By Fu Bo
Despite the universal criticism of the US, the UK and Australia’s consistently intensified cooperation through the AUKUS alliance, the three countries have recently held another joint exercise to try their new tactics and new equipment and improve weapon and equipment interoperability by signing a weapon purchase agreement. Their cliquing for enhanced military capacities has triggered extensive questioning and condemnation.
Accelerated steps to enhance military capacity
Generally speaking, the AUKUS alliance has mainly huddled together for enhanced military capacities in two approaches.
On the one hand, they have reinforced unmanned combat capacity. It is learned that armed forces of the three countries tested new technologies during the exercise, with some training subjects being conducted in flat deserts similar to those in Ukraine. They also used AI systems to provide the commanders with a series of best options for destroying the targets and deployed UAVs to carry out long-distance reconnaissance tasks and collect intelligence on enemy positions.
On the other hand, they have improved the performance of their equipment. It is reported that the US State Department has lately approved the sale of US$300 million Javelin Lightweight Command Launch Units to the UK, while the US Department of Defense has approved a US$635 million sale of 24 C-130J-30 transport aircraft and relevant equipment to Australia, waiting to clear the Congress.
Voices of criticism and objection are growing as the AUKUS alliance seems to get tighter.
Within the alliance, Australian Senator Jordon Steele-John recently submitted to the parliament a petition letter signed by more than 26,000 people, asking the Australian government to quit AUKUS and stop the Australia-US military integration.
Former Australian prime ministers Keating, Turnbull and Rudd sang?in chorus against the AUKUS too, calling it excessively dressed up and its significance intentionally exaggerated. Australian media described the alliance as a scam schemed by the US with the UK being the blind yes-man and Australia doing all the work while taking all the rap.
In the international community, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said America and its allies are pushing a so-called “Indo-Pacific strategy” that’s not open to all countries and that’s competitive against the ASEAN-proposed inclusive, open and equal security cooperation architecture. America’s accelerated militarization of the region is obviously to curb countries like Russia. AUKUS is trying to bring in New Zealand, Canada, Japan and other countries and is advancing a secret maritime surveillance program.
Southeast Asian countries have been worried about the AUKUS alliance from the very beginning and have publicly expressed their concerns and strong objection. Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah said his country’s negative view about AUKUS remains unchanged and it attaches great importance to ASEAN’s peace and security. Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said AUKUS’ continuously deepened military technology cooperation seriously worries Southeast Asian countries over a potential arms race.
Possible chain effects
According to analysts, the deepening military cooperation among the US, the UK and Australia may display two trends in the future, which are worth close attention.
First, they may widen the scope of cooperation. Originally formed as a security alliance, AUKUS may very well move beyond the defense security boundary toward Macro-security in the future given its current dynamics. America’s Fortune magazine reported on November 9 that Washington and London are in the final stage of their talks toward reaching an energy security partnership. Going forward, they and Canberra may conclude more bilateral and multilateral security agreements in the name of external security threats.
Second, they may expand the membership. The three AUKUS members have been seeking partners both in Europe and the Asia Pacific. Lately, the US and the UK held military exercises dubbed “Puma-2022” in southeast Poland with countries including Poland, Czech, Hungary, and Slovak, not hiding their intention to rope in Central and Eastern European countries.
Moving forward, AUKUS may take in more American allies and partners, which is worth close attention from relevant countries as that will further aggravate regional tension and sabotage regional peace and stability.