Word by Jasmine Crowhurst, News sub-editor
A new defence alliance between the UK, USA and Australia was announced on September 15 2021.
Britain’s new pact with the United States and Australia has been signalled as a landmark moment in the west’s strategic relationship with China in the Indo-Pacific region.
The treaty is known as Aukus and plans to develop nuclear powered submarines and defence technologies. The pact also includes cooperation on “cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities”.
The treaty has geopolitical significance as the alliance will be active in the Indo-Pacific and has already been condemned by the Chinese government as a ‘political gaming tool’. The alliance has been welcomed by regional partners such as Japan.
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, less diplomatically called the deal “a stab in the back”. France has been in negotiations with Australia since 2016 to construct a fleet of 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines in a deal worth £48 billion. The contract was described as the deal of the century, symbolizing a wider Australian French alliance in the Indo-Pacific.
By cancelling its contract, France has suffered in the loss of a major investment and job opportunities for its nation. The French government is angered by both the cancellation of their submarine project and not being made aware of the negotiations that led to the AUKUS agreement.
White House sources have said the treaty is designed to counter the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region. Yet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson later told parliament that the move was not intended to be adversarial toward China.
President Joe Biden stated that the deal was a way to “address both the current strategic environment in the (Indo-Pacific) region and how it may evolve”. After a call between the French and US presidents, the White House acknowledged the crisis could have been averted if there had been open consultations between allies. It was agreed the process would continue in such a manner.
The relationship between Beijing and Washington are currently set to continue, whilst the western alliance has been shaken.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the deal would create “hundreds of high-skilled jobs” and “preserve security and stability around the world” but said that the relationship with France was “rock solid”.
Jeremy Corbyn called the pact “crazy beyond belief”, with Labour members voting to condemn the pact as dangerous to world peace.
China’s foreign affairs department spokesperson Zhao Liian commented that the three countries should discard their “ Cold War zero-sum mentality and narrow geopolitical perspective”. Zhao Liian said, “The nuclear submarine cooperation between the US, the UK and Australia has seriously undermined regional peace and stability, intensified the arms race and undermined international non-proliferation efforts”.Comments and responses from participating countries include former liberal prime minister Tony Abbott, stating the move is “the biggest decision that any Australian government has made in decades” However, Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt has criticised the deal, saying that it would escalate tensions within the region and make Australia ‘less safe’.