New START and the Special Relationship: A Case to Answer

Ted Bromund /

Last Friday, British newspapers reported that the U.S. had agreed to supply Russia with sensitive information on Britain’s nuclear deterrent in order to win Russian agreement to New START. Over the weekend, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley described this claim as “bunk” and asserted that New START simply “carried forward and updated this notification procedure to the new treaty” from the 1991 START.

The WikiLeaks document on which the original story was based—and the treaties of 1991 and 2011—tell a different story. The 1991 treaty requires notification of the transfer of items (such as the U.S.-made Trident II missiles on which Britain’s nuclear force relies). This notification must include “the number and type of items transferred; the date of transfer; and the location of transfer.”

New START, on the other hand, requires that the “number, type, date, unique identifier, and location of the transferred [missiles] must be provided.” In short, New START goes further than the original START in at least two ways.

First, the U.S. must now provide the Russians with a “unique identifier” for each transferred missile. As the U.S. negotiator states in the WikiLeaks cable, “this was more information than was disclosed under START.” Over time, this information will allow the Russians to build up a more complete picture of the size of the U.K.’s active nuclear force, information that Britain has deliberately kept secret. (more…)