Smarting under withdrawal from Afghanistan in defeat and turning its focus to increasing confrontation with China in Ind0-Pacific region, Biden Admn. has announced on 15th September a military alliance with UK and Australia. This new security alliance including providing Australia with nuclear powered submarines is in line with US Admn. treating China as its main adversary for its global role. Leaders of three countries have not hidden its military character. While not mentioning China by name, the target was made obvious by Biden “’We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term,” and leaders of three countries asserting “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations – and indeed the world – depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead.”
Since its withdrawal in defeat, US vice-president Kamala Harris had toured countries of South East Asia to assure them of the reliability of alliance with US. Besides, asserting its focus on contention with China US also wanted to signal its willingness to engage in the region.
This announcement has many significant features. First it unequivocally asserts that focus of US imperialist drive is Indo-Pacific and it visualizes challenge from China. During his campaign debate Biden had said that he considered Russia to be the main adversary to Trump’s saying the same about China. However, the reality has asserted itself. As Obama tried to pursue Bush’s hegemonic drive through other means, Biden is pursuing Trump’s line on international relations albeit with other language.
This marks a definite shift away from Europe which is no longer the main focus of inter-imperialist contradictions. With Russia not being the principal adversary, West European powers utility has declined. Here too, Trump’s downgrading ties with Western Europe except UK is being followed by Biden, his loud proclamation in Europe “America is back” notwithstanding. That in the process a deal between France and Australia to supply a dozen diesel powered submarines worth Australian $ 90 billion has been thrown aside, has not bothered their NATO allies- US and UK. France has termed scrapping of this deal with French company Naval Group as “betrayal of trust”.
The announcement is also significant as the physical meeting of leaders of Quad countries- US, Australia, Japan and India- is going to take place in Washington in about a week’s time. The purpose of quad is to counter China and is a part of US strategy to contain China. But there have been hesitation among Quad members to make it overt military alliance and this hesitation is going to be more in the context of US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Hence, US has taken this step with other two other countries of Anglosphere. Other two participants of what is an intelligence sharing mechanism of five anglospheric countries- Canada and New Zealand- were probably not prepared for military especially its nuclear component. It will now be open to other Quad members to join the military wing of anti-China alliance. It is not yet a full-fledged military alliance but declaration of the intent of US imperialism with a concrete measure.
US has also inserted UK into this alliance. UK under Conservatives has been projecting of “Global Britain” strategy partly to cover its isolation since Brexit. UK had recently sent its aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth to South China Sea.
It is also significant that this announcement has been made on the eve of start of SCO conference in Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan where situation in Afghanistan post-Taliban coming to power is the main agenda. US imperialism wanted to make this announcement to distract from the importance of SCO meeting and posing a counter to China who along with Russia leads SCO.
China has reacted strongly. Its US Ambassador called it a reflection of “cold war mentality” while a Chinese official heard in this “echoes of gunboat diplomacy going back to the colonial era”. China has chosen to warn Australia with whom it has vast business relations, China is the biggest trade partner of Australia. Chinese official paper Global Times calling Australia running dog of US has commented “Australia has turned itself into an adversary of China.” It also warned that if Australia “acts with bravado to show its allegiance to the US and takes the most prominent position in the US’ anti-China strategy, especially by being militarily assertive, then Canberra will most likely become a target of Beijing’s countermeasures to send a warning to others.” Obviously China is concerned about the efforts of US to rally countries of the region against it.
The announcement also shows the scant regard to nuclear non-proliferation which US & UK boast much about. Helping Australia develop nuclear powered submarines will effectively legalize their acquisition and export of related technology. International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has said “a military nuclear reactor built in Adelaide was a “foot in the door” towards weapons development.” Former Australian PM Paul Keating has called, “This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty,” In fact this announcement is also targeted at domestic audience where these rulers are facing adverse public reactions – Biden for the type of chaotic withdrawal, Johnson for Covid mismanagement and downturn since Brexit and economic problems for Scott Morrison, Australian PM.
This announcement may dampen spirits of some who smelt in Biden’s announcement of August 31 end of imperialist wars. It is not that for imperialism means war. To end war, imperialism must be ended. Imperialism cannot but be itself. However, these manueuvres of a declining power are both dangerous and dismal.
CPI (ML)-New Democracy
September 16, 2021