U.S., U.K., and Australia announce nuclear military alliance AUKUS

President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison

By Sebastian Lopez and Harry Wilson-Mew

Everything you need to know about AUKUS

On September 15th, 2021, President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the creation of a new, maritime security alliance, dubbed ‘AUKUS’. Citing growing concerns over the security of the Indo-Pacific, AUKUS seeks to ensure the collective security of member-nations and existing U.S. allies.

“We undertake this effort as part of a larger constellation of steps, including stronger bilateral partnerships with our traditional security partners in Asia — Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines — and also engagement with new partners like India, Vietnam, and new formations like the Quad.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL via September 15th, 2021 Press Conference

However, anonymous White House sources confirmed what many have suspected from the moment of the bloc’s formation; AUKUS’ goal is to secure the Indo-Pacific region against Chinese influence and aggression.

AUKUS’ main clause thus far is the introduction of a nuclear submarine program to Australia. Currently, only six nations have nuclear submarines, among which China is included. Scrapping a previous deal with France regarding diesel submarines, Australia’s new nuclear submarines will increase the effectiveness of Australia’s navy against China’s, in a move that seeks to ensure the bloc’s military parity without over-reliance on American troops.

“Australia, again, does not seek and will not seek nuclear weapons; this is about nuclear-powered submarines.  But it’s a very important initiative that will basically set us on a new course of trilateral cooperation into the 21st century.”

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL via September 15th, 2021 Press Conference
200614-N-FA444-2875 PHILLIPPINE SEA (June 14, 2020) – Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine, USS Asheville (SSN 758), transits alongside U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) during a submarine familiarization (SUBFAM) training. The SUBFAM was conducted so Blue Ridge’s crew could observe the characteristics of a submarine and how it looks both acoustically and visually while in the vicinity of the ship. Blue Ridge is the oldest operational ship in the Navy, and, as 7th Fleet flagship, actively works to foster relationships with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Brandon L. Harris)

Because Australia has no domestic nuclear capabilities, efforts will be sustained over several years to ensure Australia has the facilities to maintain its nuclear submarines. The pact also calls for new emergent technologies in fields such as cybersecurity, quantum computing, AI, and more to be shared with Australia.

AUKUS is seen as a successor to ANZAC, a now-defunct alliance that included New Zealand. Due to New Zealand’s continued ban on nuclear technologies, it was sidelined during the creation of AUKUS; a clear split between the foreign policies of Australia and New Zealand. Also notably absent was Canada, a traditional ally in Anglo-American pacts.

The E.U.’s Reaction

Notably, the EU has been completely left out of this coalition and has resulted in the loss of an estimated $40-billion deal between France and Australia regarding the construction of a fleet of nuclear submarines in favor of the deal offered by AUKUS, seemingly causing feelings of exclusion in France. A statement given by France’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, reads as such; “It’s a stab in the back. We had established a trusting relationship with Australia, and this trust was betrayed”.

Minister Le Drian has also stated that upon communicating with his Australian counterpart, he received “no serious indication of the move”. He would additionally go on to comment on the alleged ‘brutality’ of the deal, saying that “Allies don’t do this to each other”, adding that “It’s rather insufferable”.

Following the cancellation of the France-Australia deal, French officials decided to cancel a gala in celebration of the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes, meant to be held at the French embassy in Washington D.C on the evening of Friday the 17th of September – celebrating the relationship of France and the US, and the former’s assistance in the American fight for independence from Britain in 1781. Despite the assurances made by White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, that Australia made the choice to reject the French deal – France has made little effort to conceal their displeasure over the events.

The EU. itself has also made a number of statements on the matter, as the formation of AUKUS has left its status in regards to the Indo-Pacific region questionable. With just France as the Bloc’s only majorly significant military power, and the same country now left without a deal with Australia for the provision of nuclear submarines, there appears to be a feeling of being ‘left-out’ by AUKUS.

China’s Reaction

Though China has been at the forefront of tension in the Indo-Pacific with its brazen displays of military and economic aggression against Taiwan, the Philippines, and other nearby nations, AUKUS and the E.U.’s initiative are a significant escalation that China is unlikely to back down from. Earlier today, reports of China’s reaction began to surface, with many officials and ambassadors denouncing the move. Particularly, China is applying pressure on Australia, the receiving party of AUKUS’ military aid. A foreign ministry spokesman to Australia warned that Australia should reflect carefully whether it considers China a partner or a threat. Seeing as China is Australia’s largest trading partner, such warnings are not to be taken lightly.

China has been at the forefront of several belligerent actions in the past year. Earlier in the year, reports surfaced of a paramilitary fleet harassing Taiwanese and Filipino-controlled territories. Combined with the continued building of artificial islands in the South China Sea to extend their economic exclusion zone and worrying airspace violations over Taiwan, it is hard to see China as the victim. Whether one agrees with AUKUS’ implementation or not, China’s mounting strategic ambitions have endangered the Indo-Pacific sea and left unchecked, can lead to a dangerous collapse in the security and autonomy of involved nations in the region.

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