Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | February 5, 2011

Finking on the Brits; UPDATE

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.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.” She writes a weekly column for Patheos.



  1. And what else would one expect from Team Obama ???

  2. I don’t know. This seems like a new low, even for the Obami.

  3. I’m thinking some Sully verse is the only thing that might bring some good cheer…

    • Since you ask – I wrote this the other day in response to a comment somewhere on Facebook that decried Egypt’s shutdown of the net. It’s vaguely related to your post because I think the ubiquity of net connection devices means governments have to take a whole new view of secrecy, recognizing that they simply can’t keep anything but the very most crucial narrowly disseminated information secret for any substantial length of time.

      The Internet

      It’s here, it’s there, it’s everywhere,
      It’s ads for beer, and underwear,
      For words that slime, and hasty rhyme;
      A manic place, this cyberspace,
      Where chaos rules, and abusive fools,
      Share fleeting pages, with gentle sages.

      The Internet, is lusty sweat,
      Heated chat, and granny’s cat.
      It’s the latest news, and words that bruise,
      It’s thoughts that heal, and sex appeal,
      Sights of yonder, and things to ponder.
      It’s manic raves, and keyboard slaves,
      It’s a fleeting wonder, and floods down under.

      What it ain’t, is for the faint,
      Unless they need, a healthcare feed,
      Or for those who rule, and hate a tool,
      That puts free speech, in people’s reach,
      And enables groups, away from troops.

      • Beautiful! It’s posted. I haven’t cracked the code on interpolating the stanza breaks, so blame me for their absence. There are actually THREE [ENTER] strokes where each stanza break is supposed to be, and still they don’t register. I’m plumb clueless.

  4. if it isn’t all those Muslims living in England that destroys it any minute now, it’ll be a surprise nuclear attack by the USSR because they …. because……Poland yeah, they’re secretly getting the Soviet Empire back together and need to invade Poland to use it as a base for their return to East Germany.
    they’re gonna put the Wall back in order to spoil all the Reagan birthday celebrations.

    Obama made it all possible because he wants to have the Soviets blow up Britain as a way of preventing all the Muslims there from testifying that Obama is really one of their own which we all suspect because he has a givaway-type of a name and doesn’t know all the words to the Bible

    it’s all gonna happen day after tomorrow right when Obama gives the order to have the blimp kill everyone at the Super Bowl.

  5. So they screwed an ally of a hundred years standing to gain a minor negotiating advantage with respect to a completely meaningless treaty, a treaty moreover with a country that has been an enemy for most of the past hundred years, and which is now ruled by a dictator representative of no ideology except power.

    Smart, very smart.

    Or else very malicious.

  6. sort of perfidious.
    except that there doesn’t seem to be any actual damage in it.

    • The effect would be the same if it involved the queen’s feeding schedule for her corgis. Folks who want loyalty and forebearance don’t disregard their friends’ wishes and betray their confidences to curry favor with enemies. The Russians wanted the information precisely because it drives a wedge between the U.S. and its allies since they now trust us a bit less.

      • I don’t understand it quite that way. Currying favor is what Britain should be doing with us.
        Trading away the info about the number of our missiles in their custody in expectation of receiving valuable consideration in other areas is something else.

        Great Britain publishes the most of the info.

        They’ve got 4 subs that each carry a max of 16 Tridents. They publish that they have at least one and at most two subs at sea at all times. They publish that they have at least 58 Tridents on hand.

        With a max for deploying 64, they’re unlikely to hold more than 80.

        It could be that the Russians would want the number held in Great Britain to satisfy themselves that we’re not stashing missiles there and taking them off our inventory and fudging our numbers.

        If it turns out that the British are really upset that we’ve acted without gentility in this manner, they may cancel their lease on the missiles of ours that they’re holding and return them. If they’re really, really upset, maybe they’ll pay us for the others.

  7. Wow. Stunning. Even for Obama. Much much worse than the CMR. There at least there was a, you know, crisis. Here we were what, Resetting and reaching for Zero?!?!? Again, just wow.

  8. Very much the BO M.O.: (1) He is likely to sell out historical friends to coddle historical enemies, and (2) He thinks he can take what’s yours and distribute it for a momentary advantage to himself.

    And just because some think the information is not important does not make it so. These matters apparently were guarded by the Brits, and if the US had an ounce of respect for its ally, it would not unilaterally betray that decision. And if it were unimportant to the Russians they wouldn’t have bargained for it. Moreover, there are computers and geeks in Mother Russia putting together detailed intelligence from seemingly small scraps of information.

  9. I haven’t said much because, frankly, I am completely stunned. This has to be the absolute worst sovereign offense ever committed by anyone conducting American Diplomacy.

    You mention Turkey (and most of the rest of Western Europe) with Kennedy’s Pershing retreat; (The real method he used to “solve” the Cuban Missile Crisis) but that was small potatoes compared to this massive betrayal.

    The chaos curve of history often shows that very small actions have greatly amplified and unintended consequences. The organized Left (and certain commentators) pooh-poohs this as a big nothing burger… right… sure.

    This move by Obummer jumps past bumbling incompetence into flat out evil. Malignant narcissists are capable of doing anything to anyone to maintain their self-image. Disparaging friends is often the first tactic.

    What a massive mess… and we have two more years of this sort of damage to endure before anybody has even a remote chance to fix it.

    [Leaves shaking his head, trying to scrape off the poo…]


  10. Welcome, TMF! ‘Bout time. All your comments will post automatically from now on (there’s a one-time “approval” that keeps down spam).

    This revelation certainly has to give the Brits and all our other friends to wonder: what other secrets has Obama told? Japan might well wonder what he’s told China — Israel might wonder what he’s told Saudi Arabia — Colombia what he’s told Ecuador or Venezuela.

    To dismiss the possibility of this dynamic in other relationships would be foolish. The process here was as follows: the Russians demanded the information as a condition of a settlement, and Obama gave it to them. There’s no reason why this couldn’t have happened, with different particulars, in other circumstances.

    In one way this might be considered positive news. Obama could hardly have found a better way to discourage other nations from cooperating with him on faith — i.e., out of long friendship or an automatic bias in America’s favor. His foreign policy has been so uniformly bad that it’s actually better if our allies don’t give it any unnecessary support.

  11. “From a certain point of view’ as the Jedis would say, Obama’s actions make sense, re read that 1983 piece in the Columbia Sun Dial, his association with anti-Churchill
    scribe Frank Marshall Davis, certain much more a parental role model than Barack
    Sr. ever was. However, ‘back on Planet Earth it doesn’t make any sense

  12. Supports and encourages anti U.S. dictators and regimes – check
    Betrays and undercuts pro U.S. dictators – check
    Works to prevent change toward democratic and/or pro U.S. regimes – check
    Supports energy exploration overseas – check
    While stymying it at home – check
    Betrays longstanding democratic allies – check
    In favor of long term enemies ruled by tyrants – check

    How many check marks have to be totted up before the truth of the man’s motivations and objectives come clear?

  13. “In one way this might be considered positive news. Obama could hardly have found a better way to discourage other nations from cooperating with him on faith — i.e., out of long friendship or an automatic bias in America’s favor. His foreign policy has been so uniformly bad that it’s actually better if our allies don’t give it any unnecessary support.”


    headed into Hanoi Jen territory with that…….

    • No more compliant enemy, no more treacherous ally. And let’s not forget all the efforts of Teddy Kennedy et all to sabotage Reagan. Why would any minimally sane country possibly want to cooperate with the Obami (or the U.S. for that matter knowing we could vote someone like that in)?

      The practical utility of any START for the U.S. (even a well negotiated one) is fairly minimal (not to say nonexistent). The tangible value to Russia isn’t tremendous either but it keeps them in “The Game” to some extent, assuages some of their paranoia and is generally a reasonably healthy boost to their self esteem (George Will wrote about this buy I had had my own inchoate if unoriginal thoughts on this issue). For this reason a new START could have been a reasonably juicy berry dangle in front of our ursine friends if some sort of significant side benefit could have been secured (e.g. very very tough sanctions on Iran – and compliance with such by Russia). They may or may not have gone for it but we certainly had little enough to loose either way.

      In the end Obama’s quite fanatical devotion to the shibboleths of engagement (“Reset”), disarmarment generally and “Nuclear Zero” specifically, induced him to follow a policy that perhaps even more idiotic than it is immoral and to sell out the Brits and teat the Poles and Czechs like the late night cleaning staff. Yes, it did, should and will cause people to be intensely apprehensive of U.S. alliance and to look at other options if such are available. And it is in that rather than the various and more less serious infirmities in START itself that will be the greatest cost of the treaty and it will take a great deal of arduous work by Barry’s successors to undo the damage.

  14. It has to make you wonder: what makes Obama tick?

    Is it his 1980’s knee-jerk anti-Nuke, anti-Colonial mindset? The dull-normal foreign policy cliches of the college boy that became easy and unalterable truths for the manchild President?

    Is it more sinister: the Manchurian Candidate in action? But who is/are pulling the strings?

    Is it another example of his deer-in-the-headlights foreign policy style? The latest examples of which are Obama’s now daily preaching to Mubarak — today, “what about your legacy, Mubarak?” and tomorrow, “what about your book and film rights, Mubarak?” Searching for answers in all the wrong polls.

    Enquiring minds want to know, and fear to find out.

    God save us from this weirdo.

  15. “The UK refused, but the US agreed to hand over the serial numbers of Trident missiles it transfers to Britain.”

    what does transfer mean, opticon?????

    does that mean that the Tridents are loaned to the Brits or “leased” to them and are actually still our own property?

    does that mean that the Russians want to be sure that we’re not going to be evading our obligations and keping an “off the books” stash of Tridents in Britain?

    • “The United Kingdom has purchased the rights to 58 Trident missiles under the Polaris Sales Agreement (modified for Trident) from a jointly maintained “pool”. These missiles are fitted with UK-built warheads and are exchanged when requiring maintenance. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States does not have any veto on the use of British nuclear weapons.”

      Keeping primarily the Russians and Chinese uncertain as to the UK’s exact nuclear arsenal is a tactic designed to deter planned aggression. It’s efficacy is not the issue, their security is their affair. No matter what one might call it or how it might be rationalized or justified, Obama’s action is an act of betrayal.

      • there’s little uncertainty, Geoffrey. They publish the information

        • Of course, we all know, if its ‘officially’ released into the public sphere, the Russians can rely on published data…(sarc off)

          Whereas, when it’s written into a treaty as a precondition, there is no doubt.

          • Geoffrey, your Britons makes no bones about not having land-based nuke-tipped missiles.

            Their capacity is limited to the subs that carry the Tridents. No ambiguity to that. Max 64 missiles.

            If they are lying and do have other missiles, well then, that’s the real surprise….and this treaty leaves it uncovered.

            • sorry, should have been


  16. I have understood heretofore that the wikileaks documents did not rise above the secret level.

    If that is the case, does anyone else find it odd that this item, given its gravity, would have a secret classification?

    • It seems highly likely that elements within the Obama administration are cooperating with Wikileaks.

      • horse hockey, Geoffrey.

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