I have kept away from writing about “news” generated from WikiLeaks disclosure of stolen U.S. diplomatic cables.
One of the main problems with using stolen diplomatic cables is that one is unlikely to get the full story in a single cable, leaving the ground clear for the collective imagination. Most of the time this collective imagination seems to be directed towards undermining U.S. policy.
Wikileaks cables make for good headlines, I’m not so sure they make for real news.
One such example is the understandable controversy over whether the U.S. secretly agreed to give the Russians information on Trident missiles transferred from the U.S. to Britain for use on British submarines.
The Telegraph reports, based on a Wikileaks cable release, that there was such an agreement and that it was contrary to British request. Reading the actual cable leaves the situation a little unclear:
“The Parties agree that, in order to increase transparency in relation to the use of “Trident-II” SLBMs, transferred by the United States of America to equip the Navy of Great Britain, the United States of America shall provide notification to the Russian Federation about the time of such transfer, as well as the unique identifier and the location of each of the transferred missiles. The Parties agree that, upon conclusion of the life cycle of “Trident-II” SLBMs transferred by the United States of America to equip the Navy of Great Britain, the United States of America will send notification to the Russian Federation about the time and method of elimination, as well as the unique identifier for each of the transferred missiles.”
There does appear to be an agreement to release information on missiles transferred, but there would be an understandable reason for this.
The New START Treaty, as a practical matter, only reduces U.S. missile stocks, not Russian. The Russian Defense Minister has stated, as I previously reported, that the Russians do not even have enough operational missiles and warheads currently to reach the New START Treaty limits.
Since only the U.S. is lowering its missile and warhead count, the Russians understandably would want to make sure the U.S. had not previously or in the future would not transfer them to the British, who apparently use an identical nuclear submarine launch platform.
It would do the Russians no good to have the U.S. missile stocks reduced by sending missiles to the British. This provision apparently also was part of the prior nuclear arms treaty, for the same reason.
The Wikileaks cables, therefore, actually create a false controversy which distracts from the real issue, which is that the New START Treaty deceptively was sold to the American public as a reduction of missiles on both sides, when in fact there only will be a U.S. reduction.
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