by Isidoros Karderinis
The new AUKUS Partnership, the new geopolitical alliance of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, to enhance security in the Indian and Pacific Oceans zone envisages the provision of the necessary technology by the United States and Great Britain to Australia be able to develop nuclear- powered submarines. This hasty move is clearly a change of strategy and policy in the wider region.
With this move, the USA shows that it is returning dynamically to a zone of great strategic importance, in order to defend its own interests and those of its allies, and to put a brake on the aggressive moves of the ruling Communist Party of China and to limit its influence primarily in Pacific Ocean, but also in the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Indochina Basin. Washington with AUKUS is redeploying its forces on the world chessboard to face China, the country that is perceived as the biggest threat to USA supremacy.
Great Britain, after Brexit, is trying to strengthen its global role, to launch its new geopolitical identity, that of World Britain, and is “burning” to be more actively involved in the South Asia and Pacific zone, while Australia shares the Anglo-American concerns about the growing power of the Chinese dragon.
The USA needed a quick “superpower” level geopolitical action under the regime of bad handling of withdrawing from Afghanistan and so turned to the Anglo-Saxon countries, with which it also has strong linguistic and cultural ties, while excluding negotiations with other powerful countries in area. In a statement issued by AUKUS on September 15 with the Prime Ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson, President Joe Biden emphasized that this was “an investment in our greatest source of strength, our alliances”.
However, France’s non-invitation to the Partnership overlooks the fact that France has specific geopolitical interests in the Indian and Pacific region, both in terms of international security and because it has French overseas territories in the wider region. It has about 7,000 troops and has nearly 2 million civilians, including its island territories, such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
The agreement provides for cooperation in many areas of defense and technology, information and quantum technology, as well as for the acquisition of cruise missiles, but its most important aspect concerns nuclear-powered submarines, which will be built in Adelaide, South Australia, with the involvement of the US and Britain in a consulting role and know-how for their production. These submarines are much more difficult to detect than conventional ones, operate quietly and move easily. They are super-arms with state-of-the-art technology that the two countries have pledged since 1958 not to release to each other. Under the AUKUS agreement, at least eight nuclear-powered submarines will be built, but it has not been specified when they will join the Australian Navy, which has no nuclear infrastructure and therefore the process will be delayed. However, they will not carry nuclear weapons, as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarified.
The Chinese government has also reacted to the announcement of a decision to equip Australia with nuclear submarines, accusing Washington that returns in logics reminiscent of the Cold War. It is clear that the data is changing at lightning speed and the whole planet seems to be watching the two greatest powers of the time prepare for all possibilities, even that of a military conflict.
The sale of these eight nuclear submarines to Australia also raises the issue of nuclear energy, not the nuclear weapons not included in the sale, but the nuclear submarine propulsion reactors. It does not violate nuclear proliferation treaties, but if it finds imitators among countries negotiating their nuclear capabilities, such as Iran, the situation will become even more complicated.
Most of the Indian and Pacific Oceans states concerned about China’s growing aggression are looking to the United States, not France, to balance Chinese power. So Japan and India, the two largest economies in the region outside of China, have welcomed AUKUS. Singapore, which has always carefully balanced its relations with the United States and China, also welcomed the agreement. New Zealand has also made positive comments about the new alliance and the role it can play in maintaining balance. However, he clarified that Australian submarines have no place in its territorial waters.
On the other hand, the cost for this option seems to be very high because it alienates and divides the European allies. “The fundamental principles of any alliance are solidarity and transparency. “We are witnessing a complete lack of transparency and solidarity here,” said European Council President Charles Michel. “President Joe Biden owes explanations to France. Many questions remain unanswered. One of our Member States has suffered blatant and unacceptable injustice. That needs to be clarified before we get back to ours”, the head of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also expressed her dissatisfaction in an interview with CNN.
The rupture with France due to the cancellation of the order of 12 “Barracuda” type nuclear submarines, worth $ 90 billion, a critical aspect of “armaments diplomacy”, which clearly hurts the French shipbuilding industry and economy, and the justified great anger of the French government, strengthens the NATO crisis at a critical juncture. And at the same time, the sudden withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, without taking into account its allies, is creating a new landscape for collective security issues in a wider region.
In closing, I would like to emphasize that the crucial and most important question that arises is whether AUKUS will be essential in trying to contain China. And the answer is that it was certainly at the level of political communication because it caused a stir and distracted attention from the humiliating defeat of the Americans in Afghanistan, but the real dimensions and the final results of this tripartite alliance, the goal of which is much more wide than the one mentioned in the announcement, are not yet visible. At the same time, however, the disorder and any split in the Western camp is very difficult to reverse or cure in a short period of time.
Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens in 1967. He is a novelist, poet and columnist. He studied economics and completed postgraduate studies in tourism economics. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and websites around the world. His poems have been translated into English, French and Spanish and published in poetic anthologies, literary magazines and literary newspaper columns. He has published eight books of poetry and three novels in Greece. His books have been translated and published in the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.