Hawks hitched to AUKUS

On the implications of an anti-China alliance between the US, Britain and Australia

Hawks hitched to AUKUS

In the US-China standoff, there was a notable development towards the end of last week that will have implications for global politics as well. The US, UK and Australia announced the formation of an expanded trilateral security partnership (called AUKUS).

The US has taken another step in forming a network of anti-China alliances – this time even despite the attendant major cost to its own reputation. The new partnership has already caused scandal and serious controversy in the West, with France resenting the US over its derailed submarine contracts with Australia and withdrawing its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra for the first time in history.

The establishment of AUKUS shows Washington’s emphasis on the military component in containing the PRC. This entity also affects Russia indirectly, since another state in the Asia-Pacific region that is unfriendly to Moscow and possesses a nuclear submarine fleet (albeit without nuclear weapons so far) is emerging. The formation of AUKUS in this format is determined by a combination of several factors.

Apparently, the South China Sea, through which China’s main trade route runs, is becoming an area of potential military confrontation between the United States and China. For a long time, Washington has been trying to put the sea under its control under the slogan of “freedom of navigation” (incidentally, under the same slogan, the US is trying to challenge the sovereignty of Russia in the waters of the Northern Sea Route).

The second point of tension is now developing around the island of Taiwan. The interests of containment of China under Donald Trump have required the US to resume active politico-military contacts with the island administration. Joe Biden has continued these contacts, defiantly violating the “one China” principle, which the Americans once recognised as one of the main conditions for the normalisation of US-China relations. US naval vessels have increasingly violated Chinese territorial waters in the Taiwan Strait.

In response to these provocations and threats to its security, China is strengthening its navy in general and its military presence near the island of Taiwan in particular. That, of course, irritates Washington.

A third important factor in the emergence of AUKUS is the cultural and civilizational “kinship” of the three Anglo-Saxon allies.

As a result, Australia, relatively close to the South China Sea, has become an indispensable link to American plans. The possession of nuclear-powered submarines would eventually allow Australia to conduct long-range patrols in the Indo-Pacific region. And of the closest US allies, only Britain has the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, which these countries have pledged to build for Australia.

The trilateral partnership was created in addition to the existing quadrilateral (Quad) between the US, Australia, Japan and India, which also targeted China. At one time it was thought that this format would be a nucleus for the US, with other countries possibly joining later.

However, India, with its policy of “strategic autonomy,” has been very cautious about participating in various US anti-China actions. Some Chinese experts believe that the Quartet is a mechanism specially designed by the Americans for India to gain a foothold in the country and push it toward confrontation with China. Japan, which adheres to non-nuclear defence principles, also turned out to be another problematic country under Biden’s improved anti-China strategy.

With the establishment of AUKUS, everything fell into place: Washington and London decided not to take any risks, and the new core of the anti-China alliance eventually became a strictly Anglo-Saxon partnership – without India and Japan. According to Chinese experts, Australia’s special position in the Quartet could influence the strategic choices of Japan and especially India, which had illusorily counted on US assistance in sensitive military technologies. But with the creation of AUKUS, the US is not going to dissolve the “alliance of four”. The White House website has posted information about the first face-to-face meeting of the Quartet leaders in Washington on 24 September.

China’s official response has been one of restraint and condemnation. Beijing has urged Canberra to abandon zero-sum cold war thinking and narrow geopolitical concepts in order to be able to truly resolve relations with China on its own.

But expert reactions in China detail the dangerous consequences of creating AUKUS in the event of different scenarios of aggravation in the region. To the extent that Australia could become a potential target for a nuclear strike by, for example, China and Russia, since Australian nuclear submarines would, of course, serve US strategic interests in the event of a military conflict.

Moreover, the provision of weapons of mass destruction carriers, nuclear technology and nuclear materials to Australia, a non-nuclear weapon state, contravenes Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, setting a dangerous precedent for other countries.

Overall, the newly formed defence partnership is a risky attempt by the Biden administration to re-establish American hegemony in the world. AUKUS holds China back from the Pacific, and the strange circumstances of the planned US withdrawal from Afghanistan have created problems for China (and for that matter Russia) from the west – in Central Asia.

Against this background, the PRC has stressed the increasing stabilising significance of the SCO in the world and the special role of strategic cooperation between its core, Russia and China. On September 17, the leaders of the SCO had the opportunity to discuss the new security situation at a regular 21-member summit meeting. The procedure for Iran’s admission to the SCO was also launched at the same time.

Following the meeting, some Chinese experts concede that the organisation’s influence may even extend beyond its borders, for example by stimulating the economies of Central and Southeast Asia through trilateral cooperation with ASEAN and the EAEU.

Viktor Pirozhenko, Izvestia newspaper.

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