Letter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom on the Sale of the Trident II Missile System
Thank you for your letter of March 11.
I am pleased to confirm that the United States Government is prepared to supply to the United Kingdom TRIDENT II missiles, equipment and supporting services as proposed in your letter, subject to and in accordance with applicable United States law and procedures.
The United States readiness to provide these systems is a demonstration of the great importance which the United States Government attaches to the maintenance by the United Kingdom of an independent nuclear deterrent capability. I can assure you of the United States' willingness to cooperate closely with the United Kingdom Government in maintaining and modernizing that capability.
I attach great importance to your assurance that the United Kingdom TRIDENT II force will be assigned to NATO and that the economies realized through cooperation between our two governments will be used to reinforce the United Kingdom's efforts to upgrade its conventional forces. Such nuclear and conventional force improvements are of the highest priority for NATO's security.
I agree that, as the next step, our two governments should initiate the technical and financial negotiations which you propose.
[The Right Honorable Margaret R. Thatcher, M.P., Prime Minister, London]
Dear Mr. President:
I wrote to your predecessor on 10 July 1980 to ask whether the United States Government would be ready to supply Trident I missiles equipment and supporting services to the United Kingdom on a similar basis to that on which the Polaris missiles were supplied under the Polaris Sales Agreement of 6 April 1963. President Carter replied on 14 July confirming that the United States Government were prepared to do so, subject to and in accordance with applicable United States law and procedures.
In the light of decisions taken by the United States Government in 1981 to accelerate their own programme to procure Trident II missiles, and to phase out the Trident I programme earlier than had hitherto been intended, the United Kingdom Government have carried out a review of their nuclear deterrent programme. In the light of this review, I am now writing to ask whether in place of Trident I missiles the United States Government would be ready to supply Trident II missiles, equipment and supporting services on a continuing basis and in a manner generally similar to that in which Polaris was supplied. The United Kingdom Government would wish to purchase these missiles complete with multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles but without the warheads themselves. I propose that, as in the past, close co-ordination should be maintained between the executive agencies of the two Governments in order to assure compatibility of equipment.
Like the Polaris force, and consistent with the agreement reached in 1980 on the supply of Trident I missiles, the United Kingdom Trident II force will be assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and except where the United Kingdom Government may decide that supreme national interests are at stake, this successor force will be used for the purposes of international defence of the Western alliance in all circumstances. It is my understanding that co-operation in the modernization of the United Kingdom nuclear deterrent in the manner proposed would be consistent with the present and prospective international obligations of both parties.
I would like to assure you that the United Kingdom Government remain wholly committed to the strengthening of the Alliance's conventional forces. The United Kingdom Government have in recent years substantially increased their defence spending and further increases are planned for the future in order to sustain the United Kingdom's all-round contribution to allied deterrence and defence. The economies made possible by the United States Government's co-operation with respect to the supply of the Trident I missile system will be used in order to reinforce the United Kingdom Government's continuing efforts to upgrade their conventional forces.
If the United States Government are prepared to meet this request, I hope that as the next step you will be prepared to receive technical and financial missions to pursue these matters using the framework of the Polaris Sales Agreement where appropriate.
[The President of the United States of America]
Ronald Reagan, Letter to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom on the Sale of the Trident II Missile System Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/245608