On November 10, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, titled “AUKUS: A New Cold War in the Indo-Pacific?” on the possible implications of the trilateral defence cooperation agreement, concluded in September by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The discussion was moderated by Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Salvatore Babones, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney, said that there is a broad consensus on the AUKUS pact in Australia. Although the right-wing politicians are not enthusiastic about this agreement, they don’t intend to abandon it if they come to power. The Australian establishment does not care about its potential effect on the fate of relations with China — here, in their opinion there is nothing to lose, since these relations have been completely destroyed over the course of three years of disputes between China and Australia. As for Australian-Chinese economic ties, if China decides to break them, Australia, as an exporter of resources, will simply start working with other clients in the global market. China has some logistical advantages as a buyer, but their impact is negligible in the face of market fluctuations.
Talking about the European reaction to AUKUS, Sim Tack, co-founder and chief military analyst at Force Analysis, stressed that the US has been actively trying for some time to push its European allies towards a more active Indo-Pacific presence and expand NATO in this direction. It is in this context that Washington’s latest initiatives should be understood. Despite attempts to become a more active and independent player, Europe remains highly dependent on the United States regarding security issues, and it will not go against Washington’s global strategy.
Andrew Futter, Professor of International Politics at the University of Leicester, said that participation in AUKUS reflects the UK’s long-term desire for a transatlantic relationship with the United States and a stronger relationship with Australia. Accordingly, we are talking more about the development of already existing trends, and not something new. Britain realises that Asia is poised to come out on top in the 21st century, pushing back the Euro-Atlantic, and its policy is largely dictated by this understanding. In the renewed competition, sometimes referred to as the “new cold war”, London wants to strengthen its own position.
Vassily Kashin, Deputy Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, stressed that what happened looks like a major defeat for Chinese foreign policy based on “dollar diplomacy”, ignoring ideological and political factors. China has long tried to put pressure on Australia, but this has only provoked Canberra to pursue irreversible actions which undermine political relations, despite Australia’s strong economic dependence on China. Describing the position of Russia, Kashin noted that AUKUS has limited consequences for Russian military interests and may even be beneficial to Russia from an economic point of view — which does not negate tough rhetoric.