This is a story that will not be going away any time soon. We all might live in a yellow submarine, as the Beatles would have it, but Australians now get to try their hands at nuclear submarines. Well, ‘Yellowcake’ is part of the process, isn’t it? And we aren’t talking about Betty Crocker here. Jokes aside, the AUKUS – Australian, United Kingdom and United States – agreement has many threads running through it, which we will unpack to a degree here. The general world view is that AUKUS is a sub-standard deal (pardon the pun) for Australia, a win for the United States and UK, a loss for the EU and France, and otherwise an unwise decision on the part of the Australian government. There again, opinions differ, depending on one’s geopolitical stance. So, let’s start unpacking.
I will say at the outset I am a dual citizen of the US and Australia, so my interests in this area extend across the board. I also hold Italian citizenship, so there, too, is an interest in how this deal will affect the EU and NATO going into the future. Going out on a limb a little here, I will say the AUKUS deal will have repercussions for Australia similar to what Afghanistan has meant for the US and UK. This deal is going to upset the regional order for Australia into the future, as well as trade relations with nearly all its regional trading partners except for the Anglo nations.
Just what is AUKUS, then, in case you don’t know, and why is it such a big deal? We start with the background here and then get to the astrology and onward in Part II. The short version of the story is as follows:
Australia currently has six Collins Class subs in service, with the fleet described as follows:
“The Royal Australian Navy Submarine Force Element Group Headquarters, and all six of the Collins Class submarines, are at HMAS Stirling located in Rockingham, Western Australia. The majority of the Navy’s submarine support facilities are also located at HMAS Stirling, including the Submarine Escape Training Facility. The LR5 submersible, which is contracted to provide the RAN’s submarine rescue capability, has been based at nearby Henderson, Western Australia since June 2009.”
The Collins Class subs were all built in Adelaide and are classed as some of the best subs in the world, for their purpose. The problem with them is they are only operational in regional waters and do not have global reach. They are also nearing the end of their service life:
“The Collins class submarines will begin to reach the end of their useful life from 2026. In order to meet the in-service date of 2026, advanced design work on the next generation of Australian submarines will begin by 2014–15. At this very early stage, it appears probable that the submarines will be Australian-built conventional submarines equipped with air independent propulsion [diesel] and advanced combat and communications systems.”
Those new subs were to be built in Adelaide as well, in concert with France, with whom the government had a contract worth a cool $66 billion.
“The French had signed a contract in 2016 [with Australia] for a dozen conventional diesel-electric submarines and the work to make them was already underway. The deal with French majority state-owned Naval Group was worth at least $66 billion.”
Then, on 15 September, the French heard on the news their contract had been cancelled and the US would instead be supplying nuclear subs for Australia, under the auspices of the AUKUS pact. They were not consulted beforehand. They had to hear it on the news after the deal was already done. They are a bit agro, to say the least. It’s like hearing through the grapevine your partner has run off with someone wealthier and more influential without even telling you first.
This deal comes at a time when France could really use the funds, given the COVID crisis and other financial woes. Some Australian Coalition MPs are saying of the French, “They’re just having a sook.” Sure. C’est la vie, mates! All’s fair in love and war, and all that jazz. If matters had happened the other way around we would never hear the end of righteous indignation and bloviating among the AUKUS partners. We’ll come back to that, because this turn of events has sent a waft of the strong smell of coffee through the halls of the EU NATO partners.
As to why this deal has even happened, a little map will give a story line, below. These are the shipping lanes through the Malacca Strait, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. If those were to be disrupted, it would be a major blow to China. It would be far more, too, as it would disrupt trade with Europe and Southern Asia. In essence, it would cause an economic rupture for the EU and South Asia. This goes to one reason why the nuke sub deal is maybe not such a good idea for Australia, or for the EU:
Nuclear subs would give Australia the ability to interdict traffic at any point along those shipping lanes, whereas now they are confined to regional waters. With all this as background, what is really going on here? We start our look at that with a few short videos. To begin, this video shows how much of the world and many Australians see this AUKUS deal:
However, the following video shows what is probably behind it, because the competition between the US and China is seen in the West as a great power competition, and the elites in the US brook no competitors in any area. To them, every area of competition is a zero-sum conflict:
The entire video is worth watching to get an understanding of America-think when it comes to China or any other competitor. I would add, too, that Mearsheimer expresses quite a lot of projection when it comes to China, and the video is from 2019, pre-Afghanistan. His words are quite interesting, too: “security over prosperity” (that’s America-speak). “You’re either with us or against us.” That again, is America-speak. “If you go with China, you are our enemy.” This shows the sort of thinking that goes on in the Beltway. And the language itself is pretty nasty.
So, with the preceding in mind, why would Australia go with nuclear submarines, the picture preceding aside, instead of the French models (submarines, that is)? The following video, also worth watching in its entirety, is from a top military analyst. If you want to understand the current state of military affairs worldwide, all of his books are must-reading:
Given Mearsheimer’s insight into America-think-tank-land, what is obvious about AUKUS is it is meant to threaten China’s shipping, which it can do. For the United States, this is a strategic issue, and more so, a survival issue. And the Australian government has bought into it, or has been coerced into it, which we will examine shortly. That said, there is no sound reason why Australia cannot trade with China and still be friendly with the United States. China is not threatening Australia or the US militarily, nor do they wish to. They just want to do business. There is something more to this, though, and it has to do with economic systems more than military threats.
We Australians, like Americans, have been fed a steady stream of negative propaganda about China, much of it untrue. I see comments all the time in social media about how China is taking over Oz, but is that the truth? Who really has ownership of Australia? The following graphic might prove enlightening, as we often hear parroted the fear that China is buying up all of Australia’s farmland:
What is wrong with this picture? The graphic is from the Australian government. It turns out that Canadians own the lion’s share of Aussie farmland in terms of foreign investment, followed by the UK and US. We don’t hear that the damn Cannucks are taking over. That’s sarcasm by the way. I have more than a few Canadian friends, thank you kindly. As for Chinese ownership of Australian farms, China sits somewhere in the 15% ‘Other’ slice of the pie.
Looking at corporations, the biggest ownership of the 20 biggest Australian companies is eclipsed by the United States. Looking at that graphic, the Americans basically own the Australian banking system, meaning Wall Street controls it. That should give us a few clues and raise eyebrows as well. The Chinese have their own networks of control and influence in Australia and abroad, as do all nations, but those are dwarfed by the US. Australians should know, too, the US was also involved in the soft coup to oust Gough Whitlam in 1975, the event known as ‘The Dismissal’. Whitlam made an attempt to gain more sovereignty for Australia. The Big Brothers (the UK and US) had other ideas. The notion Australia has any real sovereignty past certain limits is an illusion.
Overall – and this will be hard for many Australians to believe – China ranks 9th in foreign investment in Australia. The US and UK are way out in front, followed by Belgium, Japan and Hong Kong. Who has the influence over Australian politics, then? Why the big fuss and negativity over China, then? Is it just ‘yellow peril’ scapegoating or is it something more? And why must we toe the line with the US and UK, aside from our cultures being so similar? China poses no threat to Australia, but anyone who says so gets roasted in the sphere of public opinion. Instead, the supposed threat boils down to the interlocked financial systems in those nations, with the US and UK exerting control over Australia’s politics ‘when need arises’, and with those nations being unable to break in to China’s economy and financial structures to any great degree and thus to have some control over it.
On top of financial markets and control, China’s trade surplus with the Anglo nations is huge. This is seen as a large advantage China has over those nations. But is it really? Australia has probably the biggest market in the world in China for its raw resources, like coal, iron ore, wheat and meat. In return, Australia, like most nations now, gets cheap (as in low-cost) goods at good quality in general. Chinese students support the university system. The benefits of trade with China would appear to outweigh their ownership, the latter of which again is hardly on par with that of the US and UK. There is something else at stake here which we are not told, but which is driven by US and UK interests.
Since the ‘90s, as in the Clinton and Blair administrations, the push for deregulation, tax cuts, globalization, outsourcing of services and so on, took on much greater speed. A very significant portion of our manufacturing capacity, meaning also the high-paying skilled jobs, packed up and either moved or got sold off to developing countries, like Mexico and China, at the time. At the same time, a more technocratic form of government was instituted in the West and ‘markets’ (i.e. financialization) became the driving force across the Anglosphere and much of Europe. Australia is part of the Anglosphere.
That financialized system of the West is now failing and under threat of collapse at some point. That is not the case in China, much as we hear often about ‘the imminent collapse of the CCP’. There are two ‘threats’ China poses to the US and UK, then: the fact they can overwhelmingly out-produce us in case of any conflict, and the example their economy represents to the rest of the world. They are exhibiting the very economic system of industrial capitalism, with socialist characteristics, that made our home nations once the world’s powerhouses. And this, the elites and vested interests in the US and UK just cannot permit. The same is true in Australia. Hence, we have AUKUS. What is the Australian chart showing, then? The chart with transits and directions for the 15th of September is below (bigger):
The big question, given Mearsheimer’s speech and the way this deal was undertaken, is as follows: Was AUKUS the result of blackmail, or just common sense? There is, in fact, a ‘blackmail midpoint’, Mars=Mercury/Pluto. In the chart we see transiting Neptune on the Mercury/Pluto midpoint, which has the following characteristics: “Over-receptiveness, a nervous sensitiveness, the pursuit of peculiar plans, cunning, falsehood, calumny and libel also slander and defamation.” Does anything else aspect that midpoint? Indeed, there is – transiting Saturn by semisquare: “A quarrelsome nature, a nagging character, irritability, skepticism. – Nervous irritation through over-work, the exposure to heavy and bitter attacks, separation.”
Overall, the Mercury/Pluto midpoint in any chart is a point where the person or entity is open to persuasive talk, or where they can express themselves persuasively. It is also characteristic of “persons who are guilty of fraudulent representation or misrepresentation in speaking or writing”. We also find the directed moon ot that midpoint: “The power to speak with heart and soul and consequently to convince people, adaptability and changeableness in both thinking and speaking.” The transiting Sun was on that midpoint that day.
Therefore, there are two manifestations of all the directions and transits to that most obvious of midpoints for persuading Australia to choose the AUKUS course of events. First, there is the indication the government was coerced into doing so, or was ‘persuaded’, shown by the Saturn and Neptune transits, even though the government probably knows it is against their best interests. The subs could cost as much as double those of the French deal, and now Australia has alienated itself from the French and much of the EU, at least for the time being. That will be covered more in the 2nd part of this post.
Secondly, there is the aspect of cunning and deceitfulness on the part of the government. The people were not consulted about nuclear subs, nor about what that will mean into the future. Australia does not have the infrastructure, knowhow or even manpower to produce and man such subs. The French had been told months before that the deal they had for the subs was on track, only to be tossed aside when a better offer came around. From a previous link:
“As recently as June this year, French President Emmanuel Macron backed Australia in its worsening tussle with China, standing alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Elysee Palace courtyard in Paris. What Macron didn’t know was that four days earlier, Morrison had used a meeting with US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss the secret plan to ditch the French submarines and build a nuclear-powered fleet with the United States and Britain.”
Emphases added. Apparently, Australia is not to agreement-capable either. The ‘better offer’ is shown by a direction of Jupiter, which forms a ‘finger of the world’ pattern with th natal Venus/Mars square. That is a very seductive direction. “Nuclear subs!? Wow! Now we can play with the Big Boys!” It’s that kind of sentiment in this case. The natal Venus/Mars square points to strangeness, disharmony and fickleness in relationships, too. There is more we could add, but this will suffice, as we are looking here at why Australia has taken this sudden turn of events, at least on the surface.
We will close this section out with a few more thoughts. One obvious consideration is that Australia is hooking its military capabilities with the US and UK. This is purely an Anglo pact, a sort of circling the wagons. The US has big plans for this pact, as they think this will deter China. It won’t. It has already angered them and several of Australia’s neighbors, like Indonesia.
The French saw their deal with Australia as the ‘deal of the century’ for them, hence their upset over losing it. Keep in mind, a nuclear submarine (SSN) is a vehicle for power projection, not defense. From the same link:
“The conventional [French] Barracuda program matched a national security vision for the country which revolved around the defense of its maritime territories, and in particular, the protection of access routes through the north of the continent.
By acquiring SSNs, the Australian government is clearly expressing its intention to operate far from the coast. The Australian Navy is consequently reconsidering its priorities. It is turning to power projection scenarios in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, with the ambition to influence China’s future strategic calculations. In other words, acquiring SSNs places the Australian Navy at the heart of the new deterrence posture that the United States is building in the Indo-Pacific.”
Emphases added. Then, there is the following factor that is little-mentioned, but plays a role in AUKUS: 2022 is an election year in Australia. ScoMo’s numbers are not that great at the moment. Big spending items, which will mean jobs for Australian workers, will play well to sectors of the populace, notably those who normally vote for the Coalition parties. Don’t think domestic politics plays no role here.
From the strategic perspective, the Australians, like the Americans and British, apparently have no idea. Firstly, China has no intention of attacking either the US or Australia. Its military spending is reactive, given the way America threatens it. Secondly, China and Russia are de facto military allies. If China is forced into a war scenario, Russia will protect its ally. It would not just be a war with China. Thirdly, in every scenario thus gamed, the RAND Corporation says the Americans are defeated handily in a war in the Taiwan Straits, with heavy losses. Tomahawk cruise missiles from subs would be intercepted. No, this pact is about interrupting shipping, not about protecting Taiwan.
And fourthly and finally, China can re-route its shipping to the Northern Sea Route and overland, if need be. The nations who would suffer most from a war with China would be the nations along those sea routs, shown previously, including Australia. And those routes are being expanded and improved at great speed. Russia is steadily and quickly churning out icebreakers and missile frigates to protect the North Sea Route and other maritime routes.
The Europeans would be hard-hit by war with China, economically especially. And that leads into the next part of this post, which is a consideration of AUKUS from the European perspective. There will also be more on the subs and what they are likely to engender over time, as in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. And the AUKUS partners can say there will be no nuclear weapons on those subs all they like, but in a time of war all bets are off. The Chinese and Russians know this too.
So, we watch developments for now. But on the whole, this was a very fateful move for Australia, which does it no good and will only harm its relations in the region and with Europe into the future. And it is not really about the subs, anyway. That is all for show, because the subs will not be ready until next decade anyway, by which time China and the Russians will have well and truly moved on from any such concerns as AUKUS. Instead, this is about the three-way special relationship. The AUKUS bros would like to have New Zealand in on it, too. But the Kiwis seem to have better sense. We’ll look at more in Part II.
Featured pic from GIS