Deciphering AUKUS: it’s not really about the submarines

Biden’s desire for an alliance against China in pursuit of a return to “rules-based order” — heavily slanted in favour of the West — has been oft-expressed. The south must be ruled out. But so too, it would seem, must be the EU. Germany is still dependent on exports to China for its prosperity, and the Belt and Road Initiative is increasing China-EU trade at a cracking pace.If the US doesn’t trust the EU regarding China, it would have a major interest in breaking any link between Australia and France, as the latter remains a Pacific power. It would have been ridiculous to mobilise NATO in the Indo-Pacific with the EU about to announce its own common defence plan. The US doesn’t want equals in its new alliance, but subordinates who look like equals. Australia has played that role for decades, knows it by heart. But the UK? Well, AUKUS from its end forms part of a new post-Brexit “global Britain” push. What could be more global than policing your old imperial waters? Does it actively want to do that? Maybe. Maybe not. But what it needs from the US is a free trade agreement.Biden had said that the UK was at the back of the queue, especially if Brexit wrecked the “Good Friday agree

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