So, while Russia has said it will step up its strategic nuclear force (see earlier post), Britain says it is prepared to scale back its nuclear arsenal. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was prepared to cut the number of Trident warheads carried on the new fleet of submarines from 16 to 12... but only if other nations made similar pledges.
His office at Downing Street played down the significance of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's remarks. A spokesman pointed to "encouraging signs of a more constructive attitude" towards the issue on the part of the United States and Russia, which hold 95 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.
"In Britain our operationally available warheads number fewer than 160 and the Government keeps this number under constant review," Brown told a conference in London. "If it is possible to reduce the number of UK warheads further, consistent with our national deterrence requirements and with the progress of multilateral discussions, Britain will be ready to do so."
He said: "We are committed to retaining the minimum force necessary to maintain effective deterrence.
"For future submarines, our latest assessment is that we can meet this requirement with 12 missile tubes, not the 16 on current submarines."