AUKUS deal breaches trust, fuels concern over nuclear proliferation

Li Jiayao
2021-09-25 15:39:17

BRUSSELS, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- The decision taken by the United States to bypass France and sign a military alliance deal with the United Kingdom (UK) and Australia has fueled concern over nuclear proliferation as it has breached the European Union's (EU) trust.

According to an analysis published on Sept. 17 in the French daily Le Monde, the nuclear-submarine deal poses a risk of nuclear proliferation in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The AUKUS strategic partnership between Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, which includes the supply of American nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra, could encourage other states to want to acquire such submarines," the newspaper wrote.

It said that Washington's decision to export U.S. nuclear expertise in submarine propulsion to Australia "is bad news from a proliferation perspective." The future Australian submersibles in service from 2040 are expected to carry conventional Tomahawk missiles, according to the newspaper.

Annick Cizel, a specialist in U.S. foreign policy at Sorbonne Nouvelle University-Paris 3, said this week that the deal had sparked an "arm wrestling" between French President Emanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.

Cizel told the French daily Le Figaro that Macron's absence from the United Nations (UN) General Assembly this week and his discussion with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi were meant to mark France's autonomy.

Asked whether Australia's nuclear-powered submarines instead of conventional French-powered submarines pose a technology risk, "It's a risk," said Barthelemy Courmont, senior research fellow at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) in an article posted on the IRIS website.

"It is also a very big problem for the Australian government, which had expressed the wish not to acquire nuclear-powered devices and changed its decision without having taken care to consult its French partner beforehand," Courmont said.

"That is why Kevin Rudd, former Australian prime minister, was very critical of the decision of the current leader, Scott Morrison," Courmont said.

Constantinos Filis, executive director of the Institute of International Relations of Panteion University of Athens, told the news website iefimerida that the United States has seen its prestige severely damaged by the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the way it has been done, raising concerns among its allies in the wider region of Asia and beyond.

Mikhail Kostarakos, former chairman of the EU Military Committee, said in an article in the Greek newspaper Ta Nea that the agreement was "hasty," adding that by trying to create a new alliance, the U.S. ended up alienating and causing rifts with its European allies and possibly the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), creating a situation that is very difficult to reverse.

"The rift in the transatlantic link is very deep and the British no longer have a say in the EU," he said.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the agreement revealed "dark clouds across the Indo-Pacific," while the BBC believes that although the U.S. and France aim to mend the rift, "much trust has gone."

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