Dn the misadventures of the Shortfin Barracuda in the Pacific, a zone of big fish, we can draw at least three lessons on the relations between China – United States – Europe.
First lesson. The “Kabul debacle” in no way weakened the strategic credibility of the United States. The hasty and inglorious departure of the American troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to the helm of the country, a defeat in short, all of this hardly impressed the Australians. Faced with an increasingly aggressive China in its Pacific environment, Canberra has chosen to place itself under the protection of America – not France. Australia has seized the American-British offer – eight nuclear-powered submarines by 2040 – to the partnership concluded with Paris – twelve Shortfin Barracuda by 2030.
Even in the world of arms sales, where anything goes, Canberra has acted poorly towards the French. But this muffling should not mask the deep significance of the episode. It’s not about the quality of submarines. It is a big step forward in the Sino-American confrontation.
After Kabul, the Aukus pact – Australia, United Kingdom, United States – confirms the strategic priority of the United States: China. Australia had been an ally for a long time. It becomes a close partner of the United States, an advanced element in Asia-Pacific of the American device intended to counter the will of Chinese domination in the region. Even if it means taking a very big risk of nuclear dissemination.
In this case, Beijing has done everything to throw Canberra into Washington’s arms. China is rampantly militarizing the islets – territories disputed with its neighbors – which it has seized by force in the Western Pacific. It has increased espionage operations and political influence in Canberra. To punish Australia for daring to call for an international investigation into the origin of the Covid crisis, the Chinese have declared a ruthless trade war on the Australians. Sign of the times: Aukus has been hailed all over Asia, in Tokyo, Delhi, Taipei.
Second lesson. Barack Obama, the president of the “backbone” of the American commitment to Asia, was relatively indifferent to European affairs. Donald Trump displayed his hostility to the European Union (EU) and his doubts about the usefulness of NATO. President Joe Biden says kind words to his allies but treats them with humiliating flippancy. Kind words, contemptuous behavior: addressed to Europe, the Biden doctrine is the “brutalist” school.
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