Assistant News Editor
The three Anglo nations of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States announced the creation of a military alliance by their respective leaders. This treaty enables Australia to build and acquire nuclear submarines for the first time in its history. However, as the leaders of each nation repeatedly stated throughout the announcement speeches, these nuclear submarines won’t have the ability to launch nuclear weapons. They are powered by nuclear reactors. Australia now joins a limited number of nations possessing these deadly weapons.
President Joe Biden joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the UK and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia in discussing the reasons for such a treaty. President Biden recalled the traditional relationship between the three nations in his portion of the announcement, stating, “Our nations will update and enhance our shared ability to take on the threats of the 21st century, just as we did in the 20th century, together.” Johnson and Morrison made similar statements regarding the cause of the treaty. While no nations were named specifically, it was clear that all three leaders had a resurgent China in mind when referring to “threats of the 21st century”.
The three nations hold deep diplomatic ties since the end of the Second World War, but also share many cultural characteristics such as language. “Today we take another historic step to deepen and formalize cooperation among all three nations,” Biden stated.
Not all are content with this recent treaty, however, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. This region encompasses an area between the Indian Ocean and the western portion of the Pacific Ocean. Nations in the area such as China replied to the treaty with indignation. According to the BBC, China’s foreign minister Zhao Lijian stated, “It seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.”
China has recently secured several atolls and islands in the South China Sea that enable it to project power from airstrips based on these locations. Such aggressive actions undertaken by the People’s Republic was a large factor in the creation of the “AUKUS” treaty.
Other nations venting their disappointment at the treaty included France. A deal to sell submarines to Australia, submarines which were not nuclear powered, was undercut by the AUKUS treaty due to the United States supplying the Royal Australian Navy instead. The 31 billion euro deal made between the Australian and French governments over the sale of submarines was promptly ended by the new AUKUS treaty.
Furthermore, France has a significant presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Countless islands remain in French possession, and President Macron has invested much political, military, and economic capital into these tributes to their old colonial empire.
But perhaps the most damaging aspect of this treaty was that France was not included, with French ambassador Philippe Etienne even claiming it was a deliberate decision on the part of the three governments. Etienne stated, “But the biggest issue of and the issue of trust is the following. We have deliberately been kept out of the informations about alternative discussions going on between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., between allies...This contract was not only a contract; it was a cornerstone of our Indo-Pacific strategy presented by our president in Sydney - in Australia in 2018. So there is a lack of transparency. There is a breach of trust.”
Nations such as New Zealand have also been excluded from the treaty. The hesitation of several Indo-Pacific countries such as New Zealand owes mainly to their sturdy trade relations with the Chinese government.
In a world transitioning from a unipolar system to a more competitive environment, the AUKUS treaty has confirmed what many already knew. The decline of the United States as the sole global superpower will entail Americans choosing between isolationism and cooperation with nations of similar governments, ideals and beliefs. President Biden has evidently chosen to present a toughening stance to Chinese aggression alongside allies based in the region. Whether the American people will accept this escalation of tensions at the risk of conflict remains to be seen.