Great: the UK Telegraph reports that according to diplomatic cables released to WikiLeaks, the Obama administration agreed to give Russia confidential information on Britain’s nuclear forces as a bargaining chip in the New START negotiations.
This seems to have been done in a particularly shabby manner. Obama began pressuring the British government in 2009 to authorize release of this information itself. Encountering resistance, Team Obama went ahead and agreed to give Moscow the information without permission from London.
It’s not that US administrations haven’t unilaterally undercut the nuclear deterrence posture of our European allies before. John F. Kennedy did it as a way of resolving the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
But if the Telegraph’s is an accurate depiction (which is probable; the communications in question reportedly involved giving the Russians Trident missile serial numbers), it’s still a rotten, low-down thing to do.
Update: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has links to the statements from the State Department on this, and Jake Tapper’s report on an unnamed source in the British government. The upshot is that the New START treaty does, in fact, provide for conveying more specific information to the Russians on the British Trident missiles than START I did. Ed has the cable citation on this.
Jake Tapper’s report does not indicate that any British source has explicitly refuted the implication of the Telegraph story. The unnamed source he refers to is reported as saying “his understanding of the policy (i.e., the reporting policy of the arms treaties) conforms with that asserted by the state department.”
The burden of the Telegraph‘s point, however, is the following passage:
Washington lobbied London in 2009 for permission to supply Moscow with detailed data about the performance of UK missiles. The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.
At this point, I have not seen a posted cable that contains information about “Washington lobbying London” on this head in 2009. It’s unlikely the Telegraph made that part up. Perhaps that cable has yet to be posted, or I just haven’t located the pertinent passage in one that is available online. The British concern about revealing nuclear weapons information is referenced in this cable (paragraph 17), but the specific statement about Washington pressuring London in 2009 doesn’t appear to have been sourced from a cable that has been posted to date.
Whether the British were pressured and disagreed with the proposal is the actual issue — not how much of an extension, expansion, or extrapolation from START I the reporting protocol in New START is. I doubt the British government will be explicit about its role or sentiments in any of this. We’ll see if the Telegraph comes out with more.