Australian news, and some related international items

Aukus nuclear submarine deal loophole prompts proliferation fears

The scheme allowing nuclear materials in Australian submarines worries experts about the precedent of safeguard removal

Julian Borger in Washington, Guardian, 4 Mar 23

The Aukus scheme announced on Monday in San Diego represents the first time a loophole in the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has been used to transfer fissile material and nuclear technology from a nuclear weapons state to a non-weapons state.

The loophole is paragraph 14, and it allows fissile material utilized for non-explosive military use, like naval propulsion, to be exempt from inspections and monitoring by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It makes arms controls experts nervous because it sets a precedent that could be used by others to hide highly enriched uranium, or plutonium, the core of a nuclear weapon, from international oversight………….

To mitigate the proliferation risk, the Australians have agreed not to have a training reactor on their territory, but train their submariners in the US and the UK instead. Australia will not enrich or reprocess the spent nuclear fuel, and the fissile material provided by the US and the UK will come in welded units that do not have to be refueled in their lifetime. Australia has undertaken not to acquire the equipment necessary to chemically reprocess spent fuel that would make it usable in a weapon.

…………. James Acton, co-director of the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said. “But I still think there is real and concrete harm done.

“The primary problem with Aukus was always the precedent set, that Australia would be the first country that would remove nuclear fuel from safeguards for use in naval reactors,” Acton added. “My fear was never that Australia would misuse that fuel, but that other countries would invoke Aukus as a precedent for removing nuclear fuel from safeguards.”

“The primary problem with Aukus was always the precedent set, that Australia would be the first country that would remove nuclear fuel from safeguards for use in naval reactors,” Acton added. “My fear was never that Australia would misuse that fuel, but that other countries would invoke Aukus as a precedent for removing nuclear fuel from safeguards.”

March 15, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

$200billion nuclear submarine deal could cost the average Australian taxpayer about $13,000.

A $200billion nuclear submarine deal could cost the average Australian
taxpayer about $13,000. This is effectively the equivalent of every
Australian buying a new small car – an astonishing outlay on just a handful
of boats. But experts say the deal – despite the extraordinary price tag –
could be worth every cent.

Daily Mail 13th March 2023

March 15, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

I just want a Ferrari, sorry, a nuclear submarine, no matter the cost

by Rex Patrick | Mar 14, 2023 more

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has just committed Australia to spending $368 billion on somewhere between three and five second-hand US Virginia Class submarines, and a follow on build of eight next generation British AUKUS nuclear submarines. It’s a strategic blunder, writes former submariner Rex Patrick, and it’s not even going to happen the way the PM has suggested.

I just want a Ferrari. All my mates tell me they’re great cars. Never mind that, financially, I’m already struggling to keep up with the house repayments and, over time, the wife and kids are going to have to miss out on some of life’s niceties and even essentials; no orthodontic treatment to straighten my daughter’s teeth, no tutor to assist my son through extension maths and the wife won’t be able to afford to go back to uni to get her masters.

But I’ll look good cruising down Jetty Road at Glenelg in my shiny red machine. Now, just between you and me, the Ferrari’s not so good for going off-road or towing the family caravan, but hey, otherwise it is a great car.

Nuclear capability

Coming back from my Ferrari dream, it’s true that nuclear submarines are good. I know, because I’ve spent time at sea on them.

There’s nothing like taking the submarine down to 200 metres and turning up the power on the reactor to get to 30 knots, and then staying there, knowing you have almost unlimited power. It allows you to deploy great distances, arriving quickly. That’s important for the power projecting nations that sit as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council; China, France, Russia, the UK and the US all have nuclear submarines.

Our first priority is supposed to be defence of Australia, and our Defence Force should be configured for that, first and foremost. Even those who think we must automatically join the US in a war against China need to understand US strategy and what Australia’s role would likely be.

China depends on imports for 72% of its oil consumption, and the overwhelming majority of China’s oil imports must pass through maritime chokepoints over which the United States has significant influence. China’s dependency is complicated by the fact an overwhelming portion of its energy imports come from its west. 43% of its oil is sourced in the Persian Gulf, 25% from the Gulf of Aden and Africa and 9% from the Americas, with the overwhelming majority of that passing through the Malacca Straits. Security of supply would be a significant weak point in any conflict China finds itself involved in with the US.

In time of conflict the United States Navy, perhaps in conjunction with European or other regional coalition partners, could secure the Straits of Hormuz. India, part of the Quad, could assist with operations from the Persian Gulf through to the Andaman Seas.

Indonesia, Malaysia and, particularly, Singapore would exercise control over the Malacca Straits with Indonesia and Australia jointly responsible for shutting down Chinese oil carriage through Sunda and Lombok (and up through Makassar Straits). With these routes controlled, the only remaining option for China would be to re-direct shipping around Southern Australia.

Australian submarines are not needed in the South China Sea. The US will rely on Japan’s 20 submarines, South Korea’s 23, and Vietnam’s six, and Malaysia’s two and Singapore’s six. Our submarines have a role to play in shutting down the Sunda and Lombok Straits, or Chinese ships passing through Australian waters. This is a role that can be carried out by far less expensive conventional submarines.

The pros and cons of going nuclear

Of course, it’s true to say that it’s handy to have a reactor when you are detected by enemy anti-submarine forces. Speed can be a very useful asset.

The flip side is that smaller conventional submarines are better performers in littoral waters where they can silently lie in wait, lay mines or covertly deploy Special Forces.

Unsustainable price

The purported cost of this program is “up to” $368 billion dollars. That’s an incredible amount of money to spend, and particularly on a single capability.

Australia has $970 billion dollars in gross debt. It will rise to a trillion dollars next financial year. Albanese says that out Defence budget will increase to 2.5% of GDP. That’s an extra $10 billion per annum, on top of a structural deficit of $50 billion a year, already rising to $70 billion.

With Stage 3 tax cuts set to kick in next year, and revenue from coal and gas exports likely to decrease, it hard to work out how AUKUS will be paid for, other than by spending cuts.

Nation building spin

The Government has started to offset concerns about the spend and placate the punter by saying that this is a nation building project. But this is just spin.

Yes, shipbuilding creates trade jobs which can be utilised in a range of different industries other than defence. The same is true for the electronic engineers and software engineers that work on submarine combat systems.

But as for where a lot of workforce investment will take place, it will be in nuclear technology. This investment will not translate into benefits for the Australian economy, because there are no plans for us to have a civil nuclear industry. Even if Australia were to take a decision to go there, the US will not grant the nuclear technology release or transfer approval.

Any investment in a nuclear workforce will be a sunk Defence cost.

Dismantling of our sovereign submarine build capability

We will see an Australian flagged submarine in our waters in the early 2030’s. At that time we will start decommissioning Collins Class submarines and the workforce in Adelaide, who carry out full cycle dockings and life of type extension. That activity will stop, and 700 jobs will go.

The Government tells us that we will start building next generation SSN AUKUS submarines in 2040. But they are wrong. Once the Adelaide workforce is disbanded, we won’t rebuild a submarine build workforce. We will just buy an AUKUS submarine from the UK, or perhaps more US Virginia class boats instead.

Opportunity cost

There is a real tension building to our north. We need to have a Defence Force that can deter and, if that fails, fight.

This multi-billion dollar program will come at a great opportunity cost. What significant other capabilities do we miss out on as we fund this program? In that respect there is tragedy in the way we are moving forward.

Will it happen?

We’ve seen our future submarine go from an Australian “Son of Collins” under Rudd, to a Japanese submarine under Abbot, to a French submarine under Turnbull, to a US and UK submarine under Morrison and Albanese. The reality is that as Governments change moving forward, and that includes in the US and UK, the program will change again. And that’s not to mention significant changes that could take place in our geo-strategic circumstances.

In 2040, when we are purportedly going to start building an AUKUS submarine here in Australia, Anthony Albanese will be 77. You and I will be reading the second edition of his political memoirs, picked up from the discount bin at the front of the local bookstore. There’ll be a different program underway.

I’d love a new Ferrari, but I’d have to pay for it, so it just won’t happen. Unconstrained by the need to pay for it themselves, the Prime Minister, supported by a few Admirals, just wants nuclear submarines.

March 15, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Warring Peace: The AUKUS Submarine Announcement

The speech by the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, was more than a touch embarrassing. It certainly did its bit to bury conventional understandings of sovereignty.

The US President could only express satisfaction at such displays of unflagging, wobbly free obedience

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who also holds the defence portfolio, was a quivering sight.

the Alice in Wonderland quality to the AUKUS agreement is bound to paper over that inconvenience. For a warring peace is exactly what awaits.

March 14, 2023 by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

History is filled with failed planners and plans, threats thought of that did not eventuate, and threats unthought of that found their way into the books. The AUKUS agreement is an attempt to inflate a threat by developing a number of fictional capabilities in an effort to combat an inflated adversary.

The checklist of imminent failure for this security pact between the United States, the UK and Australia is impressive and comically grotesque. In terms of the nuclear-powered submarine component, there are issues of expertise, infrastructure, hurdles of technology transfer, the hobbling feature of domestic politics, and national considerations. There are also matters of irresponsible costs, of the exhaustion of public money best spent elsewhere.

To put it bluntly, Australia and all its resources spanning across a number of industries will be co-opted in this enterprise against a phantom enemy, subjugating an already subordinate state to the US war-making enterprise.

All of this was laid bare at San Diego’s Point Loma Naval Base on March 13, where the US imperium, backed up by a number of lickspittles from Australia and the United Kingdom, betrayed the cause of peace and announced to the world that war with China was not only a possibility but distinctly probable.

Central to the project is a staggering outlay of A$368 billion for up to thirteen vessels over three decades. Canberra will purchase at least three US-manufactured nuclear submarines while contributing “significant additional resources” to US shipyards. (Bully for the US builders.) Given that the United States is unable to make up its own inventory of Virginia class nuclear submarines at this stage, the purchase will be second hand, a point which is bound to niggle members of Congress. Two more vessels are also being thrown in as a possibility, should the “need” arise.

During this time, design and construction will take place on a new submarine dubbed the SSN-AUKUS, exploiting the work already undertaken by the UK on replacing the Astute-class submarines. It will be, according to the White House, “based upon the United Kingdom’s next generation SSN design while incorporating cutting edge US submarine technologies, and will be built and deployed by both Australia and the United Kingdom.”

This point was also reiterated by the UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. “The Royal Navy will operate the same submarines as the Australian Navy and we’ll share components and parts with the US Navy.” Five of these are intended for the Royal Australian Navy by the middle of the 2050s, with one submarine being produced every two years from the early 2040s.

The speech by the Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, was more than a touch embarrassing. It certainly did its bit to bury conventional understandings of sovereignty. “This will be an Australian sovereign capability, commanded by the Royal Australian Navy and sustained by Australians in Australian shipyards, with construction to begin within the decade.” The lexically challenged are truly in charge.

And what about the submarine personnel themselves? Australian submariners as yet unacquainted with nuclear technology would be trained in the US. “I am proud to confirm that they are in the top 30 per cent of their class.” Can the Australians do a bit better than that?

Continue reading

March 15, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Australian Strategic Policy Institute among the group of crooked “Think Tanks” funded by weapons companies in order to promote war.


By Amanda Yee, Orinoco Tribune., March 12, 2023

From producing reports and analysis for U.S. policy-makers, to enlisting representatives to write op-eds in corporate media, to providing talking heads for corporate media to interview and give quotes, think tanks play a fundamental role in shaping both U.S. foreign policy and public perception around that foreign policy. Leaders at top think tanks like the Atlantic Council and Hudson Institute have even been called upon to set focus priorities for the House Intelligence Committee. However, one look at the funding sources of the most influential think tanks reveals whose interests they really serve: that of the U.S. military and its defense contractors.

This ecosystem of overlapping networks of government institutions, think tanks, and defense contractors is where U.S. foreign policy is derived, and a revolving door exists among these three sectors. For example, before Biden-appointed head of the Pentagon Lloyd Austin took his current position, he sat on the Board of Directors at Raytheon. Before Austin’s appointment, current defense policy advisor Michèle Flournoy was also in the running for the position. Flournoy sat on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, another major Pentagon defense contractor. These same defense contractors also work together with think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies to organize conferences attended by national security officials.

On top of all this, since the end of the Cold War, intelligence analysis by the CIA and NSA has increasingly been contracted out to these same defense companies like BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin, among others — a major conflict of interest. In other words, these corporations are in the position to produce intelligence reports which raise the alarm on U.S. “enemy” nations so they can sell more military equipment!

And of course these are the same defense companies that donate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to think tanks. Given all this, is it any wonder the U.S. government is simultaneously flooding billions of dollars of weaponry into an unwinnable proxy war in Ukraine while escalating a Cold War into a potential military confrontation with China?

The funding to these policy institutes steers the U.S. foreign policy agenda. To give you a scope of how these contributions determine national security priorities, listed below are six of some of the most influential foreign policy think tanks, along with how much in contributions they’ve received from “defense” companies in the last year.

All funding information for these policy institutes was gathered from the most recent annual report that was available online. Also note that this list is compiled from those that make this information publicly available — many think tanks, such as the hawkish American Enterprise Institute, do not release donation sources publicly.

1 – Center for Strategic and International Studies
According to their 2020 annual report

$500,000+: Northrop Grumman Corporation

$200,000-$499,999: General Atomics (energy and defense corporation that manufactures Predator drones for the CIA), Lockheed Martin, SAIC (provides information technology services to U.S. military)

$100,000-$199,999: Bechtel, Boeing, Cummins (provides engines and generators for military equipment), General Dynamics, Hitachi (provides defense technology), Hanwha Group (South Korean aerospace and defense company), Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc. (largest military shipbuilding company in the United States), Mitsubishi Corporation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (provides intelligence and information technology services to U.S. military), Qualcomm, Inc. (semiconductor company that produces microchips for the U.S. military), Raytheon, Samsung (provides security technology to the U.S. military), SK Group (defense technology company)

$65,000-$99,999: Hyundai Motor (produces weapons systems), Oracle

$35,000-$64,999: BAE Systems

2 – Center for a New American Security
From fiscal year 2021-2022

$500,000+: Northrop Grumman Corporation

$250,000-$499,999: Lockheed Martin

$100,000-$249,000: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Neal Blue (Chairman and CEO of General Atomics), Qualcomm, Inc., Raytheon, Boeing.

$50,000-$99,000: BAE Systems, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel Corporation (provides aerospace and defense technology), Elbit Systems of America (aerospace and defense company), General Dynamics, Palantir Technologies

3 – Hudson Institute
According to their 2021 annual report

$100,000+: General Atomics, Linden Blue (co-owner and Vice Chairman of General Atomics), Neal Blue, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman.

$50,000-$99,000: BAE Systems, Boeing, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

The Comprehensive Crisis in the US and the Revolutionary Way Forward

4 – Atlantic Council
According to their 2021 annual report

$250,000-$499,000: Airbus, Neal Blue, SAAB (provides defense equipment)

$100,000-$249,000: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon

$50,000-$99,000: SAIC

5 – International Institute for Strategic Studies
Based in London. From fiscal year 2021-2022

£100,000+: Airbus, BAE Systems, Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Rolls Royce (provides military airplane engines)

£25,000-£99,999: Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Northrop Grumman Corporation

6 – Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Note: ASPI has been one of the primary purveyors of the “Uyghur genocide” narrative

From their 2021-2022 annual report

$186,800: Thales Australia (aerospace and defense corporation)

$100,181: Boeing Australia

$75,927: Lockheed Martin

$20,000: Omni Executive (aerospace and defense corporation)

$27,272: SAAB Australia

March 15, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment