Hating on the French for fun
Macron’s submarine spat is blinding the UK media to the dangers of AUKUS
By Christie Edward James
Image courtesy of the Ministry of Defence via Flickr
Last week, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia signed off on a brand-new security and defence pact titled ‘AUKUS’ with the surface goal of shipping off a bunch of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. Not said to be a proliferation of nuclear weapons, however, but the deal certainly doesn’t give off a peaceful aura. You’d think this aspect would grab the headlines, but no.
Instead, much of the attention has been directed at France and, to a lesser extent, the wider EU. On the 17th of September, France recalled its ambassadors in Australia and the US back to France in protest. The plans for AUKUS go against an agreement made between France and the Asia-Pacific region for a previous submarine deal with Australia worth €56 billion; the new AUKUS deal is set to cancel that completely.
The EU has sided with France, though quietly, in a move that further pushes the UK away from the continent—first politically, in recent days somewhat culturally, and now in terms of security and defence.
Potentially worsening Franco-British relations are hardly even on the table, yet this is all that’s being focused on. There is a global stage show playing out here, one which involves international power balances and the stability of many regions.
What this deal is, in reality, is a dangerous provocation. One that the UK media is conveniently turning a blind eye to because it involves China—a supposed enemy. And France—a supposed ally? Of course, nothing in the AUKUS talks says this directly, but with a growing Chinese military presence, such as aggression in the South China Sea and other political propaganda abroad, it couldn’t be clearer what this deal is trying to set out to do. Equally, it fits perfectly into Johnson’s plan to build a ‘Global Britain’ distant from Europe. A US lite.
The past few years have seen many provocations by Trump (including Mark Milley’s recent comments about Trump threatening China with nuclear strikes, were it not for intervention from aides, and also trade wars to a lesser degree), ones that haven’t ceased under Biden. Australia has been in hot water with China as of late too, calling for an international investigation into the causes of Covid-19, with what goal in mind other than provocation, I’m not sure. The UK is not without blame either. The aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth had its maiden voyage right through the South China Sea. Simply diplomatic theatre or not, you don’t settle any nerves by pulling a stunt like that. Chinese experts have claimed through the Global Times (admittedly not the most non-confrontational outlet itself) that their domestic military is not happy with this pact. They seem certain in their knowledge that these submarines would be more than capable of carrying nuclear weapons sent over from London or Washington if needed. This makes Australia the first target for a potentially furious China in the future. Chinese officials themselves have confirmed concerns about peace and heightened tensions around military arms in wake of this pact.
Even Theresa May questioned the Prime Minister on the intentions of AUKUS, asking if Britain would ever intervene in a potential conflict. Johnson had no answer.
It’s clear that imperialism hasn’t worked, especially those under the disguise of ‘humanitarian intervention’. The US and UK both. Have we already forgotten about Afghanistan?
Johnson continues to act cute towards the French situation; there’s no doubt in my mind he knew that if he recited some French on camera, it would be all over the papers and the BBC. Probably even in France, and so too the US and Australia. A perfect distraction away from any case against AUKUS.
There’s standing up for international order, and then there’s needless military provocation in an already unstable world with almost certain nuclear capabilities. China is not the only concern here. This will set a precedent for other countries to develop nuclear technology, and it will solidify the view that ‘if there’s no domestic civil nuclear industry, ones in the sea don’t count as nuclear proliferation!’ The UK media are missing out on the bigger picture here. This dangerous flex of hard power is being overshadowed by winding up the French for fun.