AUKUS: An agreement beyond security cooperation

The consequences of the new pact will have an impact on NATO's own structure
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Officially, the Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. At least that was the turning point in the disappearance of the invisible but iron barrier that divided the world into capitalist and communist systems, with the only connecting thread being a red telephone that connected Washington directly with Moscow.

Thirty-three years after the fall of the Wall, the ashes of the former Soviet Union sustain the Russian Federation under Putin, who in his first speech stressed that "Russia was founded as a supercentralised state from the very beginning. This is inherent in our genetic code, in our traditions and in the mentality of the people. 

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The premise that the Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall is increasingly out of touch with reality if we look at today's international order. Almost three decades later, what distinguishes the official distinction between being in a Cold War or not is nothing more than the name. Alongside this, China's emergence as a major player on the podium of world powers must be added to the fray.

With the incursion of China, which has been quietly but effectively building up enormous influence and power in vast world territories such as Africa and Asia, Russia, a power that was gradually losing some of its influence, has been able to see in the Asian giant an opportunity to continue to maintain its position in the competition for world power.

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For the first time, China has established itself as the main rival of the United States, a country that since the end of the Second World War has developed a set of foreign policy doctrines and policies that have underlined the almost omnipresent presence of the US in Latin America (before the revolutions), Europe and in key geo-strategic parts of Asia.

However, the US has been willing to move away from its expansionary policies to focus on the "America First" recovered by Donald Trump, or so it seemed.

New fronts after AUKUS 

 The latest example of the everlasting rivalry between the West and the East was the signing of the AUKUS agreement, a historic agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to "preserve the fabric of engagement and deterrence in the Indo-Pacific". Biden almost unwittingly brought back the term "deterrence", coined in the context of the Cold War, to frame a conflict that is, exists and is far from over.

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PHOTO/AFP  - US President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with the British and Australian Prime Ministers.

The purpose of deterrence is to threaten the adversary so that he does not commit the initiation of a major conflict, and so this strategy has remained in place in many areas, especially those relating to nuclear weapons.

The AUKUS commits the United States to regularly supply Australia with the technology needed to build and develop nuclear-powered submarines, the first time since 1958 that the US has provided such material for the construction of nuclear-powered submarines.

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In this way, Australia would become the seventh country to have this type of weaponry, after the signatories to the agreement, France, China, Russia and India. These countries are not insignificant given Australia's geographical position, bordered to the south and west by the Indian Ocean and to the east by the Pacific Ocean.

"The effort we are launching today will help maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region," the White House said in a statement, further underlining China's misgivings.

However, this agreement has not only angered China, one of the most affected countries. France, which had an agreement with Australia for the sale of 12 propulsion submarines, valued at 50 billion euros, has been directly affected by the new deal. 

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REUTERS/JASON LEE  -  Chinese Navy nuclear submarine Long 11 March takes part in a naval parade off the eastern port city of Qingdao.

With the appearance of AUKUS, an agreement which, although we knew about it a few days ago, is notorious for its much older generation, France ceases to be the protagonist in the sale of the multi-million euro submarines to see the French company Naval Group replaced by Lockheed Martin, the company in charge of manufacturing and selling the ships.

After being "a unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision, which is very similar to what Trump did", according to French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Emmanuel Macron remained in a diplomatic silence that has lasted 24 hours: France has recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia for consultations for acts of "exceptional gravity", as they have pointed out.

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PHOTO/AFP  -   Emmanuel Macron, President of France

A country's recall of its ambassadors for consultations is the step prior to an official rupture of relations, and France has made this clear with its decision. On the other hand, France's incredulity has been compounded by the European Union itself, which has already confirmed with statements by Josep Borrell that it is unaware of the implementation of this agreement. Statements that further demonstrate the European Union's limited role in any area of foreign policy. 

Distrust of the West

The AUKUS pact has caused a global uproar as it is much more than an agreement, it is a statement and a total representation of how the world order is organised. 

Thus, reactions have also been issued from the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries, recently shaken by the withdrawal of international troops from their terrain. In addition, the Gulf region remains tense because of the threat from Iran, a clear rival of the United States, and the pact itself has repercussions for the direction of US strategy in the region.

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International observers have already claimed that France is discovering, as have the Gulf Arab states, that the US, regardless of which president is in office at the time, "prioritises its interests whether or not it takes into account the interests of its allies". Moreover, they point out that France has thus discovered that "the new US administration is pursuing its interests" and that "the submarine deal is just a front for other battles for influence, especially on the African continent".

In this sense, AUKUS could support the Gulf states' efforts to continue building alliances with Europe, and in the same way, the Gulf could achieve an atmosphere of common interest that balances "security and economics" in the area.

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REUTERS/CARLOS BERRIA - US State Department Spokesman Ned Price

In the face of this possibility, the United States has sought to pre-empt this by relaxing its current relationship with France, stating that "France is a vital partner and our oldest ally, and we place the highest value on our relationship", said State Department spokesman Ned Price in a statement.

However, these reassuring words are not enough for Paris. In Canberra, they regret France's decision because of the high esteem in which they held diplomatic relations with the country. On the other hand, there has been no call for consultations with British ambassadors, as "we do not need to consult with our (British) ambassador to find out what to do or to draw conclusions", according to Le Drian.

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AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY  -  President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a bilateral meeting before the G7 summit on June 10, 2021, in Carbis Bay, England.

He added in a statement that "the cancellation of the project and the announcement of a new partnership with the United States on the possibility of future cooperation on nuclear-powered submarines constitute unacceptable behaviour between allies and partners". It added that the consequences of the agreement "directly affect our vision of our alliances and partnerships, and the importance of the Indo-Pacific region for Europe".

AUKUS has broken down the current structure of relations to create even more rivalries and open fronts. In this new agreement the US is once again making it clear that regardless of the other pawns, in the end there is only one winning horse.