The birth of AUKUS is up there amongst the most significant geopolitical developments in our recent history, writes Managing Director Peter Costantini.
The US, UK and Australia alliance was strengthened immeasurably last week with the announcement that we will build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology provided by the US and UK. The enhanced tri-lateral security partnership extends to cooperation in other areas as well, including cyber capabilities and AI.
Indo-Pacific region security challenges, and the rate of military modernisation and capabilities growth are rapidly advancing, according to Prime Minister Morrison. The news will be welcomed by most at home with Australians understanding and accepting our ties with the US and UK.
The French Government is unhappy, understandably. The $90 billion Attack class submarine project will be cancelled. Government concerns about the project, like ‘local content’ issues, ballooning costs, and long lead times, were well known. There will be a negotiated exit with France, but our bi-lateral relationship will take a major hit.
The Chinese Government is unhappy, claiming the decision will intensify a regional arms race. Unfortunately, the tension between our two countries over trade and regional security challenges seems set to remain for some time to come.
The US President, Joe Biden, whilst seemingly forgetting our Prime Minister’s name, takes a major win at home for his strong stance in the Indo-Pacific region, reinforcing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, its diplomatic and military pivot to Asia. This might go some way to smoothing US public sentiment after the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle.
And for the last side of the triangle, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gains through a post-Brexit strategy that sees the UK strengthen its US relationship, locks in greater military cooperation with Australia (along with trade) and wins the approval of the important UK conservative base.
AUKUS has deep and long-term opportunities and risks for Australia. Overall, it will hit a sweet spot for most Australians. And it has stollen the media spotlight since announcement – a nice change to 24/7 Covid coverage.