Aukus will cement Australia’s dependence on US, intelligence expert warns Aukus
The Aukus deal will solidify Australia’s dependence on the US and make an independent defense policy impossible, a former Australian Army intelligence officer has warned.
In a provocative new book due out this week, Clinton Fernandes argues that the true nature of Australia’s relationship with the US is “a transactional, dramatically unequal relationship”. He argues that the rhetoric about partnership is merely “window dressing”.
The former intelligence officer and now a University of New South Wales academic is aiming for a bipartisan consensus on Australia’s foreign policy and rejecting the idea that Australia is a “middle power”.
Australia routinely acts to defend US power and grand strategy, he argues, and is better described as a “sub-imperial power.”
Fernandes warns of a “dramatic acceleration” of this trend following the Aukus partnership with the US and UK, under which the two countries plan to help Australia acquire at least eight nuclear submarines.
The international and political studies professor said Australia is creating “a structural dependency on the United States that makes it impossible for us to defend ourselves except in the context of the US alliance”.
“This is not a mistake. It’s not an accident. It’s not a mistake,” Fernandes told Guardian Australia in an interview ahead of the release of Sub-Imperial Power: Australia at the International Arena.
“The people in charge of policy … do it to make it impossible for future Australian governments to defend themselves outside of an alliance relationship.”
A Report in the Wall Street Journal Last weekend hinted that the Biden administration was considering a plan to accelerate nuclear-powered submarines for Australia by the mid-2030s by producing the first submarines in the US.
However, given existing production constraints at US shipyards, the deal would be conditional on Australia making a financial commitment to expand US submarine production capacity to ensure it can meet its domestic needs as well.
“It’s a mistake to think we’re buying submarines,” Fernandes said. “We actually subsidize the US Navy’s submarine budget.”
Peter Dutton “Just Honest”
Fernandes also said then Defense Secretary Peter Dutton was “just being honest” when he said he found it “inconceivable” that Australia would not join if the US was defending Taiwan in a war against China.
Dutton later reflected on the issue in relation to the relationship with the US, saying Australia was “a great and trusted friend and ally” and he didn’t think “we would shirk our responsibilities, a good ally with the United States.” to be”. .
In the book, which is due out on October 5, Fernandes quotes a cable from the US embassyleaked to WikiLeaks and describing a conversation between the US ambassador and then Labor leader Kim Beazley before the 2007 election.
According to the Dispatch, Beazley assured the ambassador that in the event of a US-China war, Australia had “absolutely no choice but to side with the US militarily,” adding, “Otherwise the alliance would be practically dead and buried something that Australia could never afford.”
Fernandes said policymakers in Australia are “not naïve” and determined to demonstrate Australia’s importance to US strategic planners. Successive Australian governments have publicly and privately called on the US to maintain its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region amid concerns about China’s growing power and intentions.
The 2020 Defense Strategy Update said security arrangements with the US were “critical to Australia’s national security” and that Washington “continues to support the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific”.
Fernandes writes that the world is now one of independent nation-states rather than empires and colonies – but he argues that an imperial system remains with the US “at the top” and Australia “subordinate to the imperial center”.
He argues that physical occupation is not the only way to effectively control another country’s sovereignty. Australia, in turn, “projects considerable power and influence in its own region,” particularly in Timor-Leste and the South West Pacific.
While Australia and the US publicly profess to uphold a rules-based international order, Fernandes claims that those rules are applied selectively and that Australia has been drawn into military conflicts to maintain the US alliance as a core part of strategic objectives.
“The rules-based order allows the United States and its allies to illegally enter Iraq and attack a hospital in the city of Fallujah,” Fernandes writes.
Central powers such as Norway and the Netherlands insist on parliamentary approval of military operations, but Australia does not. In Australia, the executive branch has the power to deploy troops without parliamentary approval, and its leaders tend to be “so knee-jerk to requests from the United States,” says Fernandes.
Aukus debate is growing
Fernandes isn’t the first analyst to raise concerns about Aukus’ impact on Australia’s sovereignty. Such concerns were fueled last year when Joe Biden’s top Indo-Pacific adviser, Kurt Campbell, predicted “almost a merger” of the Australian, US and British forces.
Campbell later tried to allay those concerns, saying he understood “how important sovereignty and independence are to Australia” and didn’t want “to give the impression that that was going to be lost in any way”.
In June, however, prominent Australian strategic analyst Hugh White warned that building and operating nuclear-powered submarines “could increase our dependence on our Aukus partner, who supplies the submarines”.
White’s quarterly essay was titled Sleepwalk to War: Australia’s Unthinking Alliance with America. The chief of the Australian Defense Force, General Angus Campbell, responded to the essay by saying: “I take my instructions from the Australian Government.”
Lowy Institute executive director Michael Fullilove said he believes the “greater threat to Australian sovereignty and independence does not come from a like-minded democracy” but from China.
Fullilove said Aukus would “bolster our independence and sovereignty because it will give us access to technology that increases our deterrent power.”