21 September 2021

The AUKUS submarine/missile deal

As I've discussed in earlier posts, the world today stands in a position analogous to the 1930s.  There is still time for the democracies to confront China's expansionism, force the Beijing regime to back down, and get the problem under control without war -- as could have been done in the 1930s if the democracies had been willing to forcefully confront the Nazi regime's early challenges to peace and stability, such as the re-militarization of the Rhineland.  On the other hand, if the democracies appease and accommodate the Chinese gangster-state and treat it as a normal government, its aggression will continue to escalate until a world war is inevitable -- as did, in fact, happen in the 1930s.

The recent AUKUS (Australia-UK-US) military deal is a strong step in the right direction.  The US will sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia and, later, long-range missiles as well, while both the US and UK will provide technological assistance -- thus greatly increasing Australia's naval power.  (Electoral-Vote has a brief discussion, but contrary to its speculation, there has been no hint of giving Australia nuclear bombs.)  The deal is a clear signal that the three countries are determined to contain China and are taking concrete steps to enhance their power to do so.

There already exists a regional association of democracies -- "the Quad", consisting of the US, India, Japan, and Australia.  This group, dating back to 2004, is not a military alliance, though the Chinese regime has accused it of trying to develop into an "Asian NATO".  Its focus has been on cooperation on non-military issues such as climate change and covid-19.  AUKUS is an explicitly military alliance, and could indeed form the nucleus of an Asian NATO.  And the US is not de-emphasizing the Quad -- the first-ever meeting of all four Quad national leaders will be held in Washington this Friday.  It's a not-so-subtle warning to Beijing that the US continues to strengthen its ties with India and Japan, and will increase its military cooperation with those democracies as well, as and when Chinese provocations warrant.

The only fly in the ointment is that the submarine deal has seriously offended France, because Australia has canceled a pre-existing plan to buy non-nuclear-powered submarines from that country in favor of acquiring the much more powerful nuclear ones from the US.  The European Union, of which France is a leading member, has also denounced the deal.  This video covers these issues well:

France and the EU have tried to play things both ways with China, wavering between confrontation and appeasement.  This puts them out-of-step with the mainstream of the democratic world, represented by the US, India, Japan, the UK, and Australia.  Shared values in other areas will ensure that their relationship with the US remains strong in the long run, but if the EU countries want to break out of their isolation on the increasingly pivotal China issue, they'll need to align themselves more closely with the AUKUS/Quad agenda and approach.

In the meantime, AUKUS is a piece of good news in a time when we've faced a shortage of that.  On China, Biden gets it.  Rather than repeat the mistakes of the 1930s, he's building strong alliances, forcefully confronting the Beijing gangster-regime, and working to reverse the drift toward a third world war.


Blogger yellowdoggranny said...

France is seriously pissed at us and can't say I blame them..could have given them a heads up and maybe worked a deal with them...I love Joe but think this was a fuckup.

21 September, 2021 02:48  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Now that I read you, France's reaction makes more sense.
It kind of flew under my radar for a minute but now I understand.
I hope this brings some stability.


21 September, 2021 05:36  
Blogger SickoRicko said...

Thank you for the excellent explanation of what's happening with this. I have always appreciated intelligent people who see things that I can't see.

21 September, 2021 09:41  
Blogger Tommykey said...

I keep seeing my Trump supporting friends on Facebook claiming Biden is bought and paid for by the PRC, but I struggle to see what substantively supports that. Biden really hasn't deviated much from Trump's policies and his administration continues to support strengthening ties with Taiwan/

21 September, 2021 10:28  
Blogger Mike said...

I was surprised to find out anyone was still making diesel-electric subs. You might as well get a surface ship with a lot more speed.

21 September, 2021 14:19  
Blogger NickM said...

There are a lot of reasons to build diesel-electric subs. Look up boats like the U-212 or U-216 classes. They have very advanced propulsion systems that can keep them totally submerged for a month at a time almost completely silently and with very little thermal signature. They are also of course much cheaper.

22 September, 2021 14:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Granny: Well, tough for them. France has done stuff that pissed off the US from time to time, too.

Sixpence: China is in a massive snit about the deal, thus confirming that it's a good move.

Ricko: Thanks! I'm surprised the media and the blogosphere haven't paid more attention to this. I guess it's easier to keep poring over the minutiae of political maneuvering in Washington, just because it's more familiar.

Tommykey: That sound like projection. Even during the election, Biden was startlingly tough in how he talked about China, while Trump pandered to Xi (see the video ad in this post, for example).

Mike: Evidently diesel is cheaper, and (I'd guess) easier to maintain for countries that don't have advanced nuclear technology. And subs serve different purposes than surface ships.

NickM: Apparently the nuclear ones can go much longer without surfacing or refueling. That's important when they need to be on mission for long periods, of travel very large distances.

23 September, 2021 03:37  
Anonymous Art said...

I'm not sure delaying WW2 by containing Hitler would have been the best possible course. We know how WW2 went. IMHO a whole lot of things went easier on everyone because WW2 happened when it did.

I have similar arguments as to why Nevil Chamberland, by delaying WW2 he made WW2 shorter. In a nutshell: the extra time allowed Britain to develop and build its air power, RADAR, and army. All were under developed at the time but, once built up, they were vital in the war.

Similarly an extra year or two could have meant Japan and Germany being more formidable. As it was the German army was not motorized. Infantry and artillery units still marched into battle and used horses to move the majority of supplies and heavy equipment. Given extra time and they might have gone to war with trucks.

IRL Germany knew about RADAR but hadn't developed it much. A couple of extra years of development and the allies might not have had an advantage. The extra time might have meant that Germany shared RADAR developments with Japan.

Perhaps Germany uses that time to build more and better U-boats. A few hundred more of even existing designs could have turned the tide the other way in the battle of the Atlantic.

I'm not against peace. But I'm not sure multinational pressure would have prevented WW2. It might have just delayed it. Delayed it at a time when many technologies were maturing. As it was historically the allies lucked out. They started the war behind but, because they hadn't used up resources building first generation technology the had what they needed to build the much more capable second.

Both Japan and Germany took advantage of the first fruits of new technologies and reaped many rewards. The first few years were glorious for the axis. Much of their equipment and training was clearly superior.

But they mis-timed it to take advantage the even greater rewards of those technologies maturing simply because by the time the advances were confirmed and optimized both countries were fully committed and no longer had the resources to build completely new systems, operating principles, or designs in number great enough to turn the tide.

Yes, Germany developed jet engines, but they lacked the materials and other resources to build enough of them to fight off allied bomber raids. Late in the war Japan designed and built fighters as good as any the allies had. But they simply couldn't build enough of them to change the balance of power.

Perhaps all this is too incoherent to make sense but my point is that outcomes in war are, in part, a result of cycles of technological development, and industrial development. In WW2 the allies, largely by happenstance, timed it well to maximize their military power investing in second generation designs. Whereas the Axis powers saw the initial advantages of technology and invested heavily in the first generation of those new technologies. This shortened the war and saved many lives.

23 September, 2021 18:51  
Anonymous Art said...

As for those French subs - I say the US buys them all. Reportedly worth six billion it is a small investment by defense standards. The French keep their pride, and shipbuilding capabilities. We get a stronger ally. We use them for coastal patrol, as resistance in training, and in support of special operations. Fact is the navy has never liked supporting special operations with nuclear subs. Nucs are too big to go close in, they need a lot of seaway to maneuver, and they represent so much of an investment that you simply can't take risks with them.

These French units are small enough to go up many rivers. They can sneak into harbors. They can get in close to deliver and retrieve swimmers in a timely manner and without the divers needing mechanical assistance. Smaller diesel subs are optimized for such in-shore work. Getting special operations out of the nuclear subs frees them up to stay well off-shore in deep water.

If and when we get into a near-peer shooting war diesel subs are masters of hiding in shallow coastal waters and ambush. They would compliment the capabilities of the more ocean-going nuclear attack subs.

23 September, 2021 18:52  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

I think I made it clear in the first paragraph that I was arguing that confronting Hitler firmly early enough in his career would have avoided the war, not just delayed it (or perhaps there would have been a short, minor war, since Germany was far weaker earlier on). Probably such a firm confrontation, inflicting a humiliating back-down and perhaps crushing Germany's economy by imposing economic sanctions, could have brought down Hitler's regime or at least neutered it (ideally, Britain and France would have forced his removal). The way it happened in real history, the policy of appeasement actually did delay the inevitable showdown until Germany had become so strong that it was impossible to avoid the really massive and destructive war we in fact got. That's what I fear will happen with China unless we get much tougher with them now.

As to the subs, it's not a bad idea, but unfortunately the US has a policy of almost never buying foreign-made military equipment.

24 September, 2021 01:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donnie praised Xi for his response to corona. Since Xi's response was "What the Chinese people don't know won't hurt me." you have to wonder.

A case can be made against Third Way for enabling China for a quarter-century, but not by Trumpies.

26 September, 2021 06:12  
Anonymous Carol said...

I don't know enough about the political climate in the Asian pacific to question Australia's decision, but France was indeed building nuclear-powered subs to be armed with nuclear ballistic missiles. About 1000 people have been working on this project for a few years. Many of them Australians, temporarily housed in France or French engineers, housed in Australia. Unable to travel home during the pandemic, these people fervently committed to their work (according to the French press). In addition to France feeling the impact of a significant financial loss, the decision to go with U.S. subs felt like a betrayal to many.

Fortunately, it looks like relations are slowly getting worked out between the U.S. and France.

27 September, 2021 08:13  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

France was indeed building nuclear-powered subs to be armed with nuclear ballistic missiles

Are you sure that that had anything to do with the now-canceled deal with Australia? Of course France itself has nuclear technology and nuclear weapons, but every report on this issue has specified that the particular subs France was going to sell to Australia would be diesel-powered, and no one has ever suggested France was planning to give Australia nuclear missiles, which would have been a huge geo-political shocker, much bigger even than the AUKUS deal.

27 September, 2021 08:52  
Anonymous Carol said...

I stand corrected. Sorry to interject misinformation.

So, is it safe to assume that in the original bidding process in 2016, Australia was requesting proposals for conventional subs and then later changed their minds?

27 September, 2021 13:16  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Evidently so -- probably because the threat from China loomed larger and larger. China has been bullying Australia more and more in recent years. It eventually became apparent that only a major new military response and alliance would be sufficient to protect Australia's national security.

27 September, 2021 14:45  

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