Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 08:11 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 08:11 | SYDNEY

WikiLeaks\' top 5 nuclear revelations


Fiona Cunningham

21 December 2010 11:45

Regardless of what you think about the WikiLeaks release of US diplomatic cables, its nuclear revelations have certainly delivered some surprises and occasional amusement. But I  have found them deeply concerning for the most part, particularly those recounting lapses in nuclear security and the efforts of some to take advantage of those lapses. My top five nuclear (and related) leaks are as follows:

  • An Egyptian Ambassador casually remarked that Egypt had been offered nuclear scientists, materials and weapons from the former Soviet Union, which it refused.
  • A US briefing on the Nuclear Posture Review to NATO allies last year disclosed exact numbers of US nuclear warheads, numbers that analysts are usually estimating. The US believes fewer than 1300 warheads would compromise US deterrence, and the US has 180 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, against Russia's 3000-5000.
  • A doctor's note can be used  to smuggle uranium across the Georgian border from Armenia, although you should keep the story consistent when you cross back over, otherwise the FBI gets on your case.
  • Does Myanmar have a nuclear weapons program' Your guess is as good as that of Australian and American diplomats posted in Rangoon, but at least it’s pretty clear where the nuclear assistance is coming from. Right, North Korea'
  • A Chinese official signaled support for a reunified Korea if North Korea collapses. The cable illustrates the divides within the Chinese foreign policy community, especially given the official's harsh criticism of China's man in the Six-Party talks.

No doubt there will be more stories of nuclear smuggling and strategic bargaining emerging from WikiLeaks in 2011, underscoring the complexity and importance of nuclear diplomacy. Damaging as the leaks are in many respects, the nuclear cables show the gravity of nuclear threats worldwide and the sincerity of efforts to combat them, which might just translate into support for strengthening those efforts.

The Nuclear Reactions column is supported by the Nuclear Security Project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, as part of a wider partnership between the NSP and the Lowy Institute.