Satoshi Ikeuchi, Professor, Religion and Global Security, University of Tokyo
“AUKUS” is the new talk of the town. AUKUS stands for Australia, UK, and US.
The formation of a new alliance of these three countries was jointly announced by their leaders on September 15.
Under this trilateral security alliance called AUKUS, Australia will be provided with nuclear-powered submarines and long-range missiles from US.
That is a decisive gain on the side of US in its rivalry with China. Countering increasingly assertive China in the Asia Pacific was the top priority of US and that’s the fundamental factor behind its decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Australia has long been trying to keep the middle ground between US and China and avoid taking sides. China’s pressure on this “small” country in Oceania, however, was recently stronger and harsher. Economic sanctions and verbal assaults on Australia in China’s famous “warrior diplomacy” became more frequent and humiliating.
It seems somewhere it was beyond the threshold. Suddenly Australia snapped and jumped into the asylum of mighty America.
This move was kept top secret till the day of the announcement, and it was a bolt from the blue even for allies and friends of US outside the circle of this English-speaking Anglo-Saxon countries.
France was blindsided and upset. In 2016, France signed a landmark deal with Australia worth 50 billion AUD (which amount to 31 billion euros or 36.5 billion USD). Under this contract, France was supposed to provide conventional diesel-powered submarines to Australia. It was a huge push for France’s defense industry, and it symbolized the re-entry of France into the emerging Indo-Pacific, the center of the world political economy of the coming decades or centuries.
Australia abandoned the French deal and took US-UK alliance. It threw cold water on France’s shift to Indo-Pacific.
India and Japan, which composes 4 countries’ framework of cooperation called Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, together with US and Australia, were also caught off guard. It is advantageous for the nascent Quad to have strong triangular alliance between US and Australia adding UK. At the same time, France’s anger and embarrassment is understandable for the remaining two partners of the Quad which left out of the loop.
India and Japan, sharing the framework of cooperation called Quad, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, with US and Australia were also caught off guard.
It is advantageous for the nascent Quad to have strong triangular alliance between US and Australia adding UK. At the same time, France’s anger and embarrassment is understandable for the remaining two partners of the Quad which were left out of the loop.
At the end of the day, the fierce competition even among the NATO allies shows how crucial Australia is, in the center of the emerging Indo-Pacific.