In December 2021, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia announced a defensive nuclear agreement called AUKUS. Recently, they shared a joint plan to create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. This initiative is intended to counteract China’s increasing dominance in the Indo-Pacific region. The question that arises is whether the Aukus agreement increases the risk of a nuclear war between China, the United States, and their respective allies.
The agreement, which is called Aukus, involves the United States providing at least three nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. Additionally, the allies will collaborate to establish a new fleet equipped with advanced technologies.
The United States has taken steps to strengthen its alliances with NATO countries in Europe, as well as Japan and South Korea. In the Indo-Pacific region, the US has bolstered the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue Alliance, which includes Australia, India, and Japan. The Aukus Nuclear Alliance, which involves the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom, has also been established. These actions have made Beijing and Moscow uneasy, which warn that such moves could trigger a new cold war involving all parties. According to a report by the Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV, citing a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping, assuring that: “China and Russia need to take more joint measures to protect our security and interests more effectively, and that there is no formal alliance between the two countries.” However, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” confirmed to his Russian counterpart, Putin, that “this relationship goes beyond even the alliance between the two parties”. Accordingly, the Chinese and Russian presidents began to form an “independent financial infrastructure”, to reduce their heavy dependence on Western banks and their exposure to punitive measures from the West. Through their proposal to hold a possible tripartite summit with India, it began with the visit of Russian President “Putin” to the capital, New Delhi, and his meeting with Indian Prime Minister “Narendra Modi”, and then the two parties’ agreement for India to obtain the S-500 missile system. All of these Russian and Chinese moves are to obstruct US influence in response to its existing alliances against them.
China has criticized the extensive collaborative effort, cautioning that the Aukus nuclear defense agreement involving the United States, Australia, and Britain is “a wrong path and a threat to regional and international security.” China’s UN delegation has also alleged that the Western allies, with the US at the helm, have impeded attempts to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The creation of multiple nuclear security and defense alliances, including the Aukus agreement aimed at enhancing NATO’s infrastructure in Asia, will likely result in a long-term conflict, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s caution against nuclear proliferation in relation to the US, Australia, and Britain’s nuclear-powered submarine program.
The Aukus nuclear agreement poses a significant threat to China as it marks the first instance of full coordination between the American, British, and Australian fleets in the Indo-Pacific region.
This slogan of preserving freedom of navigation across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans is viewed by China as a direct challenge to its regional influence and a danger to regional security. The Aukus agreement also includes plans for the US and the UK to establish a base with a limited number of nuclear submarines in Western Australia in 2027, with Canberra set to purchase three American Virginia-class submarines and potentially two more from Washington. This development further heightens China’s anger and fear, as it is seen as a direct threat to its safety and security and is expected to result in long-standing confrontations between China and the Aukus signatories.
China has warned that the Aukus agreement could trigger an arms race in the region and set back efforts to curb nuclear proliferation. China is also wary of the growing proximity between Taiwan and the US, given America’s longstanding military support for Taiwan against China. Chinese President Xi Jinping has accused the US of spearheading Western efforts to contain and encircle China. In response, the US has pointed to China’s threats to invade democratic Taiwan, which has raised concerns among several Asia-Pacific countries. The US has emphasized the need to protect the region surrounding China, given the nuclear threat posed by North Korea to its Japanese and South Korean neighbors and the overall security of the region. The Aukus defense nuclear agreement represents a significant development for Australia’s military capabilities and marks a major leap for the country. As a close ally of the US, Australia is the second country, after the UK, to acquire Washington’s nuclear technology. The new submarines are faster and have greater operational capabilities than Australia’s current fleet of diesel-powered submarines, enabling the country to launch long-range strikes against its enemies for the first time. As part of the Aukus agreement, Australian Navy personnel will be sent to American and British submarine bases to receive training on how to operate the new nuclear submarines. This move marks a significant step forward in the tripartite partnership between the US, UK, and Australia, signed in 2021.
However US President “Joe Biden” has denied the accusations made by China and others, stating that the Aukus agreement is intended to promote peace and stability in the region from the American perspective. He also clarified that the nuclear-powered submarines under the agreement are not equipped with nuclear weapons. During a meeting with the UK and Australian ministers, Rishi Sunak and Anthony Albanese, in San Diego, California, Biden emphasized that the agreement would not compromise Australia’s commitment to being a nuclear-weapon-free country.
The last Aukus (Nuclear defense agreement) has raised concerns among analysts and policymakers regarding the potential consequences for China and Russia. Some argue that the United States’ actions could lead to a global military and nuclear conflict between the United States, China, and Russia. The US has been accused of reckless behavior in the foreign arena, creating alliances directed against these two countries, such as the Aukus agreement and the Quadruple Alliance with Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia. The implications of these alliances and their potential impact on global security remain a subject of debate and concern.
The author is a student of International Relations, Having an interest in the Geopolitical landscape of the Indo-pacific Region. He tweets @MwaliJan1