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Updated: Oct 24, 2023

AUKUS is a recently established trilateral security alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, primarily focusing on enhancing defence cooperation particularly in the area of naval capabilities. The alliance was announced on September 15, 2021, and was met with mixed reactions. Some saw it as a positive development in building further geopolitical cooperation with some of Australia's closest allies, while others expressed concerns about its implications for regional security.

From left to right, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President of the United States Joe Biden and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak each with their own podium  addressing media about the AUKUS agreement in San Diego, California. The text "AUKUS" is foregrounded.

A media statement released by the Australian Department of Defence stated that AUKUS will:

"build on the three nations’ longstanding and ongoing bilateral ties, and will enable the partners to significantly deepen cooperation on a range of emerging security and defence capabilities, which will enhance joint capability and interoperability. Initial efforts under AUKUS will focus on cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and additional undersea capabilities."

The first initiative announced for Australia as part of the AUKUS agreement was to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and in turn, cancel the ongoing acquisition of diesel-electric submarines from France, a saga of events which has been met with much criticism by various parties.

Timeline of Australia's Engagement with AUKUS

  • September 15, 2021: Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announce the AUKUS partnership.

  • October 2021: Australia announces that it will cancel a $90 billion submarine deal with France in favour of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and the United Kingdom.

  • November 2021: France recalls its ambassador from Australia in protest of the cancellation of the submarine deal.

  • December 2021: Australia pays France $555 million in compensation for the cancellation of the submarine deal.

  • January 2022: Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States begin work on the design of the new submarines.

Historian, Henry Reynolds, writing for Pearls and Irritations, criticised the secrecy with which the agreement was made and questioned the Labor Party's continuation of the agreement since coming to power:

"We must recall here that we know so little about the provenance of the agreement. It was entirely the work of Scott Morrison and negotiated in secret. Equally secret was his close personal relationship with Mike Pompeo. When every aspect of Morrison’s legacy is currently being appropriately called into question can the ALP continue to hold the position that AUKUS is beyond reach of sceptical re-examination? That we must henceforth be perpetually tethered to Morrison’s most consequential and arguably most portentous decision?"

Sources & Further Reading

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