The country which demands a European army to counter American power, declares NATO “brain dead” and seeks European “strategic autonomy”, recalled its American ambassador because America and Britain agreed to share secret nuclear submarine technology with Australia.
French history reflects commercial frustration, the proximity of a presidential election and geopolitical anxiety. The EU wants to avoid choosing sides between America and China. France wants to ensure its future as a power in the Pacific Ocean.
Paris, long paranoid about British perfidy and exclusive “Anglo-Saxon” alliances, lost a sub-contract with Australia worth several tens of billions. Macron faces embarrassment ahead of an independence referendum in New Caledonia, France’s Pacific territory with vast reserves of nickel.
More important than the strop is the substance. Aukus is a partnership of allies who for over a century have sent soldiers to fight and die together, and, through the Five Eyes intelligence relationship, have trusted each other with precious secrets. Now the three countries will share their knowledge not only about submarines, but also about the future of war itself: cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and quantum technology.
The specter of China hangs over the deal, of course, but the deal reveals more details about Britain’s foreign policy after Brexit. With Aukus, the application to join the Trans-Pacific Free Trade Area known as CPTPP, the deployment of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in the Pacific and the response, coordinated with Canada and Australia, to the assault of China on the rights of Hong Kongers, the future is becoming clearer.
Most obvious is the recognition that Asia and the Pacific are now at the heart of world affairs: economic strength, international trade and raw political power are shifting east. The recent Integrated Security Review promised “by 2030 we will be deeply engaged in the Indo-Pacific as a European partner with the broadest and most integrated presence in support of trade, security and and values ”.
The region, in the words of the Integrated Review, is “the engine of growth of the world”. It is home to half of the world’s population, 40% of its GDP, and some of its fastest growing populations. It accounts for 17.5 percent of the UK’s world trade and 10 percent of foreign investment here: numbers that will rise and rise faster when CPTPP membership is agreed. And the region is vital for the resilience of our supply chains, a challenge made clearer by the pandemic.
But the Indo-Pacific is not simply a hotbed of opportunity and prosperity. It is also home to challenges and dangers, most obviously in the form of an increasingly aggressive China. Many Indo-Pacific countries are looking for partners to counter the danger.
Such is the size of China, and the scale of its economic challenge, geopolitical reach and military threat, a guarantee of security from the United States is no longer sufficient for the countries of the Pacific, and is no longer sufficient. not necessarily offered. In military exercises conducted by the Pentagon, China would beat the United States in every simulated Pacific war. America therefore seeks allies to contain the threat while anxious peaceful powers invest in defense and security.
It is undeniable that trade and security are linked. Power is needed to defend international trade routes and rules, and countries keen to play a greater role in Pacific trade may need to do more to secure peace. As a result, countries ready to contribute to the security of the region – such as Britain via Aukus – will draw closer to its important trading partners.
It is important to note, however, that Aukus is not a “new NATO”. There is no collective security clause, committing Britain to a conflict under special circumstances. The treaty deals with capabilities and the pooling of expertise that would otherwise have remained secret. If China attacks Taiwan, the treaty would not force Britain to become belligerent in a subsequent conflict, as Theresa May expressed concern in Parliament last week, although it certainly makes sense for the Allied Powers to donate. to China a reason to control itself before launching an attack.
Aukus is not the whole story of an anti-Chinese policy either. There are already overlapping alliances – like the Five Eyes and the Quad, the alliance between the United States, India, Japan and Australia – and Britain and others will need other such agreements. The cultural community of Anglosphere countries can help, but alliances are based on shared interests and, sometimes, shared values. Britain will do more with the United States and Australia, as well as with Canada, and it will seek alliances with powers such as India, Japan and Indonesia.
We will continue to work closely with European allies. We face common threats from Russia and China to Islamist terrorism. But it will take leadership and time for Britain and France to reestablish their relationship.
Paris cannot be surprised to have been excluded from the Treaty of Aukus. He constantly sought to challenge American leadership while lacking the power to do so. We do not trust him because the partners of Five Eyes trust each other. Brussels has entered into an investment deal with China and continued the Nord Stream 2 project with Russia, despite opposition from the United States. He excluded Britain from the Galileo satellite project and bragged about separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. Even now, in her humiliation, France mocks Britain and claims that we are irrelevant.
The truth is the opposite. Britain is becoming a more important player in the Pacific. It is well on its way to becoming a member of the region’s burgeoning free trade area. It creates and deepens alliances beyond NATO and the EU. It shows agility and versatility in its post-Brexit foreign policy. It is at the forefront of the development of new military technologies. Skeptics have asked what Global Britain means, and we are starting to see the answer.