by Claudio Salvalaggio
The United States, Great Britain and Australia surprisingly launch a security pact in the Indo-Pacific area, a sort of “NATO of the Pacific” which will be called Aukus (acronym of the three countries) and which provides for the sale of nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra, a technology that Washington had so far only shared with London.
Sealed by a joint videoconference of Joe Biden, the prime minister Boris Johnson and the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the move obviously infuriated China, given that the alliance aims precisely to counter the threat of the Dragon in the region, while never mentioning him. But it also irritates Paris, which loses an astronomical contract for the supply of submarines to Australia, and the EU allies, who say they have not been informed of anything.
For Beijing, this is an “extremely irresponsible” initiative, which “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts”, denounced the spokesman for Chinese diplomacy. Zhao Lijian, admonishing that the risk of this “obsolete zero-sum Cold War thinking in the end is to shoot oneself in the foot”. Meanwhile, China immediately made a counter move, officially submitting the application to join the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’, the free trade agreement of 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific area, evolution of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) wanted by the former American president Barack Obama precisely to contain Beijing but from which the US had then withdrawn with the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House in 2017. A way for the Dragon to broaden its influence by exploiting an agreement concocted by the Americans themselves.
In his first comments after the new military pact, the president Xi Jinping he clarified that China “will never allow external forces to interfere in the internal affairs of this region and its countries”. Speaking in a video conference at the SCO summit, Xi added that “we should support each other in constantly advancing national issues and holding the future and destiny of our development and progress firmly in our hands.”
The reaction of Paris is also very harsh, which sees its strategy in the same region affected by the partnership with India and Australia and which sees what had been defined as “the contract of the century”: the supply of 12 submarines to conventional propulsion in Canberra for 56 billion euros. “A deplorable choice”, which calls into question “the word given” by Canberra, accused the Minister of Defense Florence Parly, while for the foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian “this unilateral, brutal and unpredictable decision is very similar to what Trump did”, a “stab in the back” against a NATO ally.
“We had warned before the announcement,” assured the White House, but Paris denies it. Useless the outstretched hand of Joe Biden e Boris Johnson, and also the justification of Australia, according to which it was a choice of necessity given that nuclear-powered submarines (but without atomic weapons) have greater autonomy and speed, therefore a wider range and less detectable by radar.
Brussels was also blown away by the new alliance, which will most likely be the subject of discussion at the next EU Foreign Council. “We regret not having been informed and not included in these negotiations”, the initiative “reminds us to reflect on the priority of the EU’s strategic autonomy”, observed the EU High Representative. Josep Borrell, which presented to the press the new European strategy on the Indo-Pacific, including the hypothesis of an “enhanced” deployment of naval forces in the region by the Member States of the European Union.
The new partnership, which also includes cooperation on cyber defense, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, is part of the strategy of Biden to contain the threat of China, long identified as the main adversary of the 21st century. To this end, on September 24, the US president will also host a summit in person at the White House with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan to relaunch another alliance, called Quad and created in 2007 to counter the rise of China in the military field. . But the creation of Aukus, which also cut out Canada and New Zealand (members with the other three countries of the intelligence alliance called The Five Eyes), and offered to Johnson a diplomatic success in its strategy to avoid international isolation after Brexit risks leaving another scar in relations with European allies, starting with France, after the controversial US decision to quickly withdraw from Afghanistan.