‘The trade union and Labour movement must rise up and oppose Blair’s proposal to ensure Britain becomes the aircraft carrier for Bush’s nuclear ambitions,’ Labour leadership challenger John McDonnell told News Line yesterday.
The Hayes and Harlington MP was responding to the news that Blair has personally been leading talks between the UK and US governments, in which he has been lobbying President Bush to site a US interceptor missile and radar system on UK soil.
McDonnell added: ‘This is part of Blair’s “legacy” and must be totally opposed.’
Recognising that it is the prime US target, Russia has warned the system will trigger an arms race.
In 2002, the US withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty it signed with the Soviet Union.
McDonnell warned: ‘Blair is now putting at risk future generations as a result of this policy, which will turn Britain into a prime target in any future war or terrorist activity.’
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament condemned ‘any UK involvement with the ill-conceived US missile defence programme.’
CND stressed: ‘The US describes the system as defensive because it has the capacity to shoot down incoming missiles.
‘In reality it would enable the US to attack other countries without fear of retaliation, thus sparking major international concern and provoking a new arms race.’
Labour’s Michael Meacher, who has just announced he will be challenging for the Labour leadership, told News Line: ‘There is no obvious rationale for this proposal, since even the Ministry of Defence itself, in the debate on Trident replacement, has not been able to point to any current or long term threat to the UK.
‘Secondly, this would tie us even more closely into a defence system for the benefit of the US and without any obvious benefit to the UK itself, which would clearly be, as a result, a target.
‘It would put us into the front line of a hypothetical future missile war against the US.
‘Before there is any serious consideration of this proposal, there should be full consultation with parliament and the British people who would be put at risk.’
Poland and the Czech Republic are to locate part of the system on their soil, next to their border with Russia, and Washington has already received the backing of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.
Meanwhile, talks are continuing between the US National Security Council and Britain’s top foreign affairs advisor Sir Nigel Sheinwald.
Downing Street has admitted that talks are taking place.
Meanwhile, the UK will be sending 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan – on top of the 800-strong deployment announced on February 1st – with Defence Secretary Des Browne due to announce details to MPs on Monday.
There is expected to be very heavy fighting between NATO forces and Taleban fighters throughout the spring and summer months.