The right-wing media have seized on a Wikileaks cable to claim the Obama administration "betrayed" the United Kingdom by revealing data to Russia regarding the sale of nuclear material. In fact, the information was passed in compliance with nuclear arms treaties and "with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation," as officials in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have confirmed.
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Telegraph Falsely Reports "US Secretly Agreed" To "Tell Russia Britain's Nuclear Secrets"
Telegraph: "The US Secretly Agreed To Give The Russians Sensitive Information On Britain's Nuclear Deterrent." A February 4 article in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph claimed that "[t]he US secretly agreed to give the Russians sensitive information on Britain's nuclear deterrent to persuade them to sign a key treaty, The Daily Telegraph can disclose." The article further claimed, "Defence analysts claim the agreement risks undermining Britain's policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuclear arsenal." The article referenced leaked cables indicating that the United States provided Russia with information regarding the transfer of Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) to the United Kingdom. [The Telegraph, 2/4/11, cables accessed 2/7/11]
In Fact, The Information Released Was In Compliance With Existing Treaty Elements
1991 START Treaty Language Requires Notification For "Movement Of Items Subject To The Limitations Provided For In The Treaty." The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) requires both the United States and Russia to provide detailed information regarding the transfer of items. According to the treaty:
Each Party shall provide to the other Party, pursuant to subparagraph 3(a) of Article VIII of the Treaty, the following notifications concerning data with respect to items subject to the limitations provided for in the Treaty, according to categories of data contained in the Memorandum of Understanding and other agreed categories of data:
(8) notification, no later than 48 hours after it has been completed, of the transfer of items to or from a third State in accordance with a pattern of cooperation existing at the time of signature of the Treaty referred to in Article XVI of the Treaty and the First Agreed Statement in the Annex to the Treaty on Agreed Statements. Such notification shall include: the number and type of items transferred; the date of transfer; and the location of transfer; [Department of Defense, accessed 2/7/11]
New START Language Also Requires Revealing "Unique Identifiers" For Transferred SLBMs. According to the New START treaty, the transfer of SLBMs to third parties requires:
Notification, to be provided no later than five days after it has been completed, of the transfer of SLBMs to or from a third State in accordance with an existing pattern of cooperation. [Department of State, accessed 2/7/11]
According to an analysis by the State Department, this "pattern of cooperation" includes:
[N]otification of the transfer of SLBMs to or from a third State in accordance with an established pattern of cooperation existing at the time of signature of the Treaty, as referred to in Article XIII of the Treaty. The number, type, date, unique identifier, and location of the transferred SLBM must be provided. This notification will be used with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation that existed at the time of signature of the Treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom. [Department of State, accessed 2/7/11]
Officials From Both Nations Have Dismissed The Accusations As "Bunk" And "Nonsense"
Crowley: Telegraph Accusations Are "Bunk." Responding to the Telegraph article, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded via Twitter that the claims made by the newspaper are "bunk" and that "we carried forward requirement to notify Russia about U.S.-UK nuclear cooperation from the 1991 treaty." Crowley also released the following statement to Time magazine:
This is bunk. Under the 1991 START Treaty, the U.S. agreed to notify Russia of specific nuclear cooperation with the United Kingdom, such as the transfer of SLBM's [submarine launch ballistic missiles] to the UK, or their maintenance or modernization. This is under an existing pattern of cooperation throughout that treaty and is expected to continue under New START. We simply carried forward and updated this notification procedure to the new treaty. There was no secret agreement and no compromise of the UK's independent nuclear deterrent. [Time, 2/5/11; P.J. Crowley, Twitter, 2/5/11, 2/5/11]
Tapper Reports Crowley And U.K. Official Both Dismissed Accusations. In a February 5 post on ABC News' Political Punch blog, ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper wrote that "[b]oth the U.S. and British governments disputed on Saturday a London Telegraph report asserting that the 'U.S. secretly agreed to give the Russians sensitive information on Britain's nuclear deterrent to persuade them to sign a key treaty.' " Tapper further noted:
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the report "nonsense," saying the information sharing about U.S. transfers of nuclear weapons to the U.K. dates back to the original START treaty, an assertion backed up by the White House and British government officials.
Crowley emailed ABC News that "Under the 1991 START Treaty, the U.S. agreed to notify Russia of specific nuclear cooperation with the United Kingdom, such as the transfer of SLBM's to the U.K., or their maintenance or modernization. This is under an existing pattern of cooperation throughout that treaty and is expected to continue under New START. We simply carried forward and updated this notification procedure to the new treaty. There was no secret agreement and no compromise of the U.K.'s independent nuclear deterrent."
A knowledgeable source with the British government, speaking anonymously because his government has a policy of not commenting on Wikileaks, says his understanding of the policy conforms with that asserted by the State Department. [ABC News, Political Punch, 2/5/11]
Nonetheless, The Right-Wing Media Claim Obama "Betrayed British Military Secrets To Russia"
PowerLine: "The Obama Administration Betrayed British Military Secrets To Russia." In a February 4 post on PowerLine, blogger John Hinderaker linked to the Telegraph article and claimed that "Wikileaks cables reportedly indicate that, consistent with its policy of selling out friends in order to curry favor with enemies, the Obama administration betrayed British military secrets to Russia as part of the New Start treaty." Hinderaker further claimed:
I haven't yet had time to read the relevant cables, but assuming the Telegraph's reporting is accurate, this appears to be further confirmation of the Obama administration's uniquely perverse approach to foreign policy. One also wonders: this particular betrayal happened to be documented in leaked cables, but what else did the Obama administration give up in order to persuade Russia to cooperate with the administration's supposed diplomatic coup? [PowerLine, 2/4/11]
Geller Calls Story "Sedition At 1600 Pennslyvania [sic] Avenue," Claims Obama "Sold Out The UK." In a February 5 Atlas Shrugs post, Pamela Geller responded to the Telegraph article by calling it "[m]ore sedition at 1600 Pennslyvania [sic] Avenue," calling Obama "an enemy in the White House," and claiming that "Obama sold out America for START and, according to new Wiki docs, he sold out the UK, too." [Atlas Shrugs, 2/5/11]
Drudge: "Secret Deal: US Agrees To Tell Russia UK's Nuke Secrets." On February 4, the Drudge Report linked to the Telegraph article under the headline, "Secret Deal: US Agrees to tell Russia UK's nuke secrets." From the Drudge Report:
[The Drudge Report, 2/4/11]
Hoft: "We Had No Idea [Obama] Was This Dangerous." In a February 4 post on Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft posted the Drudge Report headline and wrote: "We knew Barack Obama was inexperienced. We knew he was weaned on Marxism. We knew he believed in redistribution of wealth...But, we had no idea he was this dangerous." Hoft also claimed, "It's a dangerous time to be an ally of the United States." [Gateway Pundit, 2/4/11]
Fox Nation: "U.S. Agrees To Tell Russia U.K.'s Secrets." On February 4, the Fox Nation linked to the Telegraph article with the headline "U.S. Agrees to Tell Russia U.K.'s Nukes Secrets." From the Fox Nation:
[Fox Nation, 2/4/11]
The Blaze: "The United States Secretly Agreed To Share Sensitive Information About Britain's Nuclear Program." In a February 4 post on The Blaze, Meredith Jessup wrote:
In yet another bombshell disclosure this week, the online site WikiLeaks is shedding disturbing new light on the "special relationship" that once bound the United States and Great Britain.
Now-public embassy cables released Friday by WikiLeaks seem to suggest that the United States secretly agreed to share sensitive information about Britain's nuclear program in exchange for Russian cooperation in signing a key arms treaty. [The Blaze, 2/4/11]
Carlson: "Cables Released By Wikileaks" Suggest "The U.S. Agreed To Give Secret Information On The British Nuclear Deterrent To Russia." On the February 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson introduced a segment with Fox Business host Stuart Varney by claiming that there was "uproar in the U.K." because "cables released by Wikileaks suggest that the U.S. agreed to give secret information on the British nuclear deterrent to Russia to persuade them to sign a treaty." Varney responded:
VARNEY: That is correct. What the Russians wanted and what they got were the serial numbers on the trident nuclear missiles which America makes and which the British buy. We gave them that information. The State Department says this is simply part of ongoing gift of information under previous treaties. They say this allegation that we gave Britain secrets to the Russians -- they call it bunk. The real impact here is on public relations between the two countries. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/7/11]