Thursday, December 2

What is the Aukus alliance and what are its implications? | Defense policy

What is Aukus?

It is a new three-way strategic defense alliance between Australia, the UK and the US, initially to build a class of nuclear powered submarines, but also to work together in the Indo-Pacific region, where the rise of China is seen as a growing threat and develop broader technologies. It means Australia will terminate the contract awarded to France in 2016 to build 12 diesel-electric powered submarines to replace its existing Collins submarine fleet. The deal marks the first time the United States has shared nuclear propulsion technology with an ally other than the United Kingdom.

Why did Australia want to change providers?

The perceived scale of the Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific region, a vast area that stretches across some of the world’s most important sea lanes from the east from India to Japan and from the south to Australia, has grown dramatically. in recent years. Nuclear-powered submarines in this context have a longer range, are faster and more difficult to detect. But UK national security adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove has made it clear that Aukus is more than a class of submarine, describing the pact as “perhaps the world’s most important capacity collaboration in the last six decades.” He added that it is a project “in the making for a few months.” US President Joe Biden spoke of the need to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and to address the “current strategic environment” of the region.

What is China’s response?

Relations between the three allies and China were already at a low point and the agreement, which did not mention China but was widely understood as a response to its expansionism in the South China Sea and aggression towards Taiwan, received a swift response. from Beijing. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said the three countries were in the grip of an “outdated, zero-sum cold war mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts” and should “respect the aspirations of the people of the region. “. […] otherwise, they will only end up harming their own interests ”. China also questioned Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, while the state-run Global Times, which often takes a tougher line than Chinese officials, said: “Australian troops are also more likely to be the first group of Western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea. “

When will the submarines be ready and who will build them?

No date has been announced and the scoping phase itself will last 18 months. The United States may be operating attack submarines from HMAS Stirling, an Australian naval base in Perth, in the meantime. The United States will lead the project, and the precise technology it is willing to share is unclear, as is the UK’s role in supplying submarines.

How angry is France?

Carry this tweet from the French ambassador to the United States, Philippe Étienne, in the hours after the agreement: “Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French navy defeated the British navy in the Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for victory at Yorktown and independence. of the United States “. A statement from the French embassy said the decision to “exclude” France “shows a lack of coherence that France can only notice and regret,” while French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the deal a less diplomatic way like “a stab in the back”.

In 2016, France described the Australian contract as the deal of the century and the beginning of a 50-year marriage. It was intended to symbolize a broader Franco-Australian alliance in the Indo-Pacific that would extend to weapons intelligence and communications. The Australian partnership was also central to its 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy.

What will be the immediate impact of the deal?

It seems that relations between Beijing and Washington will continue on their present complicated path, while the Western alliance has also been affected.

Emmanuel Macron believed that Australia’s concerns had subsided, despite Canberra repeatedly warning France about delays and cost overruns, but it may also be that the United States has made a deal with Australia that it was unable to reject.

However, it also seems clear that the United States did not trust China in Macron, as he often said that he wanted to take a middle road between two great powers, speaking of an autonomous Europe operating alongside the United States and China.

What is the geopolitical significance?

It means that China faces a powerful new defense alliance in the Indo-Pacific, one that has been welcomed by regional partners like Japan. It also reaffirms that after Brexit, the US still wants the UK, and not the EU, to participate as its key military partner. It also gives Biden a focus for his post-Afghanistan bent toward Asia. On September 24, he will host the first in-person summit of the Quad, a bloc involving Japan, the United States, Australia and India.

Does this violate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

The IAEA’s nuclear watchdog says it will investigate, but six countries already use the technology to power their submarines.

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