Great Britain has been a stalwart ally and friend to the United States, helping us save the world in World Wars I and II, and the Cold War, and is currently helping in our fight against implacable Islamism. Our connection goes deep, which is why the most recent revelation from WikiLeaks is such a blow to our relationship, and further evidence that Heritage was right about its concerns regarding New START.
It has been revealed that New START, in addition to requiring traditional information (the number and type of items transferred; the date of transfer; and the location of transfer), requires that the unique identifier – serial numbers of missiles – and location of the transferred missiles (note, not where the transfer takes place, as has historically been required, but where the missiles are deployed) must be provided.
This is a departure from requirements of earlier nuclear arms control treaties, notably the 1991 START Treaty.
Under the new treaty, since we provide Britain with Trident II missiles for its nuclear arsenal, we will now be obligated to release this previously secret information to the Russians.
This is especially troubling because Britain has relied on its enemies not knowing where its nuclear weapons reside, nor revealing the extent to which their nuclear power reaches. This treaty reverses that security. Eventually, the Russians could be given a very clear picture of the full nuclear infrastructure of the UK.
Ultimately, this serves Russia’s interest of driving a wedge between us and the United Kingdom by encroaching on Britain’s right to its own nuclear defenses. We’ve effectively surrendered some of Britain’s nuclear defense sovereignty to Russia, without British input.
And as it turns out, as a result of this treaty with Russia, we may have breeched a security agreement with Britain that’s been honored for over a half-century now, reaching back to 1958. That agreement states:
Except as may be otherwise agreed for civil uses, the information communicated or exchanged, or the materials or equipment transferred, by either Party pursuant to this Agreement shall be used by the recipient Party exclusively for the preparation or implementation of defense plans in the mutual interest of the two countries.
In other words, neither party may release information to a third party, unless it benefits the defenses of the two countries. How handing the Russians secretive information about the nuclear defenses of perhaps our most important ally is hard to understand.
So, how can the United States rectify this situation? What will the likely response from Britain be? And will this damage our special relationship with the UK?