What is Aukus?
AUKUS is a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, announced on 15 September 2021 for the Indo-Pacific region. Under the pact, the US and the UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. A new three-way strategic defence alliance between Australia, the UK and US, is initially to build a class of nuclear-propelled submarines, but it is also to work together in the Indo-Pacific region, where the rise of China is seen as an increasing threat, and develop wider technologies. It means Australia will end the contract given to France in 2016 to build 12 diesel electric-powered submarines to replace its existing Collins submarine fleet. The deal marks the first time the US has shared nuclear propulsion technology with an ally apart from the UK.
The pact also includes cooperation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation and information sharing. The pact will focus on military capability, separating it from the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes New Zealand and Canada.
What are its implications?
The deal has been subject to both praise and disapproval. Caroline Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Australia, called the treaty a «greater and deeper partnership» between the countries and would act as a «lot of deterrence» to China’s aggression in the Pacific region. The International Centre for Defence and Security called the pact «a powerful statement about the priority of the Indo-Pacific» and as a statement «that the larger institutional groupings aren’t acting with the common purpose and speed that the current strategic and technological environment demands». The government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was vocal in its contempt for the deal, accusing the three western powers of having a «cold-war mentality», as the deal was widely seen as being, at least in part, a response to China’s status as an increasingly assertive emerging superpower.
On 17 September 2021, France, which is an ally of the three countries, recalled its ambassadors from Australia and the US; French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called the pact a «stab in the back» following Australia’s cancellation of a French–Australian submarine deal worth €56 billion (A$90 billion) without notice, ending efforts to develop a deeper strategic partnership between France and Australia. It was also criticised for not involving New Zealand, an important strategic ally in the Pacific region, which was presumed to be because of the country’s nuclear-free policy.
Why did Australia want to change its suppliers?
The perceived scale of the Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific region – a vast zone stretching through some of the world’s most vital seaways east from India to Japan and south to Australia – has grown dramatically in recent years. Nuclear-propelled submarines in this context have longer range, are quicker and are harder to detect. But the UK national security adviser, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, has made it clear Aukus is about more than a class of submarine, describing the pact as “perhaps the most significant capability collaboration in the world anywhere in the past six decades”. He added it was a project “in gestation for some months”. The US president, Joe Biden, spoke of the need to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and to address the region’s “current strategic environment”.
What is China’s response?
Relations between the three allies and China were already at a low and the deal, which did not name China but was widely understood to be in response to its expansionism in the South China Sea and aggression towards Taiwan, drew a swift response from Beijing. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the three countries were in the grip of an “obsolete cold war zero sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts” and should “respect regional people’s aspiration […] otherwise they will only end up hurting their own interests”. China also questioned Australia’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation, while the state-run Global Times, which often takes a harder line than Chinese officials, said: “Australian troops are also most likely to be the first batch of western soldiers to waste their lives in the South China Sea.”
When will the submarines be ready and who will build them?
No date has been announced, and the scoping phase itself will last 18 months. It is possible America may operate attack submarines out of HMAS Stirling, an Australian naval base in Perth, in the interim. The US will lead the project, and the precise technology it is willing to share is unclear, as is the UK role in the supply of the submarines.
How angry is France?
Take this tweet from the French ambassador to the US, Philippe Étienne, in the hours after the deal: “Interestingly, exactly 240 years ago the French navy defeated the British navy in Chesapeake Bay, paving the way for the victory at Yorktown and the independence of the United States.” A statement from the French embassy said the decision to “exclude” France “shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret” while the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, less diplomatically called the deal “a stab in the back”.
Back in 2016, France had described the Australian contract as the deal of the century and the start of a 50-year marriage. It was intended to symbolise a wider Australian-French alliance in the Indo-Pacific that would extend to weapons intelligence and communications. Australian partnership was also central to its 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy.
What will be the immediate impact of the deal?
Relations between Beijing and Washington look set to continue on their current tricky path, while the western alliance has also been shaken.
Emmanuel Macron believed Australian concerns had been assuaged, despite Canberra repeatedly warning France about delays and overruns, but it may also be the US made Australia a deal it could not refuse.
However, it also seems apparent the US did not trust Macron on China, since he often said he wanted to steer a middle course between two great powers, speaking of an autonomous Europe operating beside America and China
What is the geopolitical significance?
It means China faces a powerful new defence alliance in the Indo-Pacific, one that has been welcomed by regional partners such as Japan. It also reaffirms that, after Brexit, the US still wants the UK, and not the EU, engaged as its key military partner. It also gives Biden focus for his post-Afghanistan tilt to Asia. On 24 September, he will host the first in-person summit of the Quad – a bloc involving Japan, the US, Australia and India.
Does this breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?
The nuclear watchdog the IAEA says it will investigate, but six countries already use the technology to power their submarines.
MATCH THE TERM WITH ITS DEFINITION:
|propulsion technology||in the time period between another time; meantime|
|hypersonic||to (cause to) lean, slant, or incline|
|perceived scale||logical interconnection; overall sense or understandability|
|interim||an act of disobeying or violating a law or promise|
|precise technology||a system which produces thrust to push an object forward|
|coherence||noting or pertaining to speed that is at least five times that of sound in the same medium|
|assuage||discernible, distinguished scope|
|reaffirm||to make a renewed commitment to, repeat a promise|
|tilt||to make milder or less severe; relieve; ease; mitigate|
|breach||characterized by or having a high degree of exactness and accuracy|
RESTORE THE SENTENCE BY FILLING IN THE KEY TERM:
|1. The deal marks the first time the US has shared nuclear …………….. with an ally apart from the UK.|
|2. The pact also includes cooperation on advanced cyber, artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum technologies, undersea capabilities, …………….. and counter-hypersonic, electronic warfare, innovation and information sharing.|
|3. The …………….. of the Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific region – a vast zone stretching through some of the world’s most vital seaways east from India to Japan and south to Australia – has grown dramatically in recent years.|
|4. No date has been announced, and the scoping phase itself will last 18 months. It is possible America may operate attack submarines out of HMAS Stirling, an Australian naval base in Perth, in the ……………...|
|5. The US will lead the project, and the …………….. it is willing to share is unclear, as is the UK role in the supply of the submarines.|
|6. A statement from the French embassy said the decision to “exclude” France “shows a lack of …………….. that France can only note and regret” while the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, less diplomatically called the deal “a stab in the back”.|
|7. Emmanuel Macron believed Australian concerns had been …………….., despite Canberra repeatedly warning France about delays and overruns, but it may also be the US made Australia a deal it could not refuse.|
|8. It also …………….. that, after Brexit, the US still wants the UK, and not the EU, engaged as its key military partner.|
|9. It also gives Biden focus for his post-Afghanistan …………….. to Asia. On 24 September, he will host the first in-person summit of the Quad – a bloc involving Japan, the US, Australia and India.|
|10. Does this …………….. the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?|
COMPLETE THE PASSAGE WITH THE WORDS FROM THE BOX:
By Suranjana Tewari
A new security partnership in the Asia-Pacific will see the UK and US provide Australia with the technology and capability to 1) …………….. nuclear-powered submarines. American officials have said the move was not aimed at 2) …………….. Beijing. However experts say the Aukus agreement signals a paradigm 3) …………….. in strategy and policy across the region.
The timing of the new deal is particularly significant. It comes just a month after the US exit from Afghanistan, when doubts have been raised in multiple quarters about US 4) …………….. in the region.
Britain too is eager to be more involved in the Asia-Pacific especially after its exit from the European Union and Australia is increasingly concerned about China’s influence.
«It is a ‘big deal’ because this really shows that all three nations are drawing a line in the sand to start and counter the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggressive moves in the Indo-Pacific,» Guy Boekenstein, senior director of defence and national security at Australia’s Northern Territory government, told the BBC.
«It also publicly demonstrates our combined 5) …………….. on this and commitment to a stable and 6) …………….. Indo-Pacific region — one that for the past 70 years has led to the prosperity of all in the region, including China’s economic growth.»
What does the agreement involve?
The agreement involves the sharing of information and technology in a number of areas including 7) …………….. and quantum technology as well as the 8) …………….. of cruise missiles.
But the nuclear submarines are key. They are to be built in Adelaide in South Australia and will involve the US and the UK providing consultation on technology for their production.
«A nuclear submarine has enormous defence capabilities and therefore 9) …………….. for the region. Only six countries in the world have nuclear submarines. They are a really powerful 10) …………….. capability without giving them nuclear weapons,» Michael Shoebridge, director of defence, strategy and national security at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said.
Why nuclear-powered submarines?
Nuclear submarines are much faster and harder to detect than 1) conventional/ conventionally powered fleets. These submarines are also much more stealthy than conventional ones — they operate quietly, are 2) able/ capable to move easily. They can stay 3) submerged/ submersed for months, shoot missiles longer distances and also carry more.
Having them stationed in Australia is critical 4) to/ for US influence in the region, analysts say.
The US 5) is sharing/ shares its submarine technology for the first time in 50 years. It had previously only shared technology with the UK.
Australia will become just the seventh nation in the world to operate nuclear-powered submarines, after the US, UK, France, China, India and Russia.
Australia has reaffirmed it has no intention 6) of obtaining/ to obtain nuclear weapons.
7) Meanwhile/ As New Zealand said it would ban Australia’s submarines from its waters, 8) in line with/ in a line with an existing policy on the presence of nuclear-powered submarines.
9) At last/At least eight submarines will be supported, 10) although/ however it’s not clear when they 11) are /will be deployed. The process will take longer due to a lack of nuclear infrastructure in Australia.
They will not be nuclear armed, only powered with nuclear reactors.
«Let me be clear: Australia is not 12) seeking/ searching to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability,» Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
President Biden added that there 13) would be/ will be an initial 14) 18-month/ 18-months consultation period with teams from the three countries to decide how it would work and to ensure compliance with non-proliferation commitments.
15) However,/ Although the move does show that the US and UK are willing to take the big step of exporting nuclear technology to a non-nuclear powered nation, according to Yun Sun, co-director of the East Asia Programme at the Stimson Center.
And that is what makes the partnership so unique.