Sunday, February 6, 2011

US uses UK nukes as bargaining chip

The US government has used Britain's nuclear secrets as a bargaining chip in its talks with Russia on the controversial 'New STARY' treaty, it has been disclosed.

The US secretly agreed to give the Russians sensitive information about every Trident missile it supplies to Britain to appease them into signing the new arms control treaty, the Daily Telegraph reported.

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) is a bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty signed between the United States and the Russian Federation. The treaty was first signed on April 8, 2010, in Prague by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, the presidents of the two countries.

New START is a follow-up to the 1991 START One treaty, which expired in December 2009, and to START Two and the 2002 Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was due to expire in December 2012.

Britain has tried so far to maintain a policy of refusing to confirm the exact size of its nuke arsenal, something that defense analysts believe will now be undermined by revelation of a secret US-Russian agreement.

The revelation of the behind-the-scenes talks is yet another blow to the so-called 'special relationship' between the US and Britain.

The talks are contained in more than 1,400 US embassy cables published by the whistle blower website the WikiLeaks and in partnership with the Daily Telegraph.
The leaked cables reveal that Russia has used the talks on New START treaty to demand more information about the UK's Trident missiles, which the US manufactures and maintains them.

“This appears to be significant because while the UK has announced how many missiles it possesses, there has been no way for the Russians to verify this. Over time, the unique identifiers will provide them with another data point to gauge the size of the British arsenal”, said Professor Malcolm Chalmers.

“They want to find out whether Britain has more missiles than we say we have, and having the unique identifiers might help them”, said Duncan Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems.

While the US and Russia have long permitted inspections of each other's nuclear weapons, Britain has sought to maintain some secrecy to compensate for the relatively small size of its arsenal.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, last year disclosed that “up to 160” warheads are operational at any one time, but did not confirm the number of missiles.



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