Treacherous friendships

Challenging the regional hegemony of a great emerging power as if it were a global existential threat is a bad strategy. USA should change their position regarding China or they will run the risk of another war, a nuclear one this time.


The new arrangement

A mutual defense agreement—in this case, the trilateral agreement between USA, Australia, and de United Kingdom, AUKUS—is not equal to, but rather something less than, an alliance, particularly if it is made in secrecy and at the expense of old friendships. From this recent arrangement the three signers seem to emerge successful and France is rebuffed (France had a previous, now cancelled, arrangement) aand also the European Union. The secrecy and surprise with which the agreement was sealed produced a bitter disappointment and then rage in several European capitals. In Paris, the president ordered to recall his ambassadors in Washington and Canberra—a gesture reserved before for non-aligned countries, rivals, or enemies. In the eve of a presidential election, Paris rage is also calculated to burnish the Gaullist image of president Macron.

Several things are at stake. First, an economic loss, as the reneged contract between Australia and France (regarding 12 conventional submarines of diesel fuel and gala manufacture) represents for the latter a loss calculated between 60,000 and 100,000 million dollars. Second, the truly cunning way of replacing French conventional submarines for Anglo-Saxon nuclear submarines (with nuclear technology shared by the three new partners), has damaged the relations between the United States and France, and thus with Europe, and it indirectly debilitates NATO. Third, US strategic priority (called pivoting) has shifted from the North Atlantic to the Western Pacific.

The alleged advantages

The nuclear submarines to be acquired by Australia will allow that country to have a deterrent position that today it lacks in front of Chinese power. On the one side, the United Kingdom recovers, though fleetingly, a strategic prominence and a global geopolitical role that were diluted before Brexit, i.e. its exit from the European consensus. Moreover, in the secrecy and haste of this arrangement that primordially involves USA and Australia, it is legitimate to suspect once more the cunning maneuver of a perfidious Albion[1].

Costs and results

Entering a close partnership with he who betrays friends is not an operation without risks. Who guarantees that my new partner does not make a similar move against me in the future? Australia is now at the vanguard of the confrontation between China and USA. Would her allies be a safeguard for Australia or would they consider it just cannon fodder in a future conflict? In the new strategic troika, USA, Australia, and United Kingdom are not in an alliance among equals, but rather an association between a superpower in retreat and two minor powers that become even more dependent on the first. To make matters worse, these two partners depend on American strategies that have demonstrated frequently to be erratic and/or mistaken. This strategic impasse is the only continuity—and not a very healthy one—between the last four American administrations: Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden. During this period, we see improvisation as well as clumsiness in American foreign policy. In the face of the disastrous result of interventions in the Middle East, it is evident  there is a trace of desperation in the eagerness to find a “more normal enemy” and a “cold war” instead of an endless asymmetric war.

It is hard to avoid the unpleasant sensation, which should not surprise the reader from the southern hemisphere, that the current treatment of Europe by the United States is similar to its historical treatment of Latin American countries, something unthinkable in postwar Europe, then rexempted from the anticommunist zeal exercised by the US over Latin America. In those years, in our Hemisphere the discourse regarding freedom and democracy and the respect for human rights gave way to the promotion of submissive and friendly dictatorships. This twofold position—respectful in Europe and derogatory in Latin America—had begun very early with the famous phrase by Franklin Delano Roosevelt regarding Nicaragua’s Dictator Anastasio Somoza: “he might be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch.”

In the XXth century, the United States, following its previous nineteenth-century Monroe doctrine, considered Latin America as a strategic rearguard, or backyard. In the XXIst century, the US could, but won’t, follow that tradition but in a more generous way. As a counterpart, they should  a grant similar status to China’s southern sea as the legitimate rearguard of the resurgent Celestial Empire. The US should only put limits to a bellicose adventurism in Taiwan, but should not deny the Chinese entrance into the geopolitical arena from which it will be a greater power in the remainder of the century.

Necessary change

For this scenario to be fulfilled, the United States should rectify its strategic vision, heir of the last Cold War, and no longer consider the surging regional powers (China and Iran in particular) as existential threats, as it happened during the time of the Soviet Union. The multipolar world in which we are demands a change in approach, more flexibility, better adjustment and the achievement of common strategies to address the environment, demographic migrations, and global social justice that are the breeding grounds for despair and

In this sense, I regret to watch the United States taking the wrong path, one that is provocative and almost spasmodic. War mongering is bad advisor and a self-defeating application of its huge accumulated power. It is possible that after disrespecting Europe with its probable consequences (a rapprochement between European Union and Russia as well as China and only a conditional support for American initiatives) the US twill come to its senses and redefine its strategic position. American power does not face a big external threat, but rather an internal threat of polarization and paranoia that today it projects outwards.

I will put this assessment in a more popular language. Who is going to bell the cat of a great power in its backyard?  Despite AUKUS, in the Great strategic Game of the USA against China, in a change of hands, the minor American partners will throw down their cards. Nobody in their right mind either in Australia or in England would risk the destruction of their country in pursuit of a war between China and the United States for the control of Taiwan. An AUKUS alliance in detriment of NATO is an awful move, based on an inherited but obsolete perception of a Cold War. If the US persists in such position, they will risk going into a (at best partial) nuclear war, from which nobody will come out well. This warning is not merely my own digression. It is offered by none other than American Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO, in a recent geopolitical-fictional book with a war scenario set in 2034[2].

To finish this note in synchrony with popular culture, I would say that meanwhile and with the wrong strategic posture, behind the tune of the American national anthem (The Star Spangled Banner) we can hear the verses of the most famous piece of the rock and roll repertoire, from The Rolling Stones:

I can’t get no satisfaction,

 I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try…

[1] . TN. “Perfidious Albion” is a pejorative phrase used within the context of international relations diplomacy to refer to acts of diplomatic sleights, duplicity, treachery and hence infidelity (with respect to perceived promises made to or alliances formed with other nation states) by monarchs or governments of the United Kingdom (or England prior to 1707) in their pursuit of self-interest. Perfidious signifies one who does not keep his faith or word (from the Latin word perfidia), while Albion is an ancient and now poetic name for Great Britain. See:

[2] .  Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis, 2034. A Novel of the Next World War. New York: Penguin, 2021.

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