Opinion

AUKUS

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The acronym for the new security alliance signed by Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States may become the acronym for the birth of a new world order in the Pacific. The negotiation between the three countries, which has taken place outside of European, NATO and third allies, has set in motion the US strategic priority of confronting rivalry with China through new multilateral instruments. The decision has provoked a harsh response from France, which has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations, considering that the agreement violates the trust required between allies and also affects French interests by breaking the contract under which Australia was to buy 12 nuclear submarines whose construction, led by France, could be worth 90 billion dollars. The cost of the new international order will be very high. But as of today, there should be no doubt about how firmly it will be implemented.

The United States has been sounding what has been a full-scale warning for several years now. China and its intention to reverse strategic balances in the Pacific and Southeast Asia and the status quo of some island territories, and sovereignties such as Taiwan, are the main threat to US and global security. And to counter China's maritime emergency and dissuade its leaders from the consequences of a military escalation, the AUKUS is presented as an instrument of naval, technological and maritime cooperation that guarantees the security of trade routes according to existing criteria and serves as a deterrent force against any alteration or renegotiation of those criteria.

In recent years, the formula for developing this strategy had been unclear. Some moves suggested that other countries such as India or Japan would be involved. NATO might even be a part of the framework. But the decision taken by the Biden Administration, realistic and pragmatic, makes clear its new doctrine, which is based on an effective execution of the strategic project in which the actors involved have sufficient power and commitment to face the steps that will continue to be taken. And that, in the framework of future negotiations on different sides, it will gradually bring together different actors in a race whose objective is not to marginalise allies or defeat enemies, but to build an order in which the risks caused by rivalry between powers are reduced, while at the same time developing open, but regulated and reliable frameworks for cooperation.

In this imminent and necessarily more transparent negotiating environment, certain principles should be observed. The first is the commitment to defence and security that should move Europeans to assume higher costs than in the past. Disagreements in NATO, where the Americans have been demanding budget increases from their partners for years, cannot continue to be an argument for widening the gap of mistrust. In this sense, the threats in regions such as the Mediterranean and the Sahel, and the new prospects for security in the South Atlantic, should lead to new commitments that the Atlantic organisation will have to make at the Madrid Summit in 2022.

The second approach involves raising awareness of the urgent need to build solvent national and European strategies adapted to a globalised, digitalised and competing world, where national interest is present, but definitely understood as a mutual interest that leads to alliances and agreements with different perspectives. The completion of the Nord Stream II gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany through the Baltic, whose approval now depends on the German regulator, can be an example of this renewed geopolitical or geo-economic vision. Global and regional cooperation in the development of environmental security represents another obvious area where the powers, including China, can find ample room for understanding in the construction of a new world order. But all of these, and others such as immigration, represent challenges that cannot be faced without a strategic approach which, in European countries such as Spain, is made impossible by the political erosion caused by localism and political polarisation.

The third consideration is that, although the interests of the major powers will determine their actions, as the announcement of the creation of AUKUS has shown, the promotion of values with global impact will continue to indicate to public opinion which countries and which of their leaders are trustworthy dignitaries for the international order. Human rights, respect for diversity and the pursuit of equity have in the past been benchmarks for advancing progress and stability. Giving up on allies who share identical principles about people and society is a mistake that tactical urgency should not be forgotten. The United States' unilateral decision to intervene in Iraq in 2003 provoked the rejection of some European countries. And its liberal hegemonist doctrine was never sufficiently contrasted by the partners of liberal democracies, and some called it Americanism. The United States cannot, after 20 years of global leadership, fall into the audacity of building a solid and lasting order, designing it exclusively to suit itself, nor can Biden risk losing a reliable leader like President Macron.