Indo-Pacific Aukus pact: the West divided?

The new military alliance between the US, the UK and Australia continues to fuel tensions and outrage. Under the deal Australia will acquire nuclear-powered submarines from the US and scrap a contract for the purchase of French submarines. While some commentators see partners recklessly snubbed, others hail the move as a long overdue joining of forces against Chinese influence.

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Observador (PT) /

Misguided reaction from Paris

Observador welcomes the founding of the alliance:

“This is very good news for the defenders of liberal democracy. Especially after the depressing and totally unnecessary withdrawal from Afghanistan. ... The major democracies of the Indo-Pacific region - India, Japan and South Korea, among others - immediately welcomed this initiative. Aukus will strengthen the alliance of democracies in the Indo-Pacific and hopefully have a deterrent effect on the Chinese communist dictatorship's very bold (to say the least) expansionist policies in the region. ... But unfortunately, noble French democracy has reacted in a completely absurd manner, even recalling its ambassadors from Australia and the US to Paris.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Nato irresponsibly bypassed

The US must repair the devastating consequences of of its actions, French diplomat Michel Duclos urges in Le Monde:

“If the US administration really wants to organise a network of alliances to stand up to China, it has acted absolutely irresponsibly in this affair by taking the risk of alienating a not insignificant ally and cutting itself off from at least a section of the Europeans. It has also weakened Nato, which has been presented with a fait accompli: a major change of strategy towards China which carries non-negligible risks of increasing the tensions, for example on the issue of Taiwan. Washington must now repair this damage.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

The French were too complacent

France itself is to a large extent responsible for the submarine fiasco, writes Der Tagesspiegel:

“The supplier DCNS [since 2017 Naval Group] went way over budget for the submarines and failed to deliver agreed sections of the project on time. Australia wanted to pull out long ago. It didn't sign the follow-up agreement in April. For too long, the French relied on the fact that Australia had no alternative. The Americans and the British had been unwilling to share their nuclear submarine propulsion secrets with third parties. That hurdle has fallen. An alliance of democracies against China's imperial claims in the Indo-Pacific is a priority for Joe Biden and Boris Johnson.” (GR) /

German leadership leaves Europe at an impasse

France should emancipate itself from an EU foreign policy in which Berlin has too much say, writes

“Now the impasse of the German Europe - which is not Western but Central Europe - is coming to light. ... This Europe has completely different, conflicting interests to those of the West. France, on the other hand, is in the West. It is the pillar of the West. It has paid the price for the new alliance and is rightly incensed. ... But the real problem is not this or any other alliance. It is the imprisonment in a Europe that serves Berlin's national agenda. ... The German Europe is passé. France must forget it. It should distance itself from Germany as far as international politics are concerned. ... In this way Paris will be able to find the role it deserves.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

That's what comes from not showing your true colours

Jutarnji list explains what makes the EU and Nato such complicated partners for the US:

“Many in the EU today still repeat the mantra that the EU should keep its nose clean and maintain good relations - especially trade relations - with everyone. If the EU wants to cooperate with China without clearly taking sides in the China-US conflict, it must be prepared to pay the price. And that price could be new Western partnerships that do not take the EU into account. ... For the Americans, Aukus is a good way to work with loyal partners while avoiding cumbersome coordination with organisations like Nato and the EU where decisions are made by consensus.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

US flirting with two Western alliances

Biden's increased reliance on the Five Eyes intelligence alliance between Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand could lead to a split in the West, Italy's former deputy foreign minister Marta Dassù warns in La Repubblica:

“This carries a risk: the division of the West into an Anglo-Saxon sphere, which is supposed to keep China in check, and a traditional Euro-Atlantic sphere with Nato, which is aimed at Russia. Basically, these are two different, parallel alliance systems with Washington as the pivot. The question is how long the West's two fronts will remain united. The White House must learn to deal with alliances. For the Europeans, the question is how to react to the partial loss of their central position.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Paris might have done the same thing

The Daily Telegraph finds it hypocritical that France of all countries is accusing others of betraying their partners:

“Paris is hardly a stranger to hard-nosed realpolitik, being among the leading proponents of the view that international affairs is about defending your national interests even at the cost of those of your allies. In 1966, Charles de Gaulle pulled out of Nato's integrated command. In 1985, amid controversy over nuclear testing in the Pacific, François Mitterrand's French agents sank a Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior. It is therefore somewhat rich for Mr Macron to complain when other countries decide that their own priorities do not accord with his own.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Perhaps there was no alternative

The US is in a very awkward position, Spotmedia points out, calling for more understanding for the move:

“Aukus is putting a strain on EU-US relations, but it also offers a security solution for the West in the face of China's accelerated military expansion. ... It's understandable that France is angry. Losing a 50-billion-euro deal is not good news for any government. Investments, tax revenues and thousands of jobs in an expensive, hotly contended high-tech industry are at stake here. On the other hand, China's military pressure on the US position in the Pacific is very strong, and Joe Biden needed to find a quick solution to reduce it.”

Aargauer Zeitung (CH) /

Major collateral damage

Stefan Brändle, Paris correspondent for the Aargauer Zeitung, points to deep cracks in transatlantic relations:

“The Americans' ruthless behaviour towards Nato member France will put the North Atlantic Alliance to the test. Johnson said in the British parliament on Thursday that his country's relationship with the transatlantic defence alliance was 'unshakeable' and that with France 'rock solid'. The very fact that he felt compelled to make this clear shows how deep the rift in Nato and Western Europe has become. Biden no longer shies away from ruthlessly disavowing allies like France, and Johnson has been fully committed to 'Global Britain' ever since the country left the EU.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

An embarassing moment

The damage to the transatlantic alliance is enormous, notes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“As was the case in Afghanistan, Washington is neither informing nor negotiating. This is no longer a trifling matter. The question now is what to marvel at more: Australia's crystal-clear willingness to enter into an unresolvable confrontation with China alongside the US despite all the adverse economic consequences, or the chutzpah with which the US is alienating France, an important ally in Europe, on the very day of the publication of an EU Pacific strategy that exposes Brussels' foreign policy ambitions as childish games. For the EU and also for Germany, this is an embarrassing moment.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Biden following in Trump's footsteps

By snubbing France like this Biden is showing how Trump's America First doctrine continues to hold sway, comments Lidové noviny:

“Since Biden's election, the word has been that his America would put an end to Trump's policies. In practice, however, Biden is following in Trump's footsteps more than had been expected. Besides cracking down on illegal immigration, these include 'America first' and special relations with Britain. Had Trump come up with such an initiative, progressives would have condemned him. With Biden, we are still waiting for a reaction.”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

A dangerous arms race

After the failure in the War on Terror an even more dangerous era is now beginning in international politics, Naftemporiki fears:

“The agreement is a direct attack on China, and threatens to drag the Asia-Pacific region into an uncontrolled arms race and nuclear proliferation. ... Britain, which wants to reorient itself after Brexit, is once again strengthening its military presence in Asia, from which it withdrew 50 years ago by dismantling its bases in Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf. ... With the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the 'War on Terror' phase seems to be over. But an even more dangerous phase is beginning: that of a competition between the great powers.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

What Australia is getting itself into

Le Figaro is concerned by the developments:

“A country that had hitherto carefully kept its distance is being provided with nuclear technology (albeit not in the narrow military sense). This changes the rules of the game and exposes the Indo-Pacific region to a dangerous arms build-up. Canberra, no doubt driven by China's aggressiveness, is getting involved in the China-US showdown at the risk of having to take part in the event of open conflict. The warning to China is clear: Australia is becoming an American platform that could soon host long-range US missiles and stealth bombers. If necessary, it won't take the country long to become a nuclear power itself.”

Avvenire (IT) /

A message to Putin

The alliance of the three Aukus states also poses new challenges for the Kremlin, Avvenire says:

“With Aukus, the US is sending a signal indicating great political and military strength and its unwavering determination to maintain global supremacy and defend allies. It is telling Russia: Is it really worthwhile to strengthen your relations with China again? Is this really the course? After all, Russia is in a strange position. True, it is difficult or impossible to ignore. But it's also not really in a position to compete with the US or China. And with Aukus, Biden is suggesting to Putin that it might be more convenient to come to good terms with the US and its allies than to join forces with Xi Jinping.”