© Yuri Ramsey/Australian Defence Force/Getty Images
According to the AFP news agency, November 22 witnessed Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton and ambassadors of the United Kingdom and the United States sign their first agreement within AUKUS, the new security alliance. The document stipulates information exchange on naval atomic energy plants. And last Friday, the agreement was approved by head of the White House Joe Biden. He stressed its implementation wouldn't pose an unreasonable risk to the three countries' collective defense and security. OK, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia are beyond danger, but what about other countries, primarily the Indo-Pacific region (IPR), which Russia is also part of?
Just a reminder: the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom announced the creation of AUKUS on September 15 this year. The agreements worked out include plans for Canberra to build at least eight American-technology nuclear submarines with conventional weapons. Currently, Australia has no submarines in service. Because of the new pact, Canberra has terminated the largest contract in its history with Paris for the supply of 12 Attack-class submarines worth about €50 billion, saying that it no longer meets its national interests. France regarded Australia's move as "a punch in the face" but still swallowed the pill a little later and even made up with AUKUS initiator as represented by Washington. Paris also returned its ambassador to Australia.
Many experts believe that AUKUS establishment is primarily aimed to deter China in the IPR, namely in the South China Sea. In this regard, it is small wonder that official Beijing was first to respond to the document having been signed under the new tripartite alliance last Monday. Thus, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the nuclear engine agreement. According to its spokesman Zhao Lijian, "nuclear submarine cooperation between the United States, the UK and Australia, which deliberately escalates regional tensions, stimulates arms race, threatens regional peace and stability, and undermines international nuclear non-proliferation efforts, is extremely irresponsible."
It should be noted that the anti-Chinese view alone is too narrow an approach. A certain focus on China can be simply explained: it is located in the IPR with its rapid economic, political and military rise having become a 21st century challenge to the United States and the entire collective West. Beijing has turned into a powerful geo-economic and geopolitical competitor. At the same time, Washington, with its closest "consanguineous" allies, is solving a more global task of preserving Anglo-Saxons' global economic, political, military and ideological dominance. Therefore, viewing AUKUS in this context may be a proper approach.
It is important to note another vital aspect here – the transfer of nuclear technology to Australia, which greatly contributes to IPR militarization and is fraught with non-proliferation violations. By the way, Beijing was first to sound the alarm about the new bloc and accused the United States of spreading nuclear arms. Moreover, China threatened to deliver a first nuclear strike against the United States because of AUKUS. Beijing believes that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will fail to effectively oversee nuclear power plants and radioactive materials.
Speaking at a Washington seminar in late October, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the agency had no clarity about the technological model to be used within AUKUS. He confirmed that the IAEA has already begun inspections because of Australia's plans to create a nuclear submarine fleet. Grossi did not preclude that implementing these plans would create a precedent for other non-nuclear states.
Russia did not stay on the sidelines either. As President Vladimir Putin stated in his mid-October interview with the American CNBC channel, AUKUS undermines regional stability and has forced Moscow to raise a number of questions to Washington, which also need to be addressed to London and Canberra. And Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov recently noted that the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States is a challenge for nuclear non-proliferation. The diplomat particularly said: " We have got a full range of questions concerning the AUKUS establishment which have been already posed to the American side. We will also send them to Australian colleagues, and we are in the process of raising them with our British ones."
Indeed, AUKUS raises a lot of questions as regards nuclear non-proliferation. According to experts, submarines are primarily designed to counter similar "colleagues" of the enemy. And given that there are only six countries armed with nuclear submarines (the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China and India), one may easily assume that Australia will hardly consider its Anglo-Saxon allies, along with France and India, as potential rivals. As a result, there are only two countries left – Russia and China, and this poses additional threats of a nuclear war.
Let's not forget that the nuclear threat is also persistent in Europe, with the Americans having placed their 20 B61 nuclear bombs in Germany. The 702nd Tactical Air Support Squadron of the US Air Force stationed there is in charge of Büchel Air Base nuclear ammunition. And those bombs by no means resemble museum exhibits. According to the Germany's Bild, secret military exercises were recently held at the country's Nörvenich airbase that featured strike aircraft polishing the use of nuclear weapons. Pundits believe the threat of a nuclear war is really high today, and it drags on after the US withdrawal from a number of arms reduction treaties.