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The Anglo Unilateralists Strike

When President Joe Biden won the White House, he promised, with a facility of unceasing boredom, that diplomacy was back. “Diplomacy is back at the centre of our foreign policy,” he stated on February 4. “As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”

The fact that such diplomacy had never gone away seemed to escape him. In the simpleton’s view of politics, his predecessor had abandoned the jaw jaw approach to international relations for muscular and mindless US unilateralism. Allies had been belittled, ignored and mocked. Strongmen had been feted, admired and praised. It was now incumbent upon the United States, urged Biden, that “American leadership” confront “this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”

It would have been more accurate to say that President Donald Trump’s coarse, business board room model was simply too much of a shock for those familiarly comfortable with guile, deception and dissimulation. But Biden’s return to acceptable hypocrisy did not mask the “America First” note in his temper. Since then, that temper has seen a dramatic, ahead-of-schedule exit from Afghanistan, building on Trump’s undertakings to conclude open-ended wars and commitments. US allies began to wonder whether the Biden model was that different from Trump’s cruder original.

With the announcement on September 15 of the trilateral security pact AUKUS, an agreement between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia to deepen military ties in an effort to contain China, the “diplomacy is back” cart was soiled and upended. The European Union had not been consulted. A furious France only received a few hours’ notice that the agreement they had made through the Naval Group with Australia to construct the next generation of attack class submarines had been dissolved. Countries in the Indo-Pacific were also left in the dark.

France, in some ways even more than China, the primary target of AUKUS, is incandescent with rage. On Franceinfo radio, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was unsparing in his remarks. “This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do.” He confessed to feeling anger and bitterness. “This isn’t done between allies.”

As recently as July, Le Drian had visited Washington, where he pointedly stated that France was “an Indo-Pacific nation with territories that give [it] the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone” with a permanent military presence of 8,500 personnel in the region. Paris, along with EU member states, was in the process of formulating a clear Indo-Pacific strategy. Efforts were being made in creating “strategic partnerships” with Japan, Australia and India. Regional organisations such as ASEAN were being brought into the fold. Any “transatlantic pivot toward the Indo-Pacific” had to be taken “together”.

At the end of August, Australia and France held their inaugural Foreign and Defence (2+2) Ministerial Consultations. No hint was given that something was brewing. As the joint statement outlined, “Ministers underscored the importance of the strong and enduring commitment of other partners, including the United States, and Indo-Pacific partners in upholding an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

With notions of sham togetherness shaken, retaliation in the old diplomatic tradition has followed. President Emmanuel Macron has recalled the French ambassadors to the United States and Australia. Britain was rebuked somewhat differently, being spared the same harsh treatment; being underhanded was the very sort of thing Paris expected from their historical enemy. In Le Drian’s words, its conduct had been “opportunistic,” with London being little more than “the fifth wheel of the wagon”.

In a joint statement, Le Drian and French Minister for the Army Florence Parly emphasised that this new security arrangement had been arrived at to the “exclusion of a European ally and partner … at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.” The move signalled “a lack of consistency which France can only notice and regret.”

Special words were reserved for Australia, a country now wooed by an unconvincing promise of eight nuclear-powered submarines that are only promised to enter service sometime in the 2040s. The decision was “contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia, based on a relationship of political trust.” Le Drian, in a separate observation, weighed on the theme of infidelity, calling the decision, “A knife in the back.”

None of this takes away from the fact that the original Franco-Australian contract, reached in 2016, was an ill-thought out undertaking to build 12 conventional Barracuda class submarines in imitation of the nuclear powered Suffren design. It was vain, costly and promised obsolescence before viable performance. Then again, the French argument goes, the Australians wanted it.

The justifications for this episode of Anglophonic mischief have varied in their insolence and disingenuousness. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was all shine and floss in claiming that France remained “a vital partner” in ensuring security in the Indo-Pacific “and we want to find every opportunity to deepen our transatlantic cooperation” in the area. To a question suggesting that France had been stabbed in the back, Blinken mechanically repeated the vital importance of a “transatlantic” association.

Australia’s simply disposed Defence Minister Peter Dutton preferred fantasy by way of explanation, claiming that his government had been “upfront, open and honest … We can understand of course, the French are upset at the cancellation of a contract but in the end, our job is to act in our national interest.” Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace was of like mind, promising that, “Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back.” But sneaking there was, and it was the Anglosphere, led by the United States, doing the sneaking.

AUKUS is less a trio than a hefty, bullying chief accompanied by a willing assistant and an enthusiastic supplicant. It is a declaration of hostile intent in a region of the world that promises to be the Europe of 1914. It has also encouraged the EU to formulate its own Indo-Pacific policy with haste and independence. “The regrettable decision which has just been announced on the FSP [Future Submarine Program] only reinforces the need to raise the issue of European strategic autonomy loud and clear,” observed Le Drian and Parley. Policy makers in Beijing will be struggling to stifle their amusement.


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  1. Phil Pryor

    The USA has a history, a continuum, of murder, occupation, theft, acquisition, humiliations, supremacist posturing, utter hypocrisy, dishonesty, slavery, rape, indigenous slaughter, massacres, intrusions, overthrows, betrayals. Never ever mind what they say, read the form. Biden will serve, somehow, the implied will of the corporations, especially the coercive and domineering military, industrial, energy, technology California/Texas loose coalition of ultimate imperialist greedy cornerers and coercers and crooks. Every septic tank loves a good double cross, for beating the shit out of friends beats sucking up to enemies.

  2. What? Tyler?

    The ‘fella from down under’ has bought a pig in a poke. Classic example of a salesman being conned. All that will happen is – as China has already pointed out – we will become a prime nuclear target (as we already are anyway, with Pine Gap being the US eyes and ears of the Southern Hemisphere.)
    The US actually has no real friends, none that it will not stab in the back anyway. It keeps its ‘friends’ by stacking them full of US bases and military.
    The Suez crisis showed the UK and France what they can expect from the USA as an ally. And scampering out of Afghanistan without telling anyone it was going, leaving its ‘allies’ in the lurch, is a classic US move.

  3. Ken

    ScoMo loves sucking up to the septic tanks.

  4. George Theodoridis

    This is the era of the veneration of oblivion and annihilation!
    The appalling powers have been working at it since Zeus knows when! Again and again they practiced their objectives. One war after another, one country after another. Their nuclear-bleached bones are all laying there for all to see; so are their smug monkey’s arse triumphant delusions, “Mission accomplished!”
    Alas, it will continue. The path to evil is slippery and inescapable, once one is on it.

    Anyone heard anything placatory from the ALP? No? I heard something encouraging from Adam Bandt though. What do you think?

  5. Lawrence Roberts

    I seem to recall that the original order was with Japan, made by Abbot on the assumption that the Adelaide ship yards would have trouble putting a canoe together. Turnbull moved the order to France which I assumed had more to do with friends in the pacific in time of trouble than quality of boatbuilding but Malcolm has not spoken on the issue yet.
    The cost of these 8 hunter class subs comes in at $3600 per Australian and they are not really operational for many a long year. So is it really about Submarines. Biden gets to look tough against China. Johnson gets to tweak the French nose and Morrison gets to come across as a welcher and piker.

  6. Brandane

    And now Morrison and Dutton are gaslighting France to shift the blame for this diplomatic debacle.
    It is Australia that doesn’t know what it doesn’t want until it gets it.
    NAVAL entered a contract to build what Australia wanted, not the other way around.

  7. ajogrady

    Australian governments are just puppets for the USA and should be very weary of the USA’s motives. It’s a sordid story with much historical precedent illustrating how at the drop of a hat Uncle Sam is liable to hang erstwhile “allies” out to dry. As American elder statesman Henry Kissinger once noted, the U.S. doesn’t have permanent allies, it only has interests. Anyone who accepts American patronage must know that the small print in the contract always reads: to be dumped at any time of Uncle Sam’s choosing and convenience.
    Some 46 years ago, the Fall of Saigon saw the United States scurry away from a corrupt puppet regime it had propped up in South Vietnam as the North Vietnamese communists finally routed the redundant American pawns.
    Afghanistan is the most glaring proof perhaps since the Fall of Saigon in 1975 of that American treachery. It’s a cautionary tale for others who incredibly still seem trusting in hitching their wagon to a U.S. alliance.

  8. Harry Lime

    The Liar’s announcement has one,and one only get re elected.He doesn’t do future planning as he has so comprehensively demonstrated.He gives a fuck about nothing but himself.With a bit of overdue good fortune,his trip to kiss Uncle Sam’s arse will be one way.

  9. Andrew J. Smith

    Like US linked Trans Atlantic think tanks i.e. Koch’s Atlas Network promoting radical right libertarian policies e.g. IEA, Adam Smith Institute etc. (same as IPA/CIS), were influential on pushing Brexit over decades; ably supported by ageing regional conservative electorates lacking diversity.

    Meanwhile the same libertarians are not averse to promoting Anglo exceptionalism (‘Global Britain’ on trade/defence, and eugenics via immigration policy), ignorance of Europe and/or EU, promoting policies of low taxes, smaller government and budgets, except for defence, security and borders.

    The political leaders of the right have become mere PR sock puppets, political entertainers, media content generators and willing followers, including Morrison and Johnson showing how emasculated their own nations have become under same US influence as above, deferring to US corporate interests (includes Biden too).

  10. calculus witherspoon.

    To balance things a little and going against the general run of commentary a bit:..

    Thinking folk are right to wonder at the antiquated consequences of self- brainwashed anglosphere nations and consider the reactive preemptiveness of the announcement and antiquated thinking behind the move from all involved.

    Morrison needed to be bailed out concerning domestic foul ups that we all know about and Johnson needed to create a reality reinforcing meme concerning the flimsy fig leaf anti Europeanism that comes with the Brexit referendum and costly departure.

    America signalled the future course by appointing Blinken, then cutting and running re Afghanistan so that the US could focus remaining resources on China and elsewhere.

    I doubt whether France and China enhanced their positions and they made it so much easier for Morrison with the bluster bully from the East that could have been seen as provoking a defensive alliance, even though now this seems part of a more complex game.

    The French Subs rip off could easily be portrayed as a loss of patience regarding defence procurements from a country already done like a dog’s dinner by the US. ( Why we have not also cancelled the F35 and other equally expensive purchases also is a fair question if it be the rationale).

    The point is, it is above all, the final surrender of Australia to the US from the old empire of Britain, and Britain itself, that has been already in process for nearly a century.

    It is of little concern that it is reactive and myopic with down stream consequence, because these are, “known unknowns and unknown knowns”. In every divorce one partner gets to keep the family dog. In this case the family dog is the oil wealth of the Middle eEst which is short to medium termism , but the ageing Anglosphere cares little for this.

  11. Terence Mills

    The point was made by Kevin Rudd that this constant dithering about submarines has lost us ten years and will mean that for at least the next fifteen to twenty years we will not actually have our own submarine force.

    Perhaps we don’t actually need submarines !

    It seems that we will pay the USA in the interim to provide us with submarine support or we will charter submarines that are surplus to US/UK requirements. It still doesn’t explain why we actually need these very expensive submarines.

    perhaps if we were to concentrate on drone and satellited technology if we are so keen on surveillance.

  12. DrakeN

    Terence – “Perhaps we don’t actually need submarines !”

    In my aging but technologically aware mind there is little doubt that submarine vessels of the kind proposed will be complete and utter anachronisms well before they roll the first sheets of steel from which to construct them.

    But the kleptocracies demand that they be fed.

  13. calculus witherspoon.

    One thought, if the Chinese are such a problem, why on earth alienate a power like France out of the India- Pacific region?

    I’d have thought a second alliance would have accomplished more in the long run. If only the French had done a better job with its subs (sighs) but also if myopic Morrison had thought things through a bit better than he usually does on serious issues?

    What we needed was a Statesman, not a herd of self absorbed ratfuck politicians willing to crash the whole bejeezes on the basis of nothing better than misconceived self interest.

  14. GL

    The bald-faced lies and bullshit flow like a fountain from the anal sphincter that Scotty of the Marketing and Media and Celebrity Whore calls a mouth-

    “Scott Morrison insists Australia and the US are on the same page on climate policy after his first one-on-one meeting with Joe Biden, as the US president presses “every nation” to cut emissions faster.”

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