Ambiguities of AUKUS submarine deal - GulfToday

Ambiguities of AUKUS submarine deal

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks as President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) listen at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego. AP

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks as President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (right) listen at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego. AP

The Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) security formation which was announced in 2021 moved another step forward with the leaders of three far-flung English-speaking countries signing a deal on Monday in San Diego in the US for the purchase of two American Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines – and it has been clarified that these submarines will now carry nuclear weapons – which will be delivered to Australia in the 2030s, and the next class of submarines to be jointly manufactured by Australia and the UK would be made and delivered in the early 2040s. There is also an arrangement to deliver two of the Virginia class submarines to Australia from among those in service with the US.

This is the first time that the US is sharing sensitive technology with Australia and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged it. This formation has been seen as directed against China and its attempt to take Taiwan by force, though US President Joe Biden has said that he will be speaking to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that these nuclear-powered submarines would be patrolling the Pacific and Atlantic to keep the world safe. Sunak declared, “For the first time ever, it will mean three fleets of submarine working together across the Atlantic and Pacific keeping our oceans free…for decades to come.”

The nuclear-powered attack submarines deal comes at a price, A$368 billion (US$245b), but Albanese justified the cost. Australian defence minister Richard Marles said in Canberra, “It is an investment that we cannot not afford to make” and Albanese said that this was “an economic plan, not just a defence and security plan.” He said that in the next four years A$6 billion would be invested in Australia’s industrial capability, created 20,000 jobs over the next 30 years.

AUKUS does not want to declare itself as anti-China because there is as yet no war between China and the West, though it is different with Russia. Now the argument is that AUKUS is against Russia trying to make its way into the Pacific because of its security cooperation with China and North Korea. US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We have communicated with them (the Chinese) about AUKUS and sought more information from them about their intentions.” Recently, Chinese President Xi Jing talked of building a wall of steel to defend China and to increase multi expenditure. But both sides suspect each other’s intention. In this security medley, Taiwan’s foreign ministry welcomed the submarine deal and said, “The cooperation between the three parties will strengthen the deterrence capabilities of democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region and help maintain regional peace and stability.”

Interestingly, Japan, which is another country in the region which is allied with the US, has been kept out of this deal, though Japan too has stepped up its military budget. It is perhaps felt that sharing sensitive information and sensitive technology would be much between among the English-speaking countries. Japan does not share the advantage of a common language with the other three. And it is also not clear whether Japan’s increased military strength is meant for defending its territorial waters or to extend farther into Asia and Pacific. Many of the south-east Asian countries have bitter memories of Japan from the days of the Second World War.

It seems that the Pacific theatre of military confrontation is emerging, far away from Europe. The European Union (EU) countries and members of the Western military alliance of NATO do not want a direct confrontation with Russia in the war in Ukraine because then it would easily spread like a prairie fire to the rest of Europe. It is possible that the US and European countries want to confront Russia in the distant Pacific rather than nearer at home.

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