The Real Risks of the Australian Submarine Deal by Gareth Evans
The new AUKUS deal does not mean, as some Australian commentators have argued, that the country has now finally “sided” against China. Australia’s primary security relationship is with the United States, and its primary economic relationship is with China – and there’s no reason to change that now.
MELBOURNE – World-class hyperbole has been generated by the new AUKUS technology-sharing agreement between Australia and the US and UK. Our plan to acquire, in particular, at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, thus canceling a massive agreement with France to build 12 conventionally-powered diesel submarines, fueled an uproar in the country and abroad.
For some members of the anti-nuclear movement, the AUKUS deal poses the greatest threat to nuclear non-proliferation since the break-up of North Korea. For the Australian Greens, the “floating Chernobyls” are about to explode our port cities. For the anti-China hawks, it’s champagne time: AUKUS represents a “vital bulwark against an angry and authoritarian Communist China”. For the Chinese foreign ministry, this “seriously undermines regional peace and stability, intensifies the arms race and undermines the non-proliferation treaty” and, for the wolf warriors of the Chinese media, it makes l Australia “a potential target of nuclear war”. For France, which has withdrawn its ambassadors from the United States and Australia, it is another brutal “stab in the back” of the perfidious Albion and the Anglosphere. And for Australia – to use the words of two former prime ministers, no less, which should certainly focus our minds – it can mean a “new dramatic loss of sovereignty”In the United States and“ a slippery slope ”which ends with“ a prior commitment to become an active belligerent against China in a future war ”.
It’s time to take a breather and focus on what is perfectly defensible about the AUKUS deal, what is problematic, and what needs further clarification before it can be accepted. There are technical and political risk issues involved, and it’s important to keep them unraveled.
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