The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have announced the creation of “an enhanced trilateral security partnership” called AUKUS on September 15. AUKUS aims to “meet the challenges of the twenty-first century”, the joint statement of three countries said.
“As a first initiative”, the three sides will cooperate to develop a nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, the statement declared, adding that further “efforts will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities”.
The new alliance was announced in a joint press conference of the US President Biden, British Prime Minister Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Morrison, where the three leaders displayed different scopes.
Biden “responding to threats”, Johnson hoping for “jobs” and Morrison longing for partnerships
Saying “it sounds strange with all these acronyms, but it’s a good one, AUKUS”, US President Biden announced the alliance “as a historic step” to “address the current strategic environment in the region”.
For the US President, “the future of our nations depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific”, where the alliance needs to “meet the threats of today and tomorrow”.
The British Prime Minister Johnson focused in his speech “most complex and technically demanding project” of developing a submarine for Australia, which “will draw on the expertise that the UK has acquired over generations (…) and create hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom”.
The Australian Prime Minister Morrison focused even further on the nuclear powered submarine project. He announced a development phase of 18 months, where the submarines will be built in different Australian cities.
Morrison described the alliance as “a partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defense forces are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region that ultimately benefits all.”
More US military aircraft and troops deployment to Australia
Australia and the U.S. have announced increased U.S. deployment of military aircrafts and troops to Australia. Speaking after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.” As well as greater air cooperation through “rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia,” this will also include establishing “combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities,” Dutton said. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed “major force-posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.”
The Australian government also announced that more US troops would be deployed to the fifth continent within the agreement. “I do have an aspiration to make sure that we can increase the numbers of troops through the rotations,” Dutton said.
Angry reactions from competitors and the adversary
Beyond the speech of Johnson, the British government situates the AUKUS within its Integrated Review of March 2021, which United World International had analyzed in depth.
In the analysis it was stated that the UK declared the Indo-Pacific as “main area of competition”, where China was the adversary and especially the European Union was the competitor.
Back in March, the British government had announced, “to establish a greater and more persistent presence than any other European country” in the Indo-Pacific.
France states a “stab in the back” after loosing 66 billion deal, recalls ambassadors
The first reactions to the new alliance came from France, which due to the alliance’s project lost a deal to build 12 submarines for Australia. The cancelled deal was worth 66 billion US dollars, according to the New York Times.
“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told franceinfo radio. “I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
“It’s a stab in the back. We created a relationship of trust with Australia and that trust has been broken,” Le Drian said.
On Friday, France declared it had decided to recall its ambassadors in the United States and Australia for consultations.
In a statement the French Foreign Ministry said: “The cancellation of the Attack class submarine program binding Australia and France since 2016, and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States meant to launch studies on a possible future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines, constitute unacceptable behavior between allies and partners, whose consequences directly affect the vision we have of our alliances, of our partnerships and of the importance of the Indo-Pacific for Europe.”
EU reaction: strategy paper without the US and NATO
The European Union also reacted on AUKUS – the High Representative of the Union for foreign affairs and security policy published “A Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council”.
The strategy paper broadly repeats European policy towards the Indo-Pacific from trade and investment to security and environment. Interestingly, this time the EU strategy not even mentioned the Transatlantic Alliance, the NATO or the US.
A European Commission spokesperson meanwhile said they “had not (been) informed about this project or about this initiative and we are in contact with the said partners to find out more”.
China: agreement “undermines regional peace and security”
China is considered the main target of the new alliance, although none of the three AUKUS leaders mentioned its name in their statements. Beijing reacted harsh on the announcement.
The spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian said the “nuclear submarine cooperation has seriously undermined regional peace and stability intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts” on September 16.
Zhao stated: “Relevant countries should abandon the outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical perception, respect the will of the people of regional countries and do more to contribute to regional peace, stability and development. Otherwise, they will only end up shooting themselves in the foot.”
In a first editorial published on September 16, the Chinese newspaper Global Times discussed war scenarios between China and Australia and stated: “Once the Australian army fights the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Straits or the South China Sea, military targets in Australia will inevitably become targets of Chinese missiles. Since Australia has become an anti-China spearhead, the country should prepare for the worst.”
A follow-up editorial on September 18 was titled “With AUKUS, US picks up stone to smash its own feet”. Here, the editorial board discussed in length the failure of the QUAD, the US lead alliance including Australia, India and Japan against China, where the allies are now “marginalized” and thus the QUAD “amounts to almost nothing”.
The editorial further mentions the French reactions and the European “confusion”, especially after Biden’s unilateral decision to pull out of Afghanistan. The article concludes “The US is doomed to pay the price if it doesn’t follow the laws of the globalization era, and stubbornly attempts to draw history back and start Cold War-style confrontation.”
Though the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson denied any connection, China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The pact was created by the US to counter China’s influence. However, former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of it in 2017.
Chinese commerce minister Wang Wentao said the world’s second largest economy had submitted its application to join the free trade agreement in a letter to New Zealand’s trade minister, Damien O’Connor.
While the US led alliance was shrinking from QUAD to AUKUS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was enlarged by the full membership of Iran on September 17.