September 17, 2021

AUKUS Alliance

“President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that the United States is forming a new Indo-Pacific security alliance [called AUKUS] with Britain and Australia that will allow for greater sharing of defense capabilities — including helping equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines

“Australia had announced in 2016 that French company DCNS had beat out bidders from Japan and Germany to build the next generation of submarines in Australia’s largest-ever defense contract. Top French officials made clear they were unhappy with the deal, which undercuts the DCNS deal.” AP News

“China on Thursday denounced [the] new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.” Reuters

Both sides praise the deal as a necessary response to Chinese aggression:

“Three years ago, Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, insisted Canberra need not choose between Beijing and Washington. Now he seems to have judged that China has made the choice for him, given the punishing trade war, the treatment of Australian citizens, mammoth hikes in military spending (albeit from a lower base than the US) and its broader behaviour…

“A firm and unified response to China’s actions by democratic nations is both sensible and desirable. Whether the new pact will restrain it – or prompt it to boost its military even further, pursue closer relations with Russia, and intensify other forms of pressure – remains to be seen.”
Editorial Board, The Guardian

“The rise of AUKUS is worth the temporary tension [with France] as the U.S. tries to maintain a favorable military balance in the Asia-Pacific. Australia isn’t part of NATO, but the U.S. ally has come under coercive pressure from China. Beijing imposed tariffs on Australian food and raw materials after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for a probe into the origins of the coronavirus. China has detained Australian citizens and demanded that its elected officials and free press stop criticizing China’s political system…

Credit to Mr. Morrison for not yielding to China’s trade intimidation. One lesson for Beijing is that such tactics in the Asia-Pacific advertise to other countries the treatment in store for them as China’s economic and military reach extends across the globe. Beijing’s strategy is to divide and conquer, and the AUKUS initiative shows Western solidarity. Focusing on submarines as the first initiative also sends the right message. China’s recent naval buildup has been extraordinary, and Beijing’s stated ambition is to control Taiwan and dominate disputed waters in the Western Pacific.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

This masterstroke is exactly what the United States should be doing to combat China. As powerful as China is, it cannot match the combined capabilities of the United States and its allies. U.S. diplomats should be directed to firm up those alliances and increase allies’ military capabilities. The more that Asian democracies are united in response to Chinese aggression, the less likely China is to embark on military adventures such as invading Taiwan…

“The administration is also seeking to draw Vietnam into its Asian coalition. While Vietnam is also a Communist one-party state, it has historically been at odds with its larger neighbor. The two fought a brief border war in 1979, and China’s claims over the South China Sea also endanger Vietnam’s interests in the strategic waters. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Hanoi in July, and the diplomatic world has been buzzing in recent years over rumors that the United States might establish a naval base in Vietnam…

“Reestablishing such a permanent presence in the region — and expanding the navy to accommodate the additional deployment — would be another brick in a strong anti-Chinese wall.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

“America's foreign policy establishment is deeply conservative. I don't mean that it affirms the ideological conservatism that dominates the Republican Party, though there is some overlap there. I mean, instead, that members of this establishment, whether they incline toward the left or the right, tend to favor consistency. If we have troops in Afghanistan, we should keep troops in Afghanistan. If NATO is our most important alliance, it should remain our most important alliance. If Iran has been considered a mortal enemy since 1979, we should continue to view the country and its rulers as enemies…

“Joe Biden doesn't think and act like a member of the American foreign policy establishment… [The ‘AUKUS’ partnership] shows how useful it can be to think outside the boxes that often constrain strategic and tactical planning among members of the foreign policy establishment. Instead of relying primarily on NATO to check China's ambitions in the Asia-Pacific, as he indicated he might just a few months ago, Biden decided to build on longstanding bilateral ties to London and Canberra to devise a more aggressive approach based on greatly enhancing Australia's naval strength and capacity. The result is potentially a significant shift in the balance of power in the region.”
Damon Linker, The Week

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