On 15 September, 2021, the United States announced a security pact with the UK and Australia in the Asia-Pacific (Indo-Pacific). This pact allows Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines (by using technology provided by the US) and covers AI, cyber capabilities, undersea technologies among others. Being one of the countries’ biggest defense partnership in decades, it is not shocking that some countries have voiced their disapproval.
Although not explicitly said by US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minster Boris Johnson and Australia Prime Minster Scott Morrison, the pact is seen as an effort to counter China, who has condemned the pact as “extremely irresponsible,” and “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race.” China’s embassy in Washington even went as far as accusing the US, UK and Australia of a “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.”
China is not only one voicing issue with it, as France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drain called it a “stab in the back.” France lost a $66 billion agreement with Australia to purchase and build submarines because of this pact. As a result, they announced the decision to “immediately recall the two ambassadors to the United States and Australia to Paris for consolations.” France’s reactions was criticized by Generation Frexit (hypothetical French withdrawal from the European Union) leader Charles-Henry Gallois. He reminded French President Emmanuel Macron that allies Germany and Sweden were the first to try and win the deal with Australia.
Almost three weeks later, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France to discuss ways to overcome the rift over the deal. The two discussed possible joint projects that could be announced by Macron and Biden later this month. Later this week, U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, will meet with his French counterpart Emmanuel Bonne “as part of [their] ongoing consultations on shared bilateral and regional interest.”
The countries most affected by this pact would be the other Indo-Pacific countries. Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi voiced his support of the framework as continuing efforts to create a free and open region. Indonesia and Singapore also voiced support, but expressed concern the agreement would lead to an arms race, jeopardizing the obligations of maintaining peace, stability and security.
Looking at the different countries reactions to the AUKUS pact, it shows how big of an impact these pacts and agreements can have, and how important it is to maintain good relations with pre-existing relations. The U.S.’s quick response to France’s anger could be key to ensuring the future success of the United States – France relations. Yet what could have prevented Frances’ ire was transparency from the three countries, especially the U.S. It is worth noting, however, that when it comes to international security, transparency is a very fine line, and is not always a viable option. Thus it is incredibly important to reconsider what transparency means at an international-level. Australia being quick to reach out the their Indo-Pacific allies (Japan, Indonesia and Singapore) would be an example of ideal transparency. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne was smart in informing her counterparts in these countries as it will help keep and continue building the trust. Although this pact is still relatively new, and only time will tell what affects this will have, it is already clear that transparency is vital to keep relations with the allies.