AUKUS: Australian shock therapy

AUKUS: Australian shock therapy - Photo 1.

Australian submarine HMAS Collins, launched in February 1990 – Photo: Navy.gov.au

On October 23, 2003, US President at that time George W. Bush gave a speech to the Australian Parliament on his visit to this country. The very next day, parliamentarians in Canberra greeted another leader at their headquarters: Chinese President Hu Jintao.

For a long time that event was seen as a symbol of Australia’s “balanced” foreign policy between the two superpowers. But after the AUKUS agreement announced on September 16 between US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the situation was different.

What does Australia say?

“Today, we take the historic step of deepening and formalizing the partnership between the three countries, because we all have a common understanding of the dynamics,” Biden said in a statement. ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific in the long term”.

From Australia, Mr Morrison told Sky News it would be “an enduring partnership”.

In addition to the focus on the delivery of submarines to Australia (expected from 2040), the AUKUS agreement also focuses on “integrating science, technology, industrial facilities as well as defense supply chains, with an emphasis on energy cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, quantum technology and new capabilities in undersea operations”.

This means Australia has canceled a $40 billion contract to buy 12 diesel-electric submarines from France, a move Paris called a “stab in the back” and reacted fiercely by recalling two ambassadors from France. America and Australia back home.

Explaining Canberra’s decision in The Guardian newspaper, Neil James – executive director of the Australian Defense Association – wrote: “AUKUS is Australia’s shock step out of the cocoon of strategic stability”.

In it Mr. James made the point that Australia has lived “for three generations… in a world that has been largely strategically, economically, medically safer and, until recently, environment”. That leaves Australia’s defense budget essentially down for decades.

But now James quotes Russian revolutionary Trotsky: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” Therefore, “the core issue with Australia and our regional neighbors remains prudent risk management, not imagining, not exaggerating, but also not belittling or dismissing the risks.” risk strategic risk”.

Prepared

Australia’s change and preparations are not abrupt. As early as 2009, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor government wanted to replace the fleet of “antique” submarines with six built in the 1990s of Swedish design.

In 2016, the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reached an agreement with the French contractor Naval Group for a contract to build 12 submarines, which have now been liquidated. The AUKUS itself has been prepared and agreed in principle since the G7 summit in Cornwall, UK in June 2021. Now it’s just a public declaration declare and execute.

In the statement about AUKUS, no leader mentioned China, but all major media commented that the goal of the agreement was clear, and Beijing responded accordingly.

On the evening of September 16, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted a forum claiming that the US had behaved “extremely irresponsibly” with “cold war-style thinking”, and that Australia must “take full responsibility”. responsible for the current difficult situation” in bilateral relations.

Chinese newspaper Global Times threatened the deal could make Australia “a potential target of nuclear war” and “Canberra is likely to be the target of Beijing’s retaliatory moves to send a warning signal to other countries”.

Observers predict that these reactions herald a turbulent future for the Australia-China bilateral relationship, which has been fraught with problems in the past due to many problems, including the fact that Australia is the first country to claim access to the country. the same origin as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or as a headline on CNN on September 18: “Australia’s decades of balance between the US and China are over. They chose Washington.”

Some issues Skill

Australia has never been a country with a nuclear capability, whether military or civilian. Britain, Australia and the United States are all members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

However, in theory it is not necessary to have a “land-based” nuclear capacity to operate a nuclear submarine, since the useful life of the vessel corresponds to the life of the reactor on board.

One key reason Australia is switching to nuclear submarines is that the cost of these submarines is much lower than that of conventional submarines, with the cost ratio between the two types falling from about 4:1 to only about 1.5:1. .

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