For all three member countries, the recent San Diego meeting presented both collective and individual opportunities.
Last month, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US), Anthony Albanese, Rishi Sunak, and Joe Biden, respectively, gathered in San Diego, California to unpack the AUKUS Agreement—tripartite protection. A partnership between Australia, the UK and the US. The three nations first announced their security partnership in September 2021 and have been working on the details of the alliance ever since. Recently, leaders revealed plans to implement the AUKUS partnership. For all three member countries, the San Diego meeting was more than a review meeting and translated into both collective and individual opportunities.
Australia: A Victory
On 13 March 2023, Australia, the UK and the US unveiled plans to provide Australia with “conventionally armed, nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN)” by the early 2030s to counter growing Chinese encroachment in the Pacific. According to a joint statement released, the US plans to sell Australia three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines built by General Dynamics in the early 2030s, with an option to buy two more if needed in the future. The statement also mentioned the phased development of the submarine “SSN-AUKUS”, which “will be a state-of-the-art platform designed to take best advantage of the submarine technology of the three nations.” Additionally, from 2027, Perth,
According to a joint statement issued, the US plans to sell three US Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines built by General Dynamics to Australia in the early 2030s, with an option to buy two more if needed in the future.
However, the policy community in Australia may have divided opinions on the deal. Some are concerned about the high costs and funding Australia will need. The program is estimated to cost between US$268 billion and US$368 billion between now and mid-2050, and will also depend on US and UK aid. While Prime Minister Albanese sees it as “the largest single investment in defense capability in Australia’s history, and Australia is determined to boost security by investing in our relationship in the region,” some such as former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, said, “The AUKUS nuclear-submarine agreement is It sees it as an aggressive attempt to maintain US hegemony in Asia and has nothing to do with deterring Chinese aggression.” on the other hand, Experts such as Rory Medcalf of the Australian National University have pointed out that while there are challenges in meeting the targets set out in the agreement, the current geopolitical situation must be taken into account, including “degeneration”. The regional and global order, the rapid growth of China’s military capabilities, the return of war as a global reality, the deep vulnerability of our lifeline to the world, examples and apparent threats of aggression and coercion by big dictatorships against weak democracies. China is using force against others.” These factors make such an agreement a necessity in the present times. Examples and apparent threats of aggression and coercion by large dictatorships against weak democracies. China is using force against others.” These factors make such an agreement a necessity in the present times. Examples and apparent threats of aggression and coercion by large dictatorships against weak democracies. China is using force against others.” These factors make such an agreement a necessity in the present times.
Questions have also been raised as to whether this would interfere with Australia’s sovereignty, in the sense that it would be completely dependent on the US for the operation and use of these submarines. Doesn’t this make it clear which side Australia is on in terms of the US-China spat? But Australian experts such as Beck Straighting point out that “Australia’s regional interests are becoming increasingly difficult to distance from the US. The US alliance should be seen as a means, not an end, to keeping Australia safe.
UK: standing “shoulder to shoulder”.
The AUKUS announcement during PM Sunak’s visit to San Diego led to the United Kingdom’s Integrated Review Refresh, an updated version of the original Integrated Review Policy launched in 2021, in the wake of major geopolitical changes over the past two years. In Britain’s approach to foreign policy.
The UK has committed to a range of actions, including a defense pact with Japan, a dialogue status with ASEAN, a new minister for the Indo-Pacific and the deployment of naval assets, including its influence, launch and active presence in the region.
At the heart of IR2021 was the Indo-Pacific orientation, with the ambition that Britain would be “a European partner with the broadest and most integrated presence in the region”. IR2023 not only reinforces this inclination, but further reiterates the Indo-Pacific as an “enduring pillar” of British foreign policy. The UK has committed to a range of actions, including a defense treaty with Japan, dialogue status with ASEAN, a new minister for the Indo-Pacific and the deployment of naval assets, its influence, launch and active presence in the region.
Supplying nuclear submarines to Australia using British and American support and technology, AUKUS is central to the country’s vision for the Indo-Pacific, while revitalizing Britain’s defense industrial base, aiming to foster a stable and open region and counter what China has termed an “era-defining challenge”. is to do Sunak’s reference to AUKUS as “the most important multilateral defense partnership in generations” underlines the treaty’s centrality to Britain’s Indo-Pacific vision. As the updated policy warns of a further deterioration in the international security environment, it also acknowledges that “the global consequences of tensions in the Indo-Pacific could be greater than the conflict in Ukraine”.
While the document prioritizes the Euro-Atlantic as the most important geography for Britain, the region’s prosperity and security are tied to developments in the Indo-Pacific. In this context, the network of “Atlantic-Pacific” partnerships has been stretched, which merges the two strategic theaters. Throughout the strategy, IR2023 emphasizes the importance of partnerships, with “like-minded democracies” such as the US and Australia, both ranking among Britain’s top partners. For Britain, AUKUS is the most important manifestation of this joint approach. Stability in the Indo-Pacific has become even more important for post-Brexit Britain, where economic ties with the European Union have weakened, forcing the country to increase trade with the rest of the world.
For Britain, AUKUS is the most important manifestation of this joint approach. Stability in the Indo-Pacific has become even more important for post-Brexit Britain, where economic ties with the European Union have weakened, forcing the country to increase trade with the rest of the world.
Britain has pledged to increase its defense budget to 2.25 percent of GDP from the previous 2 percent, approving a further 5 billion pounds over two years of which 3 billion pounds has been allocated to strengthening nuclear capabilities, particularly for AUKUS. Yet with Sunak pledging to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Australia and the US in maintaining Indo-Pacific security, Britain’s ability to simultaneously be a security provider in the two regions remains a key question, especially given the country’s economic crisis and dwindling military. Stock due to its strong support for Ukraine.
US: Sustaining Influence
For the US, the San Diego meeting provided an opportunity not only to review progress but more importantly to plan and speed up the highly complex agreement within AUKUS. During the meeting, Biden said the partnership would help them overcome current and future challenges together, which others readily agreed with. Speeding up the AUKUS deal is important for all three countries as they seek to address one of its most notable criticisms that the deal’s potential benefits could take too long to fully unfold. Apart from potential delays due to the involvement of nuclear technology transfer between the three parties, the need to speed up the AUKUS agreement is also externally motivated because of the growth in China’s naval capabilities that has been evident over the past decade. , leading to the largest navy in the world by sheer numbers.
Speeding up the AUKUS deal is important for all three countries as they seek to address one of its most notable criticisms that the deal’s potential benefits could take too long to fully unfold.
From a strategic standpoint, AUKUS is beneficial to the US for several reasons. First, it strengthens the US-led alliance system in the Indo-Pacific, which is critical to counter China’s growing influence in the region. Second, it increases US access and presence in the region, particularly in Southeast Asia, where the US has sought to expand its military footprint. Third, it boosts the US defense industry by creating new opportunities for arms sales and technology transfer to Australia and the UK. Finally, it sends a clear signal to China that the US is committed to protecting its allies and interests in the region and is willing to invest in advanced military capabilities to do so.
At the leadership level, a consensus roadmap is suggested in a meeting between the three leaders. Two of the three AUKUS countries have undergone leadership changes since the agreement was announced, with the Anthony Albanese government in the UK and Australia replacing the Scott Morrison administration. Symbolically, the meeting in San Diego is also depicted by US leaders.
Finally, with AUKUS, the Biden administration is seeking to strengthen its waning influence in the Pacific theater. A fast-rising China has already sought to woo small islands in the Pacific to its side, creating an unprecedented economic and strategic dependence on the region. Coupled with China’s aggressive tactics, some of the Trump administration’s decisions have complicated America’s own leadership in the region by weakening the non-NATO alliance network and the region. The Biden administration has worked to improve partnerships and strengthen alliances in the region. These could reposition the US in the Pacific theater from a security perspective with strategic alliances like AUKUS.