The new military alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia is aimed at China. By providing Australia with nuclear powered submarines, highly enriched uranium to power them, and the top-secret nuclear technology to operate them, Biden has intensified Trump’s confrontation with China, and raises the threat of war.
Australia will be only the second country to be provided with this technology, after Britain in 1958. As opposed to conventional submarines, nuclear powered ones can go farther and much longer without returning to base. They could easily reach China from Australia.
They are also much quieter, helping to escape detection longer. China is weaker in anti-submarine warfare than other aspects of it navy.
An article in The New York Times written the day after the surprise announcement said, “With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot in with the United States for generations to come — a ‘forever partnership’, in the words of [prime minister Scott] Morrison’s words.
“The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.”
The article also said that “security analysts believe that Australia would be likely to use nuclear-powered submarines to patrol” the South China Sea off China’s coast. The nuclear powered submarines will be able to deliver missiles aimed at China.
They will augment the U.S.’s powerful deployment of warships and submarines in the Pacific, including nuclear weapons, and will be under U.S. control.
China reacted immediately and sharply. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the submarine agreement would “seriously damage regional peace and stability, exacerbate an arms race and harm international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”
The latter charge is given credence by the fact that the nuclear technology and highly enriched uranium provided by the U.S. can be the basis for Australia acquiring nuclear weapons, if Washington so wishes at any time.
Biden is qualitatively stepping up Trump’s confrontation with China, but this is not the only way Biden’s foreign policy is unfolding as a continuation and consolidation of Trump’s.
Trump was known for his distain for “allies” in West Europe, and for his unilateralism. But now the military alliance with Australia and Britain, and the providing of nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra has enraged France.
The announcement of the new alliance came as a surprise to the rest of the world. In has now been affirmed that Biden began to work on the new agreement early in his presidency, in secret.
The announcement of the agreement was accompanied by the announcement by Australia that it was withdrawing from a $66 billion agreement with France for the latter to build conventional submarines for it.
This was a “unilateral, brutal and unpredictable decision” said an enraged Jean-Yeves Le Drian, France’s Foreign minister, and he compared it to rash and sudden policy shifts Trump was known for.
Le Drian’s statement also said, “The very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific” for Europe would be affected.
One aspect of this shift was to deprive France’s military industry of a large revenue, while American companies building the nuclear-powered submarines will reap big gains, although the main reason was increasing the military threat to China.
French President Emanuel Macron retaliated by withdrawing its ambassadors to both Washington and Canberra back home for “consultations”. Reflecting his view that Britain is a secondary player, he didn’t pull back the ambassador from there.
An editorial Le Monde, the leading French daily, broadening the charge against the U.s., said: “For any who still doubted it, the Biden administration is no different from the Trump administration on this point: The United States comes first, whether it’s in the strategic, economic financial or health fields. ‘America First’ is the guiding line of the foreign policy of the White House.”
Subsequently, Le Drian, when asked if Biden’s behavior is like Trumps, he responded “Without the Tweets”.
An article in The New York Times noted, since the American company Lockheed Martin was a partner in the French submarine deal reached in 2016, “the contract was viewed in Paris as an example of how France and the United States could work together in Asia.
“That belief has been shredded, replaced by bitterness, suspicion and a measure of incredulity that the Biden administration would treat France this way.”