Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

What the nuclear-powered submarine deal really means

Australia has made a very poor deal with its great power ally and has once again demonstrated that the framing of its Defence policy has little to do with national security and everything to do with burnishing Australia’s faithfulness to the US and the ANZUS alliance.

In this instance, the US has schooled Australia in the conduct of foreign policy – states advance their own interests, even at the expense of their friends. Well done, President Biden!

Australia has made a very poor deal with its great power ally and has once again demonstrated that the framing of its Defence policy has little to do with national security and everything to do with burnishing Australia’s faithfulness to the US and the ANZUS alliance.

The Saturday Paper, Albert Palazzo  Adjunct professor at UNSW Canberra. He was a former director of war studies for the Australian Army. 18 Mar 23,

The deal is done. On Monday morning in San Diego, the leaders of the United States, Australia and Britain jointly revealed the key details of Australia’s road to becoming a nuclear power – of sorts. President Joe Biden announced that the US will sell Australia three to five used Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines sometime in the 2030s. The three countries will also design a future boat, the tri-flavour SSN-AUKUS class, which will enter service from some time in the 2040s and extend into the 2050s. Australia will receive about five AUKUS boats by about 2055.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked President Biden for his administration’s willingness to share its nuclear propulsion technology, before – perhaps inevitably – spruiking the jobs that the program will create across the nation. Both leaders stressed that Australia’s submarines will be nuclear-powered, not nuclear-armed. The cost is an estimated $368 billion for an uncertain number of warships whose final arrival may be as long as four decades away.

What Albanese neglected to mention is that the deal effectively makes a massive shift to the foundation of Australia’s long-established Defence policy. …………………………

in this instance the submarine pact creates risks that, when combined, will actually make Australia less safe.

The government has been very clear that the target of the submarine acquisition is an increasingly assertive China. However, China is also Australia’s largest economic partner and responsible for much of the nation’s present wealth. In acquiring these weapons, Australia has sent an unmistakable message to its biggest customer. One risk Australia has accepted is that the submarine deal creates enough jobs in the shipbuilding sector to offset possible losses in mining, agriculture, education and tourism if China decides to spend elsewhere.

“Monday’s announcement brings an end to 70 years of a highly effective Defence policy, without any discussion with the Australian public or seemingly any awareness within the government … The submarine pact creates risks that, when combined, will actually make Australia less safe.”

Further, the pact is unlikely to result in greater physical security for Australia. Several more Australian communities, in addition to those in Pine Gap, Exmouth and Darwin, will find themselves on a Chinese target list. The government is yet to announce the home of these submarines, but wherever that is will become a legitimate target, as will support facilities.

Of greater significance to Australia’s security is the false claim that these submarines will enable us to deter China from taking actions that are not in our interest. Unfortunately, capability does not equate to deterrence. Rather it is perception of deterrence by the adversary that matters most. If at some point in the early 2040s Australia has all five of its Virginia-class boats within striking distance of Chinese targets, combined they will be able to launch – at most – 60 Tomahawk missiles. Australia may succeed in blowing up some Chinese missile launchers, cratering a runway or two, or even collapsing a few bridges or power plants, but this is a country with thousands of targets and plenty of physical redundancy. Psychologically, the Chinese people are strong: they endured the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution without cracking. For China, 60 missiles will barely be felt. These submarines may awe Australia’s leaders and national security commentators but they are not a credible deterrent against a power as large as China.

And though the missiles may not be felt, they will unfortunately be noticed. China will respond to Australia’s piffling attempt at deterrence with a larger number of missiles against our much smaller number of critical targets. We’ll feel it, alright.

In their glee to get these weapons, commentators seem to skate over the immensity of the nuclear submarine project’s cost. Admittedly, they are highly capable and powerful weapons, but $368 billion, even spread over decades, will reverberate through the Defence budget and beyond. The government will either have to massively increase expenditure from the present $48 billion (in this financial year), reduce expenditure on other projects or eliminate them entirely. The result will be that the ADF will remain a boutique force, but one now dominated by the nuclear-powered submarine niche, while the land and air forces will see reductions.

The acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines poses a risk to Australia’s sovereignty, too. ………………..

To succeed, Australia will need to rely on the US and Britain to assist in developing a usable and safe capability. Instead of increasing self-reliance, these ships will actually magnify dependence on Australia’s allies. ….

If this decision were to result in a larger allied submarine fleet, then the change in Defence policy and the taking of so many risks might be worthwhile. But it won’t. When Australia buys its three to five Virginias, it will simply reduce the US inventory. There is no fleet increase. It is simply a change-of-flag deal in which a highly experienced operator of nuclear submarines sells a part of its fleet to an L-plater. ………..

…….. Australia will also contribute $3 billion to improvements at US shipyards – again, increasing its commitment to the alliance.

……….Australia has made a very poor deal with its great power ally and has once again demonstrated that the framing of its Defence policy has little to do with national security and everything to do with burnishing Australia’s faithfulness to the US and the ANZUS alliance.

The submarine deal is more than just a function of Australia’s need to be seen to support the alliance, however. It is also because the US visualises security challenges only in military terms. Both the US and Australia are bypassing other levers of government power, such as trade and diplomacy, in the rush to solve a problem by force of arms alone. Until both governments broaden their definitions of national security strategy to include more than military affairs, this will no doubt continue.

Australia’s journey to nuclear-powered submarines will take a risk-filled route that will reshape our traditional Defence policy into one that increases alliance commitments yet offers less security. In this instance, the US has schooled Australia in the conduct of foreign policy – states advance their own interests, even at the expense of their friends. Well done, President Biden!  https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/opinion/topic/2023/03/18/what-the-nuclear-powered-subs-deal-really-means

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

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