• Tristan H

AUKUS: NATO 2.0?



Geopolitics

As militaristic intentions move away from the Middle East, we see a focus on East Asia, specifically China. AUKUS is an important step in changing the power balance between China and the rest of the region. The question is; Will this be the beginning of a new alliance against China’s militaristic expansion? Will this be a unifying moment for the west or merely accentuate its divides?


What is AUKUS?

AUKUS is a deal in which the US and UK will share nuclear technology to help Australia develop nuclear powered submarines. It is important to note that these nuclear powered submarines will not be armed with nuclear warheads. We still aren’t aware whether Australia will be producing their own nuclear submarines, or whether they will be produced by the US or UK; similar to how France used to produce Australia's previous submarines. AUKUS itself may be considered a one off in policy, however, it could foreshadow the geopolitical shift towards Asia.


Implications for China and East Asia

Without a doubt, this trilateral deal is aimed towards China, as the country’s power in the Indo-Pacific region is indisputable. By tonnage, their navy is the largest in the world (though this is mostly made up of coastal patrol boats). Their large presence in the Indo-Pacific region has raised tensions between the west and China even more, which is why the AUKUS pact was formed. But how does this change the power balance in the region? Though the treaty itself will not affect the power balance, what might follow will most definitely change it. While China is far stronger than its nearby neighbours, it has no powerful ally. On the other hand, countries such as Japan and South Korea (just to name a few in the region) have alliances with the US and many European countries. Combined, these forces far exceed China’s military capability.


Failures of US Diplomacy

The failures of the pact cannot be forgotten. France, the US’ oldest ally, has been utterly discarded. Before AUKUS, all of Australia's submarines were manufactured in France then shipped to Australia. There was talk of another deal in which Australia would pay 66 billion dollars to purchase 12 diesel powered submarines. Once the three countries announced the AUKUS pact, France's deal was cast aside. Understandably, France was furious, as some of its closest allies had taken them for granted. Fortunately, The Biden administration has attempted to reaffirm its alliance with France, though it will not be quite easy to “forgive and forget”. This goes to show the failures of modern US diplomacy, careless and outright disrespectful to its very own allies. Hopefully this can be a reflecting point and the US state department will learn from this severe error.


Conclusion

Though it is very difficult to make assumptions about what the future of East Asia may hold, it is very unlikely that Western allies will just stand by and watch the hastily expanse of Chinese influence. This treaty has also highlighted the lack of unity between the western allies, which is key to pressuring China. This is unlikely to be the US and its allies’ last attempt to slow the increasing Chinese influence in the region.


References

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/09/25/aukus-reshapes-the-strategic-landscape-of-the-indo-pacific


https://edition.cnn.com/2021/09/16/australia/australia-china-us-aukus-submarine-intl-hnk/index.html


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