martedì, Giugno 25, 2024

Australia’s nuclear-powered submarine deal stokes tensions

Il nuovo patto militare dell’Australia con Stati Uniti e Regno Unito – annunciato con l’acronimo AUKUS – alimenta le tensioni nell’area del Pacifico e non solo: ne dà conto il quotidiano australiano The Age nell’articolo che segue. Si tratta di una partnership strategica centrata sulla fornitura all’Australia di sottomarini a propulsione nucleare da parte degli Stati Uniti, ma che include un’ampia collaborazione in materia di intelligence e tecnologie quantistiche ad usi militari. Il primo ministro australiano ha tenuto a precisare che il paese non intende comunque dotarsi di armi nucleari. La decisione – resa nota a un mese esatto dal ritiro statunitense dall’Afghanistan – ha immediatamente suscitato le dure reazioni del governo cinese, che ha interpretato la nascita di AUKUS come una minaccia per sé e per la pace nell’area-chiave del Pacifico: un accordo che riapre una corsa agli armamenti e indebolisce gli impegni globali per la non proliferazione nucleare. Anche il governo indonesiano ha espresso forti preoccupazioni per la nascita di AUKUS e la dotazione di sottomarini a propulsione nucleare da parte della vicina Australia. Le critiche più pesanti sono venute dalla Francia, che nel frattempo ha deciso di richiamare in patria i propri ambasciatori negli Stati Uniti e in Australia per “consultazioni eccezionali” alla luce di una decisione definita di “eccezionale gravità”: il nuovo patto revoca, infatti, un precedente accordo dell’Autralia con la Francia per la fornitura di sottomarini classici, con una perdita di 2,4 miliardi di fondi pubblici e l’esclusione francese da una partnership militare strategica. Da una parte, l’Unione Europea, attraverso il proprio responsabile della politica estera Josep Borrell, ha dichiarato di non essere stata informata della nascita di AUKUS e resta, dunque, esclusa al momento dalla ridefinizione degli equilibri geopolitici mondiali. Dall’altra parte, il Regno Unito post-Brexit mira con il nuovo accordo a svolgere un ruolo di primo piano nello scacchiere del Pacifico, ristabilendo un forte rapporto diretto con gli Stati Uniti. Le reazioni al nuovo patto militare, e la sua portata, fanno pensare che si tratti di un punto di svolta nelle relazioni internazionali.



di Anthony Galloway

Australia will pursue long-range hypersonic missile technology and undersea drones while it builds a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new military pact with the United States and Britain, a partnership China has labelled an “extremely irresponsible” threat to regional stability.

The announcement of the partnership, to be known as AUKUS, has sent shockwaves around the world as the three countries look to provide a more assertive military posture in the face of Beijing’s rapidly escalating militarisation of the South China Sea.

China’s foreign ministry said the agreement “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.

In a major development, US President Joe Biden said on Thursday his nation would lend its nuclear technology to Australia for the first time to help its ally build an advanced fleet of submarines. The US has previously offered the technology only to Britain and the deal with Australia has been described as a “one-off”.

Canberra on the same day dramatically dumped its troubled $90 billion deal with France’s Naval Group to build 12 conventionally powered submarines, wasting more than $2.4 billion in sunk costs and compensation.

Australia will now build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and Britain under the new pact, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison described as the “single greatest initiative” in Australia’s national security alliances since the establishment of the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) in 1951.

“The relatively benign environment we have enjoyed in many decades in our region is behind us,” Mr Morrison said. “We have entered, no doubt, a new era, with new challenges for Australia and for our partners and friends and countries right across our region.”

Mr Morrison said the new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines would be built in Adelaide and stressed the government was “not seeking to establish nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability”.

The nuclear-powered submarines may not arrive until as late as 2040, despite Defence officials last year warning the country no longer had a 10-year window to defend itself from an attack.

With the first of Australia’s six existing Collins-class submarines to start being decommissioned from 2038, national security experts fear the government has not left itself any room for delays in the nuclear-powered submarine program.

US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minster Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will involve helping Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines…

To fill this void, Australia will acquire long-range missiles – including Tomahawk cruise missiles on its Hobart-class destroyers, anti-ship missiles for the Super Hornet aircraft and hypersonic missiles that can travel at least five times the speed of sound – as well as unmanned underwater vehicles under the AUKUS pact.

More US Marine troop deployments in Australia, on top of the existing 2500-strong force that rotates through Darwin, could also be on the agenda.

Australian taxpayers have forked out $2.4 billion to Naval Group for work already done and the government will probably have to pay at least $140 million more for breaking the agreement. The nuclear-powered submarines will also cost more than the $90 billion that was projected for the French submarines.

Mr Morrison on Wednesday attempted to contact French President Emmanuel Macron, who is said to be extremely disappointed by the decision, but the two leaders did not have a phone conversation.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told news site France Info he felt “stabbed in the back” over the “unacceptable” deal that shuts the French military out of a key initiative in Western efforts to build a bulwark against China.

“This unilateral, brutal, unforeseeable decision really looks like what [former US president] Mr Trump was doing,” Mr Le Drian said. “This move is unacceptable between allies who want to develop a structured Indo-Pacific partnership.”

Australia commissioned the new submarine fleet from France in 2016 amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific as China began militarising the South China Sea through the construction of artificial reefs and atolls. But the program has been plagued by cost blowouts, schedule slippages and disagreements over commitments to use local contractors.

Lowy Institute executive director Michael Fullilove said the nuclear option contained a number of upsides, adding Australia was “doubling down on its old alliance with the United States and seeking to draw the United Kingdom more deeply into our neighbourhood”.

But he warned the move would have consequences for Australia’s relations with China and other regional powers.

“France feels ill-used … Australia should look for other opportunities to deepen our partnership with France, as fellow Indo-Pacific democracies,” he said.

“Building and operating nuclear-powered submarines is a highly complex operation and our record on submarine development is mixed. This will be a massive and difficult national undertaking.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian described the transfer of US nuclear technology as “extremely irresponsible”.

“China always believes that any regional mechanism must go with the trend of the times for peace and development, and should be conducive to mutual trust and co-operation between regional countries,” he said. “They should not target any third party or harm the party’s interests by forming an exclusive ‌and closed small group.”

Australia, the US and Britain are looking to project a more powerful posture in the region amid China’s growing assertiveness across a number of flashpoints. However, Mr Morrison insisted the pact was not aimed at any one country and said he was happy to talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the decision.

The construction of the nuclear-powered submarines in Adelaide is not expected to affect any of Australia’s international nuclear non-proliferation agreements. The reactors will arrive in Australia already containing enriched uranium, and using the American technology means it does not have to be refuelled for the life of the submarine, unlike other nuclear-powered boats.

Domestic laws governing nuclear power may need to be tweaked for the purposes of building and operating the submarines locally.

The decision to go with nuclear-powered submarines was made on the basis that they are considerably faster and can stay underwater, undetected, for days longer than conventional submarines. Australia, the US and Britain will work out how best to deliver them over the next 18 months.

The submarines will be built at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, where Naval Group was to construct the 12 attack-class submarines. Senior government officials confirmed the first one or two submarines could be built in the US or Britain but no decisions had been made.

“Nuclear-powered submarines do not have the same limitations that face conventional submarines on weapons storage, speed and endurance,” Mr Morrison said. “They can stay completely submerged for many months, limiting the opportunities for detection by adversaries.”

Labor leader Anthony Albanese, who was briefed on the proposal on Wednesday, said he welcomed the new partnership but would seek further details.

“While there is much that we welcome, it’s also clear that today’s announcement is the single biggest admission of failure on the part of the Morrison-Joyce government over its $90 billion future submarines program,” he said. “A program that is running 10 years late from its original schedule and $40 billion over budget.”

Marcus Hellyer, a senior analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said the development showed “how much the world has changed in five years” and called it the “biggest defence capability story of my lifetime”.

He said nuclear submarines were “better hunters, better at escaping, and can spend much more time on station.”

Naval Group said the development was a “major disappointment” for the company and that it had offered Australia a “regionally superior conventional submarine with exceptional performances”.

Mr Morrison also confirmed the full cycle docking of Australia’s existing fleet of six Collins-class submarines would remain in Adelaide, despite years of lobbying from Perth.


Fonte: The Age, 16 settembre 2021.