How a New US Nuclear Submarine Alliance Checkmates China
The new submarine alliance between the United States, the U.K., and Australia could be the most aggressive and devastating move against China that has ever been conceived. As the West tries to maintain dominance around the world, these three nations have decided to take things to another level. We are going to tell you why an ally and member of NATO was stabbed in the back, how the United States exploited a loophole in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and whether this new nuclear sub agreement could spark World War III. On March 13, 2023, President Biden of the United States, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom spoke at Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego. It was here that one of China’s worst nightmares
manifested. The three nations laid out plans to deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia in the coming years. This obviously worries China because it would threaten its position in the Indo-Pacific region of the world and have dire consequences for any future plan.
However, China is not the only country that is unhappy with what has become known as the AUKUS alliance. AUKUS got its name from the abbreviations for Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Surprisingly, a member of NATO, and an ally of all three nations, was taken advantage of when the deal occurred. Could AUKUS tear apart long-lasting ties between Western powers, leaving China in a unique position to extend its influence? Let’s find out.
In March of 2021, Australian Navy chief Vice Admiral Michael Noonan met in London with Admiral Tony Radakin of Britain. The meeting was kept relatively quiet as Noonan would be asking the British military for a powerful and highly controversial vessel. It was during this meeting that talks began about arming the Australian Navy with nuclear-powered submarines. It’s important to note that Australia was not asking for submarines armed with nuclear weapons but for submarines powered by nuclear reactors to replace the diesel vessels they currently use.
We will come back to why this distinction needs to be made and why this is a huge deal to China, however, for now, it’s important to know that when Vice Admiral Noonan and Admiral Radakin met, this is what they discussed. It was later discovered that Australia and the United Kingdom both met with U.S. military leaders the month before to talk about the possibility of a military pact that would improve Australia’s naval capabilities. Then at the G7 summit in June of 2021 in Cornwall, England, President Biden, then Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of Britain, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia met to discuss the alliance further. Eventually, the meetings turned into an actual deal. It was agreed that both the United States and the U.K. would aid Australia in modernizing its submarine fleet. This would be a long process,
but in the meantime, the U.S. agreed to loan out some of their own nuclear-powered submarines for training and military exercises to help prepare Australian sailors for their future vessels. The AUKUS agreement would evolve a few more times, culminating in the most recent update given by the leaders of all three nations in March of 2023.
The initial AUKUS meetings were done in secret and without the knowledge of the rest of the world, even though Australia already had a previous deal with another country to build submarines. There is much more to this story, and the betrayal inflicted by these three nations will become clear later on, but first, let’s look at why Australia having nuclear-powered submarines has China on edge. Reason 1: Western military power in the Indo-Pacific will increase.
In his most recent speech with the leaders of the U.K. and Australia by his side, President Biden stated, “The United States has safeguarded stability in the Indo-Pacific for decades, to the enormous benefits of nations throughout the region from ASEAN to Pacific Islanders to the People’s Republic of China.” This is one of China’s major concerns. They already dislike the alliances the United States has built in Asia, especially with South Korea and Japan, and they most certainly don’t want to see that influence grow.
Therefore, Australia becoming closer to the United States and modernizing its navy, strengthening Western military capabilities in the region is a serious cause for concern. China has been complaining for decades that Western expansion in their part of the world has been unacceptable and a threat to their national security. If Australia acquires nuclear-powered submarines, it could carry out more comprehensive intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions. Their
subs would be stealthier and could enter Chinese-controlled waters undetected. And in a worst-case scenario for China, these new subs could make their own naval ships obsolete. Currently, China has the largest Navy in the world. However,
having more ships than everyone else does not necessarily mean their navy is stronger. This is especially true if China’s vessels are technologically inferior to their adversary. It’s estimated that China has around 730 vessels in its navy. Nevertheless, many of these ships are old and run on obsolete technology. The nuclear-powered submarines that
the U.S. and U.K. are planning to equip Australia with will be able to outmaneuver, outgun, and outperform almost every naval vessel in the Chinese fleet. This is obviously one of the biggest concerns for China. It’s not so much that the Australian navy is growing; it’s the fact that Chinese forces won’t be able to compete with the new subs developed by AUKUS unless they pour vast amounts of resources and time into modernizing their own naval vessels. And although the nuclear-powered subs that Australia will receive won’t have nuclear weapons, they will be equipped with torpedoes and cruise missiles, which could devastate Chinese forces in an armed conflict. Reason 2: Western powers will have more control over waterways in the region.
During the same speech, President Biden also said, “our leadership in the Pacific has been the benefit to the entire world. We’ve kept the sea lanes and skies open and navigable for all. We’ve upheld basic rules of the road.” He is referring to how the navies of the United States and its allies ensure that ships from all parts of the world can pass through the Indian and Pacific Oceans without being threatened. This statement is loaded, especially for China. Although AUKUS claims that the nuclear-powered submarines will guarantee the shipping lanes remain safe for all vessels, China has a hard time believing that Western powers have everyone’s best interest at heart. Instead, China sees U.S. navy ships in the Indo-Pacific
region as encroachment by the West, and they aren’t wrong. The new nuclear-powered subs would most certainly allow Australia to police the waters in their part of the world more efficiently and may even provide trade vessels with more protection from pirates and bad actors. However, it would also mean that Chinese merchant and fishing vessels could be watched a little more closely. Not to mention that Australia would be able to monitor Chinese naval movements more efficiently, which would then be shared with their allies like the United States. China does pretty much whatever it wants in the Pacific and Indian Oceans because they are the most powerful country in the region. China claims that it, too,
makes sure shipping lanes are secured for all vessels, but it obviously has its own ship's best interests in mind. This includes hauling illegal goods across the planet or fishing where they aren’t supposed to. Nuclear-powered submarines will allow Australia to have a more dominant presence in the region's waters and could threaten the way China currently does business.
There’s also the fact that whoever controls the waterways can more easily enforce sanctions and trade agreements. If in the future, Western powers need to place economic sanctions on China or restrict the movement of goods to and from the country for whatever reason, Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines will make this process much easier. The AUKUS agreement is poised to increase Western control of the Indo-Pacific waterways, which China will not allow to happen as it has continuously stated. This has been made abundantly clear through the expansion of Chinese bases in Myanmar and further west in Djibouti. The main reason they are doing this is to protect their own shipping lanes from any type of U.S. blockade. And if Australia gets nuclear-powered submarines, China may need to build more bases to offset an increased Western presence near their most important trade routes.
It cannot be understated how important controlling the waterways in the region is for both sides. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development estimates that around 80% of global trade is transported by sea. And an even more astounding statistic is that 60 percent of total maritime trade passes through the Indo-Pacific region and into the South China Sea. Literally, trillions of dollars in trade pass between
the Indian and Pacific Oceans as Chinese goods travel west to South Asia, Africa, and Europe. And at the same time, resources such as natural gas and oil are carried East to fuel China’s economy and military. Whoever controls these waterways controls this part of the world. Reason 3: the nuclear-powered submarines will threaten China’s very way of life. China constantly warns that the encroachment of the West towards Chinese borders will not be accepted. To be fair, Western powers, particularly the United States,
have formed partnerships in the Pacific and Asia to keep China in check and increase its influence in the region. The morality and ethics of indoctrinating other parts of the world into Western ideologies can be debated, and there are definitely negative consequences to the U.S. establishing military bases around the world, but for China, this is a matter of life and death. The Chinese government is an authoritarian regime that controls everything within the country. Like other powerful nations around the world, they want to spread their influence and continue to grow the country’s wealth and prosperity. However, this tends to be done through brutal crackdowns against anyone who speaks out against them and threatening retaliation if other governments oppose them. The Chinese government does not care who gets hurt as long as they can continue to grow their economy, spread their influence, and do it all their way.
The spread of Western ideology and democracy threatens China's authoritarian framework with which it rule its people and interacts with the rest of the world. The same can be said about Russia and any other authoritarian rulers. Whether democracy, socialism, communism, or another form of government is the best for the people can be debated. What can’t
be debated is that Western democracies and authoritarian rulers will never mix. Australia procuring nuclear-powered submarines and growing its ties to the United States is just another step towards the West boxing China in and preventing it from spreading its influence worldwide. Beijing has claimed that the AUKUS alliance has created a “Cold War mentality and zero-sum games” where China will have to strengthen its own position and respond with aggressive tactics to maintain the status quo. After the speech by the three leaders of AUKUS, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement: “the three countries have completely ignored the concerns of the international community and gone further down a wrong and dangerous road.” This is one of their go-to arguments when it comes to Western influence spreading in Asia and the Indo-Pacfic. China claims that it is
a matter of international security and that the West should not force its ideologies on other nations. However, when it comes to Gray Zone tactics and using its economic strength to influence other countries into doing what they want, China is usually pretty adamant that what they’re doing is fine. So, there is definitely a double standard there. Chinese President Xi Jinping even said that the new AUKUS deal was leading to the “all-round containment, encirclement and suppression against China.” The question then becomes:
are the nuclear-powered submarines going to be used by Australia to contain China and suppress its expansion even further? We would be lying if we didn’t admit this would be at least part of the responsibility of the Australian nuclear-powered sub fleet. It’s unlikely these vessels would be used to attack Chinese ships or assets unprovoked, but they will definitely play some sort of part in keeping China in check. So, we know why China feels threatened by the nuclear-powered subs that the United States, the U.K., and Australia will be working on. And if all goes according to plan, the AUKUS alliance will strengthen the position of Western powers in the region. Would this be enough to cause China to attack Australia and plunge the planet into World War III? Only time will tell, but it seems unlikely.
However, what is not unlikely is the continuing displeasure of one European country that was stabbed in the back by the AUKUS deal. France may hate AUKUS just as much as China. Could this mean that France may become closer to China? Let’s find out. In order to understand why France is so upset about the nuclear-powered sub-deal between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S., we need to go back to 2009. The Royal Australian Navy desperately needed to update its submarine fleet, which consisted of six Collins-class vessels. These subs were built in the 80s and are diesel-powered. A Collins-class sub
can reach speeds of 10 knots or about 12 miles per hour on the surface or at periscope depth, and 20 knots or 23 miles per hour when submerged. They have a range of 13,200 miles on the surface but only 550 miles while submerged and can operate for about 70 days at a time. These older Australian subs have a test depth of around 590 feet or 180 meters, but their actual operating depth is probably much deeper, although this information is classified. Collins-class subs have six torpedo tubes with a mix of 22 Mark 48 Mod 7 torpedos and UGM 84-C Harpoon anti-ship missiles. These subs were formidable 40 years ago, but naval tech has come a long way since then, and Australia knew it needed to upgrade its fleet if it had any hope of controlling the waterways around the nation. This was why the military decided it was time to build new submarines. And although
nuclear-powered subs are the way of the future, Australia ruled them out for a few reasons. The biggest of which was that Australia does not use nuclear power or have any nuclear weapons, and therefore, due to the international Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it technically should not be able to obtain nuclear reactors. However, as we know, this did not stop the AUKUS. For several years Australian military officials and diplomats discussed possible deals with foreign countries to build a new class of submarine. They wanted something that could not only protect their waters but ensure that Australia could control shipping lanes and conduct intel-gathering missions in the region. In 2016 the Australian and French governments came to an agreement, and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed a €31 billion deal with Naval Group, a company that is mostly owned by the French government.
Naval Group worked with the Australian military to design a new type of sub which they named Attack Class. This agreement became known as the “Future Submarine Program.” The idea was that the Attack Class submarines would be designed using the French nuclear-powered Barracuda class subs as a template but would be fitted with traditional propulsion systems instead of a nuclear reactor to maintain compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The Attack Class subs were also supposed to incorporate U.S. Navy combat systems and torpedos designed by Lockheed Martin Australia. The Australian government also required that at least part of every military vessel be built in Australia to create jobs. This increased the cost of constructing the Attack Class subs. However,
even though the vessel would contain parts from multiple countries and would be built partially in Australia, France benefited greatly from the contract. By 2019 the first round of designs was pretty much finished, and Australia agreed to a strategic partnership with Naval Group to build 12 submarines. But, like with almost every military contract, there were massive delays and unforeseen costs. The money needed to build the Attack Class subs kept growing
and growing. Before Australia and France were even ready to start assembling the vessels, the cost of the project rose to €56 billion, almost double what the initial contract was for. Negotiations continued for months, and in February of 2021, the initial plans were deemed too expensive and were scrapped. The Australian government gave Naval Group 7 months to revise
their plans and present new ones that would reduce the cost of the project. Obviously, at this point, tensions were high between all parties involved, so much so that Australia put contingency plans in place in case the project with France failed. And when Australian prime minister Scott Morrison met French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris during the summer of 2021, both voiced their concerns over the submarine debacle. Although Macron did reassure Morrison that France would do everything it could to guarantee the success of the submarine contract. To reaffirm their commitment, France and Australia released a joint statement saying that their foreign and defense ministers knew the importance of the Future Submarine Program and would continue to push forward. However, it appeared not everyone was on the same page because less than three weeks later, Australia would abruptly call off the deal.
On September 16, 2021, The Australian government released a public statement canceling the deal with France, and the Attack-class submarine was dead in the water. They had already spent around 1.5 billion euros on the project, and it was likely that Australia would need to pay hundreds of millions more in penalties for prematurely canceling the contract. However, the benefits appeared to outweigh the costs. The French were disappointed and outraged by the sudden and public collapse of their deal with Australia. But what happened next would enrage and
embarrass France driving them to publicly denounce the new alliance that had formed. What Prime Minister Morrison claimed Australia needed sent shockwaves across the world. He stated that his country could no longer be effective at maintaining open trade routes and protecting the region without nuclear submarines. The speed, carrying capacity,
and stealthiness of these vessels were vital to safeguarding the interests of Australia and the rest of the free world. Soon after the cancelation of the contract with France, AUKUS was announced. It was at this point that China started to voice its displeasure. Australia building new diesel-powered subs with France wasn’t a big deal. However, if they procured
nuclear-powered submarines from the United States, it would be a huge cause for concern. Let’s now fast forward to the G7 summit that we mentioned earlier. Biden, Johnson, and Morrison met behind closed doors and in secret. They made it a point not to inform France of the dealings that were going on behind the scenes. This
was possible due to the recent departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union post-Brexit. If Britain hadn’t left the EU, these talks would not have been possible, at least not with the UK involved, as it would breach at least some of the trade and foreign relation laws established to maintain the cooperative nature of the European Union. When the United States was brought into the conversation, Biden made it clear that there was no guarantee the U.S. would enter an agreement. Also, the Biden administration needed assurance that Australia ending the deal with France was not a ploy to have the United States step in and take over. Morisson reassured the U.S.
President that this was not the case, as the Australian government had been considering alternatives to the Attack Class submarine deal for over 18 months. AUKUS started under the guise of a joint capabilities and interoperability agreement. Although when the new alliance was explained further, it was shown to include improving cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities. The undersea capabilities are likely the part that caught France's attention. However, everything on the list was bad news for China, which is why when AUKUS was announced, it wasn’t just France that was voicing its discontent; China was right there with them.
Let’s take a closer look at the other components of AUKUS before coming back to the nuclear-powered submarines that resulted from the deal and why China, along with many other nations, including NATO members, are concerned. The AUKUS pact includes provisions for all three countries to work together and develop hypersonic missiles and defense against them. If we are to believe reports coming out of China, they are lightyears ahead of the United States and the rest of NATO in hypersonic technology. And since it’s believed hypersonic missiles will be one of the most important weapons in the future of warfare, this is bad news for the West. These missiles travel five times faster than the speed of sound,
are incredibly hard to intercept, and can cause massive amounts of damage. It’s unlikely that China has a large number of operational hypersonic missiles, but the United States and its allies need to expand research efforts if they are going to keep from falling behind. China is not a fan of any agreements to increase the military capabilities of Western powers, so they are adamant that many parts of the AUKUS deal are warmongering actions against their well-being. This also goes for the increased information sharing that the AUKUS deal will generate between the three nations. However, it is the nuclear-powered submarines that China is the most upset about. Anything that will threaten their dominance of the Indo-Pacfic waterways in the region is a cause for concern.
Again, it can’t be understated how important these maritime routes are for global trade and the movement of military assets for China. They need to be able to counter any Western blockades that could be implemented in the future, and the only way to do that is through controlling key waterways in the region. Any vessels, especially nuclear-powered submarines that may threaten China’s ability to move freely in the Pacific and Indian Oceans will not be tolerated. Before we move into the discussion around exactly what the nuclear-power subs will look like and the specific military repercussions they could have on China, let's jump back to France real quick to see if the AUKUS deal is enough to drive them into the arms of the West's most powerful enemy. During the AUKUS deal, it was reported that the only other county mentioned in the discussion was France. However, there was no apology offered. France lost billions of euros when the Future Submarine Program abruptly ended. This obviously angered the French government,
but there is no chance that France will ever join China just because its pride was hurt. Franco-Chinese relations extend about as far as most European countries. France most definitely buys goods and technology from China like the rest of the world, but they are not about the become allies because of AUKUS. France is still part of NATO and the EU. Losing a submarine contract definitely won’t change that. So, even though it was betrayed by some of its closest allies, France will maintain close ties with the United States, Australia, and Britain.
So, what is it exactly about the nuclear-powered submarines that Australia will be getting that has China upset? After all, there will be no nuclear weapons aboard these subs. Do they really pose that much of a threat? Under the new agreement, the United States will be sharing its nuclear propulsion tech with Australia. The United Kingdom has had a similar agreement with the U.S. since 1958 when the US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement was formed, so their submarines already operate using this technology. The new submarines being designed to replace the Collins-class vessels will likely
be similar to the Virginia-class submarines that the United States is currently transitioning to. This means we can expect the new Australian subs to have a few key features and specifications. The reactor aboard the new submarines will likely be an S9G nuclear reactor, generating 280,000 horsepower or around 210 megawatts of energy. This reactor will be connected to steam turbines and a single shaft pump-jet propulsor that will allow the sub to travel at around 30 miles per hour. This is faster than current Australian subs, but the nuclear reactor has another huge advantage over diesel-powered submarines. The nuclear reactors aboard U.S. subs can produce
enough energy to power the vessel non-stop for decades. Basically, the nuclear reactor will allow Australian submarines to travel underwater for any amount of distance and time. The only thing that limits its capabilities is the need to stop to resupply the crew and routine maintenance. Knowing this, it’s not hard to see why this new class of Australian submarines poses such a threat to China. Refueling isn’t a concern for these new subs when conducting missions or
patrolling waterways, which puts any conventional Chinese vessels at a disadvantage. These new subs will also likely have a test depth of at least 800 feet but will be able to go much deeper if needed. We don’t know exactly what type of armaments the new nuclear-powered submarines will have, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that these vessels will contain a complement similar to the Virginia-class subs, minus the nuclear ballistic missiles. This means the Australian subs could have VLS anti-ship missiles or even Tomahawk long-range missiles for strikes against land targets. There will also probably be at least four torpedo tubes, and the vessel will be able to carry many more missiles and torpedos than the Collins-class subs.
When all is said and done, the nuclear-powered submarines that AUKUS is developing will pose a huge military threat to China. There is no doubt that having these vessels patrolling Indo-Pacific waters is something that Beijing wants to avoid at all costs. But there is still time before these submarines will be built and launched, which is good news for China. What isn’t such good news is that during the transition period between phasing out the Collins-class subs and the new nuclear-powered vessels, the United States and the UK will deploy their own nuclear-powered submarines to the region to allow Australian sailors to learn how to work the systems and engineers to work with the nuclear reactors. The United States likely jumped at the opportunity to deploy nuclear-powered subs to the region. The AUKUS agreement gives them a non-aggressive reason to deploy more vessels in the Indo-Pacific since it’s all being done for training Australia. In reality,
having more U.S. and U.K. submarines in the region will only strengthen the West’s position, which is a huge problem for China. All three nations deny that suppressing China through an increased naval presence had anything to do with the AUKUS deal, but it’s hard to deny that more U.S. and U.K. subs in Indian and Pacific waters wasn’t an enticing part of the plan. As it stands right now, only six countries have nuclear submarines. They are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and India. So, Australia would only be the seventh
nation in the entire world to have nuclear-powered underwater vessels. There are a few reasons why so few countries have nuclear-powered ships, but one of them is access to the necessary materials. In order for a country to produce nuclear reactors that can power submarines and ships, it needs to have facilities to generate nuclear fuel. Unfortunately, any nation that has the ability to do this also has the foundation for creating nuclear weapons.
This is when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty comes into play. For the safety of the planet, it’s better if we don’t increase the number of nuclear weapons already in existence. Therefore, limitations are put on who can generate nuclear materials, how much can be made, and what it can be used for. But not everyone follows these rules, and much to the chagrin of China and many other countries around the world, AUKUS has found a way around the rules. Before we get into how the AUKUS countries exploited a loophole to allow Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, let’s see where the agreement stands. The United States said that sharing its nuclear propulsion technology is a “one-off” event.
It’s been reported that South Korea, which is closely allied with the United States, also has ambitions to obtain nuclear-powered submarines, but the U.S. refused this request in 2020, citing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. So, it’s a bit strange that the U.S. is willing to breach that very treaty to supply Australia with nuclear subs. China
has called out the U.S. on their breach of the treaty and has rightfully stated, like many other nations, that the actions of AUKUS could jeopardize the planet's safety. On August 31, 2022, the United Kingdom agreed to send the HMS Anson S123, an Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine to Australia in order for their submariners to begin training. On March 8, 2023, the United States announced that Australia would buy three Virginia-class nuclear submarines with the option of purchasing two more in the future.
The U.S. stated that the acquisition of these subs would fulfill an important transitional period as Collins-class subs are phased out. However, there is still a long-term plan to design a new Australian submarine that will be built in conjunction with the U.S. and Britain.
Now China is faced with a huge dilemma. The U.S. seems willing to break international norms to help Australia become more dominant in the region. The fact that both the U.S. and the U.K. will be sending nuclear-powered subs to the region in the near future is bad news for China, even if they are only for training purposes. That, along with the fact that Australia will procure three Virginia-class subs in the coming decade, means that China’s timeline for a response has become greatly reduced. It’s highly likely that China is looking for ways to offset the nuclear-powered vessels that Australia is acquiring, and this could be very bad news for everyone.
The argument becomes: if the United States and Britain can break the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, why can’t China? What is stopping them from exploiting the same loophole and arming Myanmar, Pakistan, North Korea, or any other authoritarian regime with nuclear-powered submarines? Let’s look a bit closer at the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and see how exactly the U.S. and U.K. got around it and how China could do the same thing in the future. The main purpose of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty is to control the amount of nuclear fuel produced, whether for weapons or nuclear reactors in general. However, a provision allows non-nuclear-weapons states such as Australia to produce highly enriched uranium for use in naval ship reactors. This is part of the agreement that the United States and the United Kingdom used to justify delivering nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. The problem is that this part of the treaty is generally agreed to be for surface ships, not submarines. The reason for this is that the International Atomic Energy Agency, also known as IAEA, which is the organization that monitors nuclear fuel production and compliance, can’t easily inspect and safeguard reactors on submarines for obvious reasons. There is
no such thing as a surprise inspection on a submarine whose location is classified deep under the waters of an ocean. No one believes that Australia will siphon off nuclear fuel from their submarine reactors to build nuclear weapons, but the same can’t be said for every country. A perfect example of this happened in 2018. Iran informed the IAEA that it was planning to build its own naval nuclear propulsion system in the future. This gave
them the pretext to remove some of their nuclear materials from the safeguards put in place by the IAEA. They could then use this material to create their own naval nuclear reactor for ships or use the fuel for more nefarious purposes. Iran has yet to remove any of their nuclear material from safeguards, which is likely due to pressure from both Russia and China, who don’t want to elicit a response from Western nations.
What the AUKUS agreement does is set a precedent for removing nuclear materials from safeguards in the future. If a nation wanted access to nuclear-powered submarines or just nuclear materials in general, it could cite the AUKUS agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency for doing so. Technically, since submarines are naval vessels, what the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia are doing is not breaching the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. However, it does set a dangerous precedent, which China has been very vocal about. And they’re not the only ones. Many leaders around the world are nervous about what this agreement could mean in the future and the damage it could do to the nonproliferation of nuclear materials.
To be fair, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty doesn’t do much to prevent the use of nuclear material to create weapons. For one thing, a perpetrator would need to be caught first. Also, there are no actual consequences for noncompliance. Any nation that is in violation of the treaty is referred to the UN Security Council, which then decides what to do. But since the members of this council are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, there is very little agreement about what should be done if someone breaks the treaty. This means it falls to the international community
to condemn countries that take advantage of the IAEA and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. However, when the parties in question are the United States and the United Kingdom, it is difficult for other nations to stand up to their decisions. The U.S. is the only superpower in the world and, with that title, has massive influence over many countries. It’s unlikely that anyone in NATO, except perhaps France, will fully condemn the AUKUS deal. However, if China were to do the same thing, there might be some repercussions. These would probably come
in the form of sanctions, but as things stand now, it’s not clear how far the West would be willing to go to punish China for doing something that the U.S. and U.K. have already done. Like China is currently doing, the United States and its allies would likely voice their displeasure with nuclear materials being shared. But it’s hard to argue against something like delivering nuclear reactors to a country without nuclear capabilities when you’ve done the same exact thing. It’s this double standard that has the whole world on edge. China is currently in a unique position to have its complaints heard since they have the second largest economy and military after the United States. However, the stronger U.S. allies get through things like the AUKUS deal, the more difficult it will be for China to spread its power and influence in the future. China’s
most powerful ally is Russia, and we now know they are not nearly as strong as Putin claims. Therefore, China may be looking to build alliances with other nations that could offer strategic bases in the Indo-Pacific region. This is why China has been building alliances with many nations in Asia and Africa. But arming countries that could support China in the future is a dangerous proposition. It can also take time, which due to the AUKUS agreement China may be running out of.
In the years to come, AUKUS may be a catalyst for increased tension in Indo-Pacific waters as China tries to strengthen its position. It’s not clear what steps they will take, but new talks between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin may indicate that there will be a renewed push to combat the encroachment of Western ideologies and influence into the realms that China intends to control. The nuclear submarines that will be delivered to Australia will likely only further increase tensions between China and the West. However, how far China is willing to go is not yet clear. They are undoubtedly scared that these new subs will allow the West to blockade their ports and control shipping lanes more easily. Could World War III be started over a nuclear-powered submarine agreement? Unfortunately for us all, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The
exploitation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by the U.S. and U.K. is a dangerous thing. China’s main concerns are for its well-being, just like every nation around the world. Of course, they are more powerful than most, and they have an enormous amount of influence in certain parts of the world because of their economic might. However, this could all be put in jeopardy if Australia uses its nuclear-powered submarines to police the Indian and Pacific seas. If this is a move to monitor and regulate China’s trade routes, it could lead to a very real conflict in the future. Both the West and China claim that their only goal for increasing their military strength
in the region is to protect trading vessels and promote free movement in its waters. Yet, it’s quite evident that much more is at stake as nuclear-powered subs are deployed in the region. Now watch “US World War 3 Plan.” Or check out “Russia and China vs. NATO.”