21.12.2022 Author: Vladimir Terehov

First meeting of AUKUS defense ministers was held in Washington

On December 6, several events were held in Washington DC by the ministers of defense of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States with different composition of participants. Of these, the main event was the one that marked the beginning of the functioning of the ministerial level of AUKUS, formed in September 2021. The acronym AUKUS is a combination of the first letters of the above countries in order.

Taking advantage of the occasion, once again the author will make a few, as it seems, important remarks. First, it is still difficult to designate AUKUS in any way. The often used term “military-political alliance” is hardly suitable in this case (at least for the time being), since usually the participants in such unions are bound by a number of certain obligations. Which (as, for example, in the cases of NATO and the “American-Japanese Security Treaty”) are more or less clearly spelled out, and the relevant documents are ratified in the order established by each of the participants.

But in the report of the US administration about the formation of AUKUS, there are no words about any obligations assumed by the participants. However, there is an intention to speak out “for all that is good” and “against all that is bad” in the Indo-Pacific region. China would also sign a similar declaration, that is, a country (not indicated in this document, which is noteworthy), against which AUKUS is aimed.

Here it would be quite possible to hear an objection in the sense that “everything in the world today looks somehow indefinite.” Almost all current manifestations of Realpolitik (concrete, to emphasize), for example, wars, are labeled with the word “hybrid.” Which, nevertheless, are carried out in quite traditional ways, both in the economic and military-political spheres, and their consequences are also traditionally concrete (not at all “hybrid”) results.

In some local zones of the current stage of the “Great World Game,” the inhabitants of which are especially unlucky, these results are displayed by hundreds of thousands of dead people, destroyed infrastructure and millions of refugees. On a much larger area, the prospect of hunger and cold looms. This is nothing new either, since this was already observed during both World Wars in the previous century.

Responsibility for the indicated (again, concrete) “manifestations-results” of Realpolitik rests with genuine freaks from politics.  Almost model examples of them are those that have appeared in Kyiv and the limitrophic countries of Eastern Europe. Quite recently, unprecedented publicity in the field of the (pseudo)problem under the conditional name “The role of the human factor in climate change” (in fact, it is one of the forms of the current global war) was received by a teenage girl with obvious, as they say, “deviations.” It is noteworthy that it is freaks (and not real “actors”) who have almost completely filled the global public information space for years.

As for AUKUS, the question arises whether this alliance will be able to get rid of the current “hybrid” image in some perspective and turn into a completely traditional military-political union. The answer to it directly depends on how the relations between the two main participants of the current stage of the same “Great World Game” will develop. It is impossible to more or less fully and definitely predict the future. But some emerging trends should not be overlooked.

And the first thing one should pay attention to is the emerging course towards expanding the scope of AUKUS. In August US First Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman made a statement about the possibility of New Zealand joining AUKUS.

At first glance, it may seem that it corresponds to a simplified (popular, but incorrect) idea of “the culpable Anglo-Saxons (American version) who have created their own military-political union.” Like all other peoples, the American Anglo-Saxons are experiencing all the hardships of the ongoing global war. Quite a few of them already spend their evenings in cold dwellings, by candlelight, eating pet food. Only individuals with mental disabilities can publicly rejoice at these and other hardships of the “damned Anglo-Saxons-Americans-Germans-French-Poles …” and other “age-old Russophobes.”

The artificial construct of “Russophobia,” which does not stand up to elementary criticism, serves the same purpose of simplifying the realities of both history and the current situation in the world. In the history of any state, it is possible to “find,” as well as “necessarily” interpret enough facts to accuse some neighbors of “rooted phobias.” For example, it is easy for France to do this in relation to Great Britain and Germany. And it also works vice versa. But responsible statesmen and professional historians should not follow primitive propaganda and everyday phobias.

So far, the Canadian Anglo-Saxons have not shown any intention to join AUKUS. For a fairly obvious reason, related to the quite possible negative consequences of the presence in their country of the “French factor.” Which can “work” in a negative way, despite the recent efforts made by the Australian Anglo-Saxons in order to level the consequences of the well-known (anti-French orientation) circumstances of forming this alliance. These “circumstances” formed the main content of the Joint Statement, made following the results of the AUKUS defense ministers meeting in Washington.

France’s resentment against the “allies,” due to the same “circumstances,” apparently, has not disappeared anywhere. This is evidenced by the recent acrimonious-skeptical remarks of President Emmanuel Macron regarding the prospects for AUKUS and the nature of its influence on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Under these conditions, it would be rather reckless for the leadership of Canada to announce its intention to join AUKUS. Too many efforts have been made in order to smooth out the (also centuries-old) Anglo-French contradictions, in this case, on the territory of the country. Of these, perhaps the main measure was to ensure the preservation of conditions for a comfortable, compact residence of the French minority, as well as the functioning of bilingualism throughout the country.

And it will definitely be impossible to talk about the “Anglo-Saxon” appearance of AUKUS in the event of a completely possible entry into this alliance of Japan, whose role is constantly growing in all processes developing in the Indo-Pacific region. So far, however, there has been talk of Japan’s involvement in the functioning of the bilateral US-Australian component of AUKUS.

But, taking into account the continuous expansion of the scale of Tokyo’s cooperation in the field of defense with each of the three participants in this loose alliance, Japan’s accession to it, apparently, will only be a matter of time. This should be facilitated by fundamentally new (and definitely outlined) trends in Japanese defense policy, which deserve, however, separate commentary.

Recently, Japanese-Australian relations have been developing especially intensively and comprehensively. This, in particular, is evidenced by the recent trip to Australia by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as the (tenth) meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense held in Tokyo on December 9 (in the so-called “2 + 2 format”). The Joint Press Release adopted at the end of the second event draws attention to the specifics of the planned bilateral actions in the field of defense.

Australia itself is facing the prospect of becoming a kind of regional defense “hub” of anti-Chinese focus. This is confirmed, in particular, by the announcement of plans to deploy six B-52 strategic bombers to the country, the armament of which may include nuclear weapons.

All this allows commentators to state that, despite the attempts of the new center-left government, which came to power in May, to somehow improve relations with China (which deteriorated sharply during the rightwing-conservative rule), it is unlikely that anything will be changed in the country’s defense policy.

In general, all of the above so far testifies in favor of the fact that AUKUS can, first, expand, and, second, still acquire the appearance of a “usual” military-political union.  And so far it is not very clear what could prevent such an obviously negative prospect of the situation developing in the Indo-Pacific region.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.