When the AUKUS agreement was announced on 16 September it not only surprised the French and President Macron — Indonesia’s parliamentarians were stunned and not a single one offered any support for it.
When news of the AUKUS agreement broke on 16 September 2021, it caught everyone in Southeast Asia by surprise. While its understood that AUKUS is not an alliance, it had portent to agitate the strategic landscape for ASEAN.
The Australia-UK-US trilateral security partnership, or AUKUS for short, has been the subject of much speculation and debate since it was announced in September 2021. While some of its provisions will take many years to reach fruition, notably building a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, the announcement has already had considerable impact and driven concerns about nuclear proliferation, double standards, and the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region. It has also caused a rift in between NATO allies, especially between the US and France, in part due to the way it has been handled, and has been strongly criticised by China. While we still actually have very few details about what the partnership will involve in the years ahead, and in particular how the commitment by the US and UK to “deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia” will unfold, it is useful to understand the different possible implications of this deal and how the technology, politics and security aspects will play out in the years ahead.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has used a keynote address at ASPI’s Sydney Dialogue to add important detail to what’s known about Australia’s AUKUS agreement with the United States and Britain.
In his speech delivered online today, the prime minister makes it clear that AUKUS is intended to enable the three allies to develop and share advanced technology to give them an edge in an uncertain future.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is embroiled in a tussle with both French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden which, given the power asymmetries, risks leaving Australia exposed and vulnerable in a major-power league above its paygrade. Across Africa and Asia, variants can be found of the folklore that the grass is trampled both when elephants fight and when they mate. In the Melian Dialogue of the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides, Melos is sternly admonished by Athens that questions of right and justice apply only to relations among equals in power. For others, ‘the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must’.
Having a coherent strategy matters. It allows the effective allocation of scarce resources. It provides a framework against which events and trends can be assessed, helping to guide bureaucratic action, diplomatic activity and military posture. It’s essential to statecraft. So, what does AUKUS agreement with the United States and United Kingdom say about Australian grand strategy?
Amid Jakarta’s diplomatic shots across Canberra’s bow over AUKUS, Foreign Minister Marise Payne is travelling in Southeast Asia to reassure the region. This move comes after a volley of increasingly pointed Indonesian concerns about the impact that Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-power submarines might have on regional security and non-proliferation.
But despite the Australian Foreign Minister’s best efforts to ease fears in Jakarta and other regional capitals, AUKUS is just the tip of a deep and enduring divide between Australia and Indonesia over the future of power in the Indo-Pacific.
The establishment of a new trilateral military partnership involving the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS) has stirred up discord within NATO both conceptually and in terms of technology, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Sunday.
Russia supported the concerns voiced by China on AUKUS, the new tripartite defense alliance formed with the intention of intimidating China, at a recent meeting of the UN General Assembly’s First Committee, saying that they are legitimate concerns as this kind of cooperation is related to the nuclear field and clearly has a military dimension.