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Joe Biden’s AUKUS alliance with Great Britain and Australia will really drive China’s rearmament

Life became a little more dangerous in the past week, but this was not due to the pandemic or the climate crisis. The whole thing was entirely the result of the conscious choice of men who were apparently preparing for war. Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison deny that, of course. They assert that new missiles, ships, submarines and alliances are necessary to deter nameless enemies. All of this is needed to strengthen “international security”.

Then why does the world feel a little more unsafe every day? This perception is, as expected, lost by two political pygmies like Johnson and Morrison. Both consider themselves global players, but are in truth global adventurers. In America’s unpromising struggle to prevent China’s rise as a world power, they dance to Biden’s threatening tune. You seem like a pair of limp choir singers who only bring themselves to mind with powerful voices during the chorus.

Johnson and Morrison agree on one thing: if there is a war in the Indo-Pacific, they want to be there. At first it was enough for them to frame a ruthless, above all underhanded unilateralism of the USA, which scorns Biden’s assurances that they want to behave cooperatively with Western partners.

Australia’s decision to build a fleet of nuclear submarines under the sign of the new AUKUS defense pact with the USA and Great Britain moves the country directly into Beijing’s sights. Instead of increasing national security, it is weakening and Canberra is dependent on the goodwill of the Biden administration. France and other European countries were outraged by this. And the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free Pacific, supported by New Zealand and regional partners, will be pierced below the waterline.

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The AUKUS Pact speaks volumes about the West’s hypocrisy on nuclear proliferation. Courtesy of the United States, Australia is being supplied with sophisticated technology, off-the-shelf reactors on board the enriched uranium-powered submarines, and the latest know-how. This transfer breaks international rules and anti-nuclear taboos. The door to Australian nuclear weapons capability is being pushed open, so that China is likely to take painful paths to defend itself against US interference in regional stability.

AUKUS shakes western solidarity in the Indo-Pacific when dealing with the ambitious goals of the Chinese. It was only a few days ago that the EU presented a new regional strategy that prefers “multifaceted engagement” to an arms race initiated by the Americans. After all, what would the US, and above all Israel, do if Iran suddenly decided to nuclearize its military capabilities, circumventing the Non-Proliferation Treaty? They’d go nuts, after the outcry, the shooting would come.

Credibility in pieces

Boris Johnson is still excellent at shooting himself in the knee. British credibility in the matter of nuclear non-proliferation is already in tatters, partly because the government has not ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons for some time. And now, thanks to AUKUS, the option is real that the nuclear submarines based in Scotland will soon have a new home and will be relocated to Adelaide, Australia. Johnson seems to seriously believe that this will satisfy his fantasies about “global Great Britain” and underpin his claims as a great trading power in the Indo-Pacific. In truth, its policies make the UK more vulnerable in a region where it has little influence and even less control.

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As former Prime Minister Theresa May rightly fears, Britain could be drawn into a conflict between China and Taiwan or China and Japan. It would be rather poorly positioned for this, both militarily and economically. Boris Johnson should point this out to Joe Biden, instead of portraying his country as an indispensable partner in global security missions and fooling himself. His embarrassing behavior is reminiscent of the slightly tipsy appearance of older relatives at a fancy party.

Because one thing is beyond question: For the US President’s China policy, the states of the quatrilateral security dialogue (Quad) – in addition to the USA, these are India, Japan and Australia – have at least the same importance as Great Britain. This renewed alliance is one of the building blocks in Biden’s anti-Beijing barricade and is a signal as to how the confrontation may escalate. Because China is driving the fear of the USA to more armaments, combined with the belief that it can overtake this opponent. That alone is to be understood as the speed with which the country is expanding its military and launching more combat ships every year. Head of State Xi Jinping, like Biden, claims to be responsible for global security. But how can the construction of hundreds of additional missile silos, a type of underground launch pad, help?

When Chinese diplomats urge North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to resume denuclearization talks, it is hypocrisy. Then double standards are used. The insecure Kim is constantly scolded and punished for testing missiles. But all the side effects of the AUKUS Pact could make him even more insecure, if not schizophrenic. How can that be helpful?

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Always new battle zones

Why should North Korea disarm when the USA and Russia, as the other great nuclear power, are setting such a bad example? In June, Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed to resume the “strategic security dialogue”; in fact, both powers are working feverishly on arming and expanding extensive nuclear arsenals. The revived rivalry includes new combat zones such as the internet, space, and the Arctic. Arms control treaties that have expired will not be renewed. Hypersonic missiles are the latest must-have for unreasonable people.

In the past, fear of the end of the world caused by nuclear weapons was enough to keep the peace. Only those who were crazy would risk a thermonuclear exchange of blows, said the tried and tested Cold War cadres. US chief military officer General Mark A. Milley feared that after his election defeat in early November, President Donald Trump might be crazy enough to do it by starting an irreparable conflict with Iran. Which in a way underlines the thesis that irrational behavior can be decisive for an inferno.

Since the fronts of the new Cold War began to take shape in the Indo-Pacific, there seems to be a growing number of foolish men in positions of power who are crazy enough to risk the end of the world there. The danger they radiate grows every day.

Simon Tisdall is a columnist for Guardian

Read more in the current issue of Friday.


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