Wikileaks has released documents claiming that the U.S. has given British nuclear secrets to Russia and collected information on Foreign Office officials. President Obama campaigned promising to improve international relations but the relationships with some American allies are becoming strained by diplomatic blunders and a lack of strength.
The documents claim that in 2009, Russia demanded that it be provided with information about the British nuclear arsenal before agreeing to the 2010 START Treaty. The United Kingdom rebuffed the American requests to disclose the secrets to the Russians and according to the documents, the U.S. reacted by giving Russia the serial numbers of the Trident missiles that had been sold to the British.
The Telegraph explains that the British have not publicly disclosed the exact number of nuclear weapons it possesses but last year, the Foreign Secretary did say that “up to 160” nuclear warheads are ready at any given moment. Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies told the British newspaper that the information about the Trident missiles allows Russia to fill in gaps in its assessments of British nuclear capabilities.
“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,” Chalmers said.
A spokesman for Secretary of State Clinton said the document is “bunk” and that the U.S. had already agreed to give Russia information about nuclear cooperation with the U.K., such as with submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“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,” he said. The Telegraph argues that the serial numbers were not a part of the 1991 START Treaty and the document says that on February 26, 2010, Russia will be given “more information than was disclosed under START.” To be fair, the document does not explicitly state whether the U.K. agreed that the serial numbers could be passed along or if its refusal was related to other data.
Other documents show that the State Department collected information about the private lives of Foreign Office ministers. The cable says that “analysts appreciate the excellent biographic reporting…Regarding [Foreign Office Minister] Lewis’ bullying, possible depression and scandals, as well as comments on the state of his marriage and how the Jewish community saw his appointment as particularly insightful.”
The British media is up in arms. The Telegraph headline above the latest files it published reads, “The British Ask, Is Our Special Relationship Still Special in Washington?” The question probably would not be being asked if diplomatic missteps hadn’t occurred since President Obama took office. He cancelled a joint press conference with then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and gave him 25 DVDs as a gift.
More recently, some in the UK were offended when President Obama said, “We don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people.” The exact quote was a bit softer than what the Daily Mail headline screamed, which was “France is our biggest ally, declares Obama: President’s blow to Special Relationship with Britain,” but it captured how the British media was offended.
The U.S. relationship with other allies has become strained over a perception of naivety and weakness. It was reported during the 2008 presidential campaign that French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Obama’s view of Iran was “utterly immature” and was comprised of “formulations empty of all content.” This report was denied but on September 24, 2009, Sarkozy criticized Obama during his speech to the U.N., saying “President Obama, I support the Americans’ outstretched hand. But what did the international community gain from these offers of dialogue? Nothing.”
Poland and the Czech Republic were angered by the Obama Administration when the U.S. scrapped plans to build an anti-ballistic missile system in their countries in a bid to please Russia. The Polish President said the decision placed his country in a “gray zone” between Western Europe and Russia and one Polish tabloid proclaimed, “Betrayal! The U.S. sold us to Russia and stabbed us in the back.” An influential Czech newspaper editorial stated, “an ally we rely on has betrayed us and exchanged us for its own, better relations with Russia, of which we are rightly afraid.”
A soft line towards Iran and Syria is causing dismay among Middle Eastern allies. The Obama Administration quickly began making it clear to the Iranian regime that the U.S. did not seek its overthrow and eliminated funding to four organizations fighting for human rights in Iran. The Administration was painstakingly slow to offer any support to the Iranian protestors in 2009, causing some to voice chants demanding that Obama choose them or the regime. The State Department continues to fight to keep the opposition group, Mujahideen-e-Khalq on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations and added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan and Jundullah to the list.
The Iraqi government even took a harder line on Syria than the U.S. It exerted enormous pressure on the Assad regime, disclosing information over its support for terrorism in Iraq. The Iraqis began trying to build international support for a U.N. tribunal to prosecute complicit Syrian officials and terrorists being harbored on Syrian territory. While France supported it, the U.S. signaled its disapproval and said the crisis should be solved diplomatically. An Iraqi official claimed that the U.S. was opposing the move and the Foreign Minister lamented that the U.S. still stuck to the false theory that radical Islamists wouldn’t ally with secularists.
An anonymous Jordanian official told WorldNetDaily.com, “No matter what the Syrians do, how they declare all the time they are allied with Iran, the U.S. is trying harder and harder to attract Syria and offer them more.” An Egyptian official said that the U.S. was encouraging anti-American postures, saying “Only if you’re tough with America and adopt an anti-U.S. stance will the U.S. have a more flexible attitude and pay you.” The inflexible commitment to withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq by 2012 and beginning a drawdown in Afghanistan in July 2011 and an end of the combat mission by 2014 only furthers these perceptions.
Perhaps no ally has been more disappointed than Israel. Administration officials consistently imply their opposition to military action against Iran and permission was reportedly denied to Israel to bomb a convoy delivering Scud missiles to Hezbollah from Syria. Sixty percent of Israelis feel Obama is “seeking to improve relations with Arab states at the expense of Israel” and only four percent think he is “pro-Israel.” Fifty-one percent say he is “pro-Palestinian.” The public pressure on Israel may have helped Obama earn high approval ratings in the Muslim world but his bounce only lasted about a year.
The opinions of the international community should not determine whether the U.S. acts in its interests but allies must be confident in the strength and loyalty of the U.S. The outrage in Britain is less about Wikileaks’ disclosures than it is about frustration over not knowing where the U.S. stands. The balance of power is quickly shifting around the world and nervous allies need to know that the U.S. is on their side.
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