In Vienna, China’s permanent mission to the United Nations has been rather exercised of late. Members of the mission have been particularly irate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director General, Rafael Grossi, who addressed the IAEA’s Board of Governors on September 12. Grossi was building on a confidential report by the IAEA which had been circulated the previous week concerning the role of nuclear propulsion technology for submarines to be supplied to Australia under the AUKUS security pact. When the AUKUS announcement was made in September last year, its significance shook security establishments in the Indo-Pacific. It was also no less remarkable, and troubling, for signalling the transfer of otherwise rationed nuclear technology to a third country.
In September 2021 Australia, the UK and the U.S. announced AUKUS, a new alliance under which Australia would buy nuclear submarines from either the U.S. or UK and ditch its contract for French diesel driven u-boats. I spelled out the details and the negative consequence of the deal: To Protect Itself From U.S. Hostility Australia Decides To Buy U.S. Submarines This is a huge but short term win for the U.S. with an also-ran booby price for Britain and a strategic loss of sovereignty and budget control for Australia. It is another U.S. slap into the face of France and the European Union. The deal will piss off New Zealand, Indonesia and of course China. It will upset the international nuclear non proliferation regime and may lead to the further military nuclearization of South Korea and Japan. It was easy to predict that the deal would screw up the development schedule of the Australian navy. It would obviously also cost much more money than its budget can provide.
Dr. Helen Caldicott, who has spent decades working for a nuclear weapons-free world, recently wrote a blunt op-ed with an unforgettable headline: “With All Its Wisdom, the Human Race Is Killing Itself.” Decrying the arms industry and the nine countries that now own nuclear weapons, Caldicott points to the one trillion dollars per year that the U.S. spends on “national defense,” and states that if we can’t learn to live in peace, we are doomed. At least 56 nations (“state parties”) have come to the same conclusion and have now signed the new UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which came into force in January 2021. Even though the Trudeau government claims it is committed to disarmament, it refuses to sign the treaty, citing its NATO membership (NATO opposes the treaty).
The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have formed an alliance called “AUKUS” to create, in the words of Australia PM Scott Morrison, “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.” AUKUS is primarily a military relationship but is said to include broad economic measures that undoubtedly seek to counter China’s rise in all spheres of development. The deal has been met with some opposition in the West. New Zealand has rejected the legitimacy of the alliance while the French ambassadors to the US and Australia were recalled after AUKUS essentially tore up a submarine agreement between France and Australia.
The United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have come together to sign an agreement called AUKUS. According to the creators of this agreement, it is a pact to counter China's influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Through the unveiling last week of the new Australia-UK U.S. trilateral military alliance, Australia will enter into an undefined arrangement with the USA and the United Kingdom for "regional security" in the Indo-Pacific Region. The pact binds Australia decisively to the United States and Great Britain for generations. It involves Australia purchasing nuclear-powered submarines, the "basing" of American troops, and storing "ordnance" in Australia. It has provoked fury from the French, sharp criticism from China, concern from several nations in the Indo-Pacific and confusion in Australia.
The new pact between the Australian, British and US governments is the latest escalation in a new cold war on China, and the developing world. The “enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS”(1) does not name China, but every single serious commentator has interpreted it as being aimed against the People’s Republic of China. Coming exactly one month after the fall of Kabul, the announcement was a blessed relief for both Joe Biden and Boris Johnson. Biden reasserts US pre-eminence, weeks after it was humiliated by a foe without an air force. Johnson resumes the ‘Global Britain’ adventure, weeks after British power more closely resembled a globule. For both of them, a policy shift has been made without reckoning with the past, or a messy national debate.
Until we see a text, if any, of the executive agreement for the AUKUS thing-a-ma-gig, the only real meat of it seems to be the Australian purchase of nuclear US or UK subs rather than the “conventionally” (not really) powered French design. The more I look over the submarine alternatives for the Australians, the less sense their decision to go nuclear makes. Australia has no nuclear power infrastructure; they will be dependent on the US or UK to provide same for any nuclear powered Australian attack subs. For Australia to develop same on their homeland just to support these subs would be cost-insane. The cost of the 12 French subs has been variously described as $40, $60 and $90 billion with the $90 being the most likely but it is not at all clear what beyond just the hulls is accounted for (weapons, services, R&D, and more).
On September 15, US President Joe Biden, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched a new major strategic partnership to meet the “imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term.” Named AUKUS, the partnership was announced together with a bombshell decision: The United States and UK will transfer naval nuclear-propulsion technology to Australia. Such a decision is a fundamental policy reversal for the United States, which has in the past spared no effort to thwart the transfer of naval reactor technology by other countries, except for its World War II partner, the United Kingdom. Even France—whose “contract of the century” to sell 12 conventional submarines to Australia was shot down by PM Morrison during the AUKUS announcement—had been repeatedly refused US naval reactor technology during the Cold War.
Anti-war advocates are denouncing Wednesday's formation of a trilateral military partnership through which the United States and the United Kingdom plan to help Australia build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines—a long-term initiative broadly viewed as a challenge to China by Western powers determined to exert control over the Pacific region. Although Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. President Joe Biden did not mention Beijing during their joint video announcement of the so-called AUKUS alliance, "the move is widely seen as a response to China's expanding economic power, military reach, and diplomatic influence," the Washington Post reported. "China is believed to have six nuclear attack submarines, with plans to increase the fleet in the next decade."
Britain's peace movement condemned the government today over the “serious escalation” of the new cold war against China marked by the new “Aukus” pact. Under the agreement, Britain, Australia and the United States will co-operate on the development of a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for the Australian navy and on a range of other military projects in the Far East. The move follows the US’s enrollment of India, Japan and Australia into a “quad” to contain China, whose economic and technological development is perceived as a threat to Washington’s global supremacy. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson increased the cap on the number of nuclear warheads owned by the British government by 44 per cent and raised military spending by the highest percentage since the Korean war.