New AUKUS partnership | Canada wants to join a section of the military alliance

(Ottawa) Excluded from the new military partnership between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS) for the development of new nuclear submarines, the Trudeau government has discreetly expressed its desire to integrate the teams of this select group that deals with issues related to cybersecurity and the use of artificial intelligence.

The story so far

  • September 2021: After several months of negotiations, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia announce a new military partnership, AUKUS. Its aim is to help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
  • March 2023: US President Joe Biden receives the British and Australian prime ministers during a meeting at a naval base in San Diego to confirm the next steps of the tripartite military alliance.
  • May 2023: A document from the Privy Council Office shows that Canada is trying to join a section of the military alliance that focuses in particular on issues related to artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
  • December 2023: The United States Ambassador to Ottawa, David Cohen, confirms in an interview with The Press that Washington looks favorably on Canada’s interests.

According to information obtained by The Press, Justin Trudeau’s government expressed to the Biden administration last year its desire to be part of the tripartite alliance teams that are looking at these specific questions and six other issues related to strengthening national security. The United States as well as the two other members of AUKUS view this approach by Canada favorably.

The exclusion of Canada from AUKUS caused a certain stir in the country.

“AUKUS has two pillars aimed at advancing the security partnership. The first pillar involves the transfer of sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology and know-how from the United States and the United Kingdom to the Australians. The second pillar concerns advanced military capabilities being developed by eight working groups,” reads a briefing note prepared by the Privy Council Office for the Prime Minister.

“Canada wishes to participate in the second pillar of the AUKUS project, namely the joint development of advanced military capabilities,” it is specified in this same note dated March 17, 2023. The Press recently obtained this information note thanks to the Access to Information Act.

In addition to cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, AUKUS pillar two working groups are looking at undersea capabilities, quantum technologies, hypersonic capabilities, electronic warfare, innovation and intelligence sharing, we explain in the documents.

Several passages from the Privy Council Office documents have been redacted, so it is impossible to know whether Canada has set a timetable for integrating the second pillar of the military alliance.


David Cohen, United States Ambassador to Ottawa

In a recent interview with The Pressthe United States Ambassador to Ottawa, David Cohen, confirmed that Canada had indicated its desire to be part of the second pillar of AUKUS.

The diplomat also wanted to emphasize that it is incorrect to assert that Canada has been excluded from this new alliance. Canada, he said, has never expressed a desire to purchase nuclear submarines, like Australia, and this is the very basis of this new alliance.

“The aim of AUKUS is to accelerate Australia’s ability to acquire nuclear submarines. Canada has never expressed a desire to acquire them. But there are other elements that interest Canada. Canada maintains that it has technologies that could be useful for the second pillar of AUKUS and wants to be part of it. And the United States’ response is this: when we get to the second pillar, we will evaluate whether Canada should be asked to join AUKUS. We should therefore not see this as a negative element towards Canada. So this means that in due course, Canada could well be part of AUKUS,” he said.

The fact remains that last year, the exclusion of Canada from this new alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia caused consternation among defense and security experts in the country.

Many then said that this represented further proof that Canada is not considered a serious partner by its main allies in matters of defense and national security, particularly when it comes to countering China’s military ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region.

Defense expert David Perry of the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs then pointed out that the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia all spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense, as required by NATO criteria, while Canada spends less than 1.3% of its GDP on it.

These three countries also have ambitious plans to build new submarines. Conversely, Canada has not yet even committed to replacing the Royal Canadian Navy’s four Victoria-class ships in difficulty, let alone the possible replacement of its fleet, Mr. Perry pointed out in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“This is an indicator that even among some of our closest allies, we are not going to continue to invite us to meetings as in the past, despite our past experience and our common history,” said Mr. Perry.

With the collaboration of William Leclerc, The Press


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