Australian news, and some related international items

AUKUS subs deal binds us to a country that can change its mind on whim

Clinton Fernandes, Academic and former intelligence officer, SMH 18 Mar 23

The AUKUS $368 billion submarine deal announced this week sets Australia on a trajectory from which it will be very difficult to depart.

The deal, in which Australia purchases submarines from the US and UK, means that those countries’ future is now intertwined with ours for decades. The danger is that our defence force winds up as a component of the US armed forces rather than a sovereign force.

The key word here is interoperability: to operate inside the strategy of a superpower by contributing a well-chosen, niche capability to augment the larger force. AUKUS means that the Australian Defence Force will be interoperable, even interchangeable, with US and British forces.

………………. A sub-imperial consciousness is intrinsic to Australian conceptions of security and identity, and remains at the heart of AUKUS, taking precedence over other goals such as defence self-reliance and cost.

Interoperability under AUKUS means that the submarines will be co-built with Britain, based on a British design, using American nuclear propulsion technology, combat systems and weapons……………………………………

Long-term interoperability with the US Navy implies long-term political alignment with the US. Australia has placed a very big bet on two unknowns: that the US’s internal political stability and the US-led global order will endure into the 2070s. We don’t get to vote in US elections, however, and it is obvious that in recent years it has developed a sharply polarised domestic landscape and the prospect of democratic erosion. Australia must take out some form of political insurance in the event we find ourselves tied structurally to an illiberal, unreliable power that changes its stance from one administration to another – something radically different to the America we have long been used to.

Insisting on parliamentary authorisation before military deployments (other than when we’re attacked and must respond in self-defence) is a good way to preserve Australian sovereignty. 

….. But wars of choice and other overseas military deployments are an entirely different matter, as other US allies including Norway, Germany and the Netherlands recognise. The Australian parliament and people must remain in control, especially because of the geopolitical traps that lie in wait.

Submarine operations are arguably the most dangerous military operations of all, even in peacetime. Their margin for error is extremely small. A small fire, a flood, or a gas leak can have tragic consequences when you’re 200 metres underwater. Submarines are out of radio contact for extended periods of time. Their commanding officers are uniquely vulnerable to incidents that escalate quickly and seriously because they may be unable to seek guidance and direction from ashore. The diplomatic fallout and geopolitical consequences that result from such incidents can be grave.

“Sovereignty” isn’t just about operational control of a boat but about its principal purpose: in the case of AUKUS, that means fitting into the US combat force aimed at China…………..

Nor can we take for granted the US-led global order persisting into the 2070s. We are at the threshold of an emerging multipolar world order, one very different to the immediate aftermath of World War II, as well as to the US-led unipolar order after the Soviet Union dissolved itself. Our elected representatives must preserve genuine Australian sovereignty and ensure we are not automatically and irreversibly hitched to US objectives far into the future.


March 18, 2023 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international

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