President Barack Obama has quietly agreed to a secret ten-year deal with the United Kingdom to collaborate on nuclear weapons technology and materials—sparking concern among advocates of nuclear disarmament, who say the countries should be cooperating to dismantle—not develop—their arsenals.
The deal would extend the terms of a “Mutual Defense Agreement” struck in 1958 between the U.S. and the U.K. that has been renewed regularly since it was formalized, with the most recent renewal in 2004. The agreement has played a critical role in building up the nuclear arsenals of both countries and stems from nuclear cooperation dating to the 1940s.
President Barack Obama said in a message to Congress issued July 24 that he has signed off on a renewal of the deal that will “permit the transfer between the United States and the United Kingdom of classified information concerning atomic weapons; nuclear technology and controlled nuclear information; material and equipment for the development of defense plans; training of personnel; evaluation of potential enemy capability; development of delivery systems; and the research, development, and design of military reactors.”
Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior policy adviser to the secretary of energy under the Clinton administration, told Common Dreams that the latest renewal “will not go into force until a certain amount of time elapses and Congress does nothing to stop it.”
Obama notes that amendments have been added to the agreement regarding “nuclear threat reduction, naval nuclear propulsion, and personnel security.” However, he does not clarify the changes, and the full details of the deal are kept secret in both the U.S. and the U.K.
The U.K.-based watchdog Nuclear Information Service warns in a recent report that the deal with facilitate developments including the creation and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and submarines and the creation of new nuclear research. According to the organization, the “relationship and activities” that the deal enables are not compatible with the obligations of either country under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
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