UPDATED: The new U.S.-U.K-Australia military pact can be seen as a further indication of the nervousness in Washington, London and Canberra over the further decline of Anglo-Saxon power, writes Joe Lauria.
Update adds French reaction.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
President Joe Biden announced a new defense pact between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, clearly aimed at China, during White House remarks on Wednesday in a further sign of the decline of Anglo-Saxon power.
The pact, to be known as AUUKUS, will make it easier for the three Anglo-Saxon nations to share knowledge and capabilities in artificial intelligence, cyber, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities, Politico first reported. Australia will have its first nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarines built as part of the deal.
Biden was joined in Washington for the announcement via video link by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (watch here.) The Australian defense and foreign ministers were in Washington for meetings with their American counterparts earlier on Wednesday.
Australia had already had a $66 billion deal with France to build its submarine fleet, a deal Australia has now abandoned in favor of its English-speaking partners. France reacted bitterly to the move, cancelling a gala event in Washington, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling it a “knife in the back.” He told Franceinfo radio that “the American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France” was a “regrettable decision” that “shows a lack of coherence,” adding that it was a “unilateral, brutal, unpredictable decision,” that reminded him of Biden’s predecessor.
The Unspoken Target
Though China was not mentioned by Biden, Johnson and Morrison, implications of the new pact appear clearly aimed at Beijing amid increasing tension in the South China Sea, where the three Anglo-Saxon nations have deployed war ships. The HMS Queen Elizabeth entered the sea in early August, prompting protest from China, which called it a “colonial” maneuver. Tellingly, the British aircraft carrier is named after Queen Elizabeth I, the monarch at the start of the British Empire.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reacted on Thursday, saying: “The nuclear submarine cooperation among the US, the UK & Australia severely undermines regional peace & stability, intensifies the arms race and undercuts international non-proliferation efforts. It’s highly irresponsible and shows double standards on using nuclear export for geopolitical games.”
After Biden withdrew the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan last month, he said in a White House address that the U.S. would be turning even greater military attention to Russia and China, which have been growing closer economically and militarily over the past few years.
The defeat in Afghanistan was a major blow to the U.S. and its Western allies in the “great game” competition over control of Eurasia, and a major win for China, which was missing U.S.-occupied Afghanistan in its Belt and Road Initiative, an economic plan to link Eurasian nations.
As Alfred McCoy wrote in an article published today on Consortium News:
“With a trillion dollars invested in Eurasia and another trillion in Africa, China is engaged in nothing less than history’s largest infrastructure project. It’s crisscrossing those three continents with rails and pipelines, building naval bases around the southern rim of Asia, and ringing the whole tricontinental world island with a string of 40 major commercial ports.
Such a geopolitical strategy has become Beijing’s battering ram to crack open Washington’s control over Eurasia and thereby challenge what’s left of its global hegemony.
America’s unequalled military air and sea armadas still allow it rapid movement above and around those continents, as the mass evacuation from Kabul showed so forcefully. But the slow, inch-by-inch advance of China’s land-based, steel-ribbed infrastructure across the deserts, plains, and mountains of that world island represents a far more fundamental form of future control.”
Thus the new U.S.-U.K-Australia pact can be seen as a further indication of the nervousness in Washington, London and Canberra over the further decline of Anglo-Saxon power, which has dominated the world for the past four centuries.
The United States took over the mantle of running the English-speaking empire after World War Two, when Britain formally ended its empire and hitched its disappearing hegemony to U.S. global dominance.
The writing is on the wall for the Anglo-Saxon powers, as it sees the world slipping through its fingers, prompting ever greater aggressiveness, rather than face economic and geo-political reality. Instead of seeking to peacefully join a multilateral world as equal partners, it is turning to ever greater military alliance to desperately try to hold onto its fading power.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former UN correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London and began his professional work as a stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @unjoe