AUKUS: Are we heading towards a new Cold War?
The most prominent constructivist, Alexander Wendt argued, "500 British nuclear weapons are less threatening to the United States than the 05 North Korean nuclear weapons". The assertion upholds the power of relationship and its competency between and among the states based on norms, beliefs and culture, though they geographically remain in a remote place. Despite 1071.7 miles distance between New York and England, their culture, norms and accord of attaining the same goal kept them ally for years.
Besides, Australia has also been reckoned a perpetual ally of the UK and US since it got independence from the British Empire. The remote country is still under the rule of the British Monarchy, although the British Queen Elizabeth II does not pertain to all administrative activities of Australia. The British Queen plays ceremonial and focal symbolic roles. Constituting the aspects made Australia an eternal ally of the United Kingdom and intimate to the extant superpower, the USA.
However, the three countries entered a trilateral security alliance called 'AUKUS' on 15th September 2021. The initiative has been upheld and endorsed by the US, UK and Australia. Through a video conference the parties agreed to enable Australia to build up its nuclear-powered submarines. This initiative also comprises the alignment of greater integration of the military purposes, regional policies and actions, cyber-warfare and the capabilities of artificial intelligence.
As this initiative elicits the security and military assistance to Australia from the US and UK will ensue in the South China Sea, the Naval Group of France is conceivably going to miss out on a $90 Billion contract with Australia signed in 2016. Marking a setback for Immanuel Macron and his government, this initiative takes him aback on the UK, US and Australia's new alliance, AUKUS.
Talking about the alliance, the security build up facilitation to Australia is one side of the coin but the other side focuses on the key goal of the initiative that aims at confronting China in the South China Sea, the heart of the Indo-Pacific Strategy. In this initiative, none of the three leaders, Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, hinted the China concernment, but it knows no bounds that this has been set up as a powerful security alliance against China's expansionist drive in the South China Sea.
Boris Jhonson referred to this initiative as a 'natural alliance'. He said, "We may be separated geographically" but we are "natural allies". Scott Morrison, however, insisted that Australia has no concealed intention of pursuing nuclear weapons. Australia will always be there to abide by the rules and regulations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which was ratified by it in 1973. Moreover, Australia joined in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1998 that also insists on Australia's retreat from pursuing nuclear weapons.
Notwithstanding, critics assert this initiative would indirectly spur the nuclear proliferation of Australia. The alliance is creating a loophole in the NPT and perhaps, making the ways facile for Australia coming to be another nuclear weapon powered country. Australia is evolving as the first country to make use of the loophole that will bring about questions on the legitimacy of NPT and other international institutions on exploiting the loophole in the NPT, critics argue. No misgiving that the alliance will intensify suspicion and give rise to security dilemma among the NPT members and other countries surrounding the aim against China's expansionist drive.
Focusing on another spectrum, the UK has been working on the concept of 'Global Britain' for a long time. It yearns to engage with the Indo-Pacific strategy augmenting military power intending for a global gain with the US. Inducing the UK, the initiative would mould a shape of the neo-cold war in the region. Despite the UK's dependency on the United States, from the military perspective, once world hegemonic power is newly thinking about boosting sea power.
However, China is a rising power and the most peer competitor to the United States. A rising power never let a superpower stay peacefully. After 2000, China's emergence in world politics is like a tiger that was asleep for long a time but by strengthening military power it is becoming, another powerful country in world politics. The US will tolerate such a rising of an Eastern power as its bravado and hegemony in great danger. China's military uprising in the South China Sea etches another Thucydides' Trap in the region.
Thucydides, the writer of the "History of the Peloponnesian War" and predecessor of classical realism, argued 'when a rising power challenges the dominance of an established power then the war is inevitable between them.' For instance, before WWI, Germany was the most peer competitor to Great Britain positioned at second from military, economic and naval power perspectives, which irritated the Great Britain and led them to commence WWI.
Now, AUKUS is driving us to the new phase of new Cold War. In 2016, the Trump administration was in the leading role of beginning the economic cold war, in the name of a 'trade war', between the US and China. Scholars deemed the democrats would bring a halt to this war but the Biden administration incited the war for greater interest.
However, Thucydides' Trap in the South China Sea issue is verily well apparent and palpable. China reproached the QUAD (The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the US, Japan, India and Australia) initiative since it began. Moreover, AUKUS, undoubtedly, would raise anxiety and tension in the South China Sea, strategically and militarily. Surely, China will respond.
AUKUS, it seems, is going to materialise another cold war. Eastern bloc and Western bloc concepts will arise surrounding this issue. In the meantime, Bangladesh must be smart, as it fosters relations with not only the China bloc but also the US bloc, following military and security policies. Bangladesh' peace must not be obstructed in this ordeal maintaining friendly relations with the US, China, India and all. As a NAM country, Bangladesh should uphold its core foreign policy 'friendship to all, malice towards none,' thus it can be competent to ensure security, economic and military peace and purposes.
The writer is a Dhaka based freelance columnist and student, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka