US–Europe: lack of accord between 'friends'

Saturday October 09 2021
Auku

By Cathy James

On September 15, it was announced that Washington, London and Canberra have agreed to create a new military alliance, the AUKUS pact.

As part of it, Australia will get at least eight nuclear submarines for its navy, to be built at the shipyards in Adelaide using Anglo-American technologies, ABC News reports referring to that country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The Prime Minister of Australia particularly said his country's fleet would eventually obtain eight nuclear submarines thanks to its alliance with the United States and Britain.

 The cost of building new submarines will exceed  $65.9 billion.

According to Scott Morrison, this agreement also stipulates Australia's access to American missile technologies over the next year and a half, including Tomahawk cruise missiles to equip Australian destroyers.

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Besides, new American naval and air bases will appear in the country to scale up the number of US military personnel in Australia.

The creation announcement for AUKUS caused a stir across the globe. Its declared objective is to ensure safety in the Indo-Pacific Region (IPR). As a matter of practice, this refers to deterring China in the region, especially in the South China Sea.

 Presumably, Australian submarines will also be used against Russia. The United States does not actually hide the new alliance's major purpose of "countering Beijing".

No wonder in this regard that China was among the first to respond. As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press conference on September 16, Australia's acquisition of American technologies to build nuclear submarines harms the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and aggravates the arms race.

Beijing's reaction to the new military alliance is quite natural; various anti-Chinese alliances are already old hat.

For instance, one may recall the QUAD comprising the United States, Australia, India and Japan. Meanwhile, Europe's outcry and disappointment is all too unexpected.

 It turns out that Washington failed to inform its EU allies of intention to create an alliance with London and Canberra.

For this reason, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian's statement came as no surprise when he said: "I am angry and bitter. This isn't done between allies."

The diplomat's anger is understandable, because AUKUS forced Canberra to break its $60 billion contract for the construction of 12 new Attack-class submarines by the France's Naval Group company – a contract dating back to 2016.

 Paris implicitly called deal's dissolution and creation of a new trilateral alliance a "stab in the back". France was so grossly insulted that it decided to recall ambassadors from the United States and Australia for consultations.

Indeed, US President Joe Biden's move to create a new military alliance, already dubbed "Trump-style", came as a complete surprise to official Brussels. In Europe, they discuss an about-face by Washington, which is steering clear of the Old World. This is a sign that Europe needs to turn itself in, chief EU diplomat Josep Borrel said.

The most remarkable thing about the entire AUKUS pact and the terminated Australian-French contract is that the announcement came just a few hours before the European Indo-Pacific strategy was released.

This document, by the way, deems Australia as one of EU key partners in the IPR, while China is a country Brussels seeks to cooperate with, instead of deterring or opposing.

As we can see, Europe's vision of the IPR concept is radically different from that of America: it features no deterrence or confrontation with China.

After the strategy was presented EU's chief diplomat Josep Barrel explained the stance taken by Brussels on the issue: "In many areas, like climate and biodiversity, cooperation with China is essential. Our strategy is one of cooperation not confrontation. I believe it is important to stress: our strategy is premised on the desire to cooperate [with China], not to confront it."

However, either France's strident rhetoric and escapade or the adoption of various strategies by the European Union will likely fall flat with the United States, Britain and Australia, that are not members of the EU and not obliged to look after the interests of European partners.

Moreover, Washington will presumably take other steps to transfer its military presence from the Old World to the regions it plans to engage in anti-Chinese operations.

Today, America doesn't' feel like caring about the European Union, whom, Washington may even let create its own army and promote strategic autonomy. For the time being, the United States concentrates its forces to focus China, closing in on it from the south, where it's getting really tough.

It should be noted here that, along with Canada and New Zealand, the three AUKUS members are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. This may imply that Anglo-Saxon leaders start forming the cores for new associations headed by them and aimed to counter the PRC. A quite obvious thing is that the Anglo-Saxons are distrustful of their Nato partners from the European Union.

It is entirely possible that Germany, being a military logistics hub for missions in the Middle East and Africa, will soon recede into the background to the United States. But among those mostly concerned should be Poland and the Baltic states, where the presence of the US military has so far been purely "therapeutic", as a means of appeasing local elites disturbed by the phantom "Russian menace".

Through the creation of AUKUS, the United Kingdom presumably intends to strengthen its military presence in the IPR zone and regain its dominance in the region. For Australia, it is a chance to leave the periphery of international politics and get to its heart. The US administration reported that secret technologies for creating a nuclear submarine will be transferred to Canberra by way of exception. Previously, such credence was given to Great Britain 70 years ago.

As for Russia, according to Russian President's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin is scrutinizing information about the AUKUS pact. "Before articulating our position, we need to understand the goals, objectives and means of this alliance," he told journalists.