessary provocations.”
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Asked if American missiles could be based in Britain, he said: “We would look at the case. We work extremely closely with the Americans.
“That would be a decision that we would make together if that proposition was on the table. We would look at all the pros and the cons and come to a conclusion.”
He added: “There have been some worrying signs of stepping up levels of activity both by Russian forces and by Russian-controlled separatist forces.”
Mr Hammond said there was “no clear sign” of an imminent attack on Ukraine but Vladimir Putin is “keeping his options open”.
But he warned against making “unnecessary provocations” against Russia, which has a “sense of being surrounded and under attack”.
Mr Hammond told BBC1’s Andrew Marr programme that Mr Putin “has not ruled out a military option”.
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He said: “As we go into the G7 meeting and then to the European Council later this month renewing sanctions, we have got to send very clear signals to the Russians that we will not tolerate any breach of their obligations under Minsk.”
The UK is thought to retain a stockpile of around 225 thermonuclear warheads, of which 160 are operational, but has refused to declare the exact size of its arsenal.
Since 1998, the submarine based Trident programme has been the only operational nuclear weapons system in British service.