The announcement by Australia, the US and UK last week that the three nations would create a new strategic alliance is continuing to cause ripples in geopolitics.
The partnership, referred to as AUKUS, envisages the US and UK providing assistance to Australia to build nuclear submarines and the three nations cooperating in the fields of cutting-edge research. The partnership is being considered as a reaction to the increase in Chinese activity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The decision to cooperate on nuclear submarines led to Australia scrapping a contract with France’s Naval Group to build 12 diesel-electric submarines. The cancellation of the contract, which was estimated to be worth $65 billion, triggered furore in Paris.
Despite the outrage in France, the Australian government has defended its decision. On Sunday, Australian media reported the country could decide to lease nuclear submarines from the AUKUS partner nations when its own vessels were being built.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton was asked about the new submarine partnership on the Sunday Agenda programme on Sky News Australia. When asked whether Australia would consider leasing nuclear submarines until its own vessels are ready, Dutton said, “The short answer is yes.”
The AUKUS partnership envisages delivering at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to the Royal Australian Navy. However, an indigenous fleet of nuclear submarines for the Royal Australian Navy would not be ready for delivery until the late 2030s.
Dutton explained, “The talk that you can just buy a nuclear-powered submarine off the shelf, of course, is just not accurate or correct.”