By Barry Sheppard
The new military alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia is aimed at China.
By providing Australia with nuclear powered submarines, highly enriched uranium to power them, and the top-secret nuclear technology to operate them, Biden has intensified Trump’s confrontation with China, and raises the threat of war.
Australia will be only the second country to be provided with this technology, after Britain in 1958.
As opposed to conventional submarines, nuclear powered ones can go farther and much longer without returning to base. They could easily reach China from Australia.
They are also much quieter, helping to escape detection longer. China is weaker in anti-submarine warfare than other aspects of its navy.
An article in The New York Times written the day after the surprise announcement said,
“With its move to acquire heavy weaponry and top-secret technology, Australia has thrown in its lot in with the United States for generations to come — a ‘forever partnership’, in [prime minister Scott] Morrison’s words.
“The agreement will open the way to deeper military ties and higher expectations that Australia would join any military conflict with Beijing.”
The article also said that “security analysts believe that Australia would be likely to use nuclear-powered submarines to patrol” the South China Sea off China’s coast. The nuclear-powered submarines will be able to deliver missiles aimed at China.
They will augment the U.S.’s powerful deployment of warships and submarines in the Pacific, including nuclear weapons, and will be under U.S. control.
China reacted immediately and sharply. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the submarine agreement would “seriously damage regional peace and stability, exacerbate an arms race and harm international nuclear non-proliferation efforts.”
The latter charge is given credence by the fact that the nuclear technology and highly enriched uranium provided by the U.S. can be the basis for Australia acquiring nuclear weapons, if Washington so wishes, at any time.
Biden is qualitatively stepping up Trump’s confrontation with China, but this is not the only way Biden’s foreign policy is unfolding as a continuation and consolidation of Trump’s.
Trump was known for his disdain for “allies” in West Europe, and for his unilateralism. But now the military alliance with Australia and Britain, and the providing of nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra has enraged France.
The announcement of the new alliance came as a surprise to the rest of the world. In has now been affirmed that Biden began to work on the new agreement early in his presidency, in secret.
The announcement of the agreement was accompanied by the announcement by Australia that it was withdrawing from a $66 billion agreement with France to build conventional submarines.
This was a “unilateral, brutal and unpredictable decision” said an enraged Jean-Yeves Le Drian, France’s Foreign minister, and he compared it to the rash and sudden policy shifts Trump was known for.
Le Drian’s statement also said, “The very conception we have of our alliances, our partnerships and the importance of the Indo-Pacific” for Europe would be affected.
One aspect of this shift is to deprive France’s military industry of significant revenue, while American companies building the nuclear-powered submarines will reap the rewards, although the main reason was increasing the military threat to China.
French President Emanuel Macron retaliated by withdrawing its ambassadors to both Washington and Canberra back home for “consultations”. Reflecting his view that Britain is a secondary player, he didn’t pull back the ambassador from there.
An editorial in Le Monde, the leading French daily, broadening the charge against the U.S., said: “For any who still doubted it, the Biden administration is no different from the Trump administration on this point: The United States comes first, whether it’s in the strategic, economic financial or health fields. ‘America First’ is the guiding line of the foreign policy of the White House.”
Subsequently, Le Drian, when asked if Biden’s behavior is like Trumps, he responded “Without the Tweets”.
An article in The New York Times noted, since the American company Lockheed Martin was a partner in the French submarine deal reached in 2016,
“The contract was viewed in Paris as an example of how France and the United States could work together in Asia.
“That belief has been shredded, replaced by bitterness, suspicion and a measure of incredulity that the Biden administration would treat France this way.”
The article concluded, “The French president is certain to turn to his European partners, and particularly Germany, as he reassesses the western alliance and Asian policy.
“As Le Monde put it, ‘Beyond French sensibilities, it is the place of Europe and its role in the world that have been thrust into question. Where does Europe want to stand in the global realignment happening in the shadow of the American-China confrontation.”
For decades after the Second World War the U.S. was able to dictate foreign policy to its subordinate imperialist powers in western Europe. But as these powers have grown economically, especially Germany and a bit less so France, in recent decades tensions have grown with the U.S.
One example was France resisting the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The U.S. Congress (Americans are known for their crudeness) labelled “french fries” (that’s not what the French call them) as “freedom fries”, and “french toast” as “freedom toast”.
One columnist wryly observed that what the Americans called “french kissing” (the use of the tongue while kissing, which violated Anglo Saxon Protestant morality) should be called “freedom kissing”.
More recently, there have been differences over Russia and China. Germany and France have resisted Washington’s lead over how to confront them.
When Secretary of State Anthony Blinken early in the Biden administration confronted Germany over its agreement with Russia to build a new pipeline for natural gas directly from Russia to Germany, and demanded the deal be stopped, Germany refused, and the U.S. backed down.
Russia doesn’t compete much with the U.S. economically but its major export – oil and gas – is the one area it does. The competition with China concerns much more, from technology to trade etc. The U.S. has now zeroed in on its New Cold War with China as its major concern.
The new military pact with Australia and Britain is an escalation.
Germany and France have desired to balance relations between Beijing and Washington, and do not want to be drawn into a bloc against China.
They have resisted U.S. pressure against trade deals with China which are important to both. France’s trade with China now eclipses that of the United States.
Biden’s continuation and deepening of the confrontation with China and its relations with Europe, are not the only ways Biden’s foreign policy is a continuation of Trump’s (without the tweets and bluster).
Fareed Zakaria, commentator on foreign policy for CNN, wrote an article in the Washington Post — here are excerpts:
“After almost eight months of watching policies, rhetoric and crises, many foreign observers have been surprised — even shocked — to discover that, in area after area, Biden’s foreign policy is a faithful continuation of Donald Trump’ and a repudiation of Barak Obama’s.
“Some of this dismay is a consequence of the abrupt and unilateral manner in which Biden withdrew from Afghanistan. A German diplomat told me that, in his view, Berlin was consulted more by the Trump administration than this one. Some are specific actions, such as the submarine deal, which has enraged France.
“But the growing concerns go well beyond any one episode. A senior European diplomat noted that, in dealings with Washington on everything from [covid] vaccines to travel restrictions, the Biden policies were ‘America First’ in logic whatever the rhetoric.
“A Canadian politician said that if followed, Biden’s ‘Buy American’ plans are actually more protectionist than Trump’s.
“Despite having criticized Trump’s tariffs repeatedly, Biden has kept nearly all of them. (In fact, many have been expanded since most exemptions to them have been allowed to expire.) Key Asian allies keep pressing Biden to return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — much praised by him when the Obama administration negotiated it. Instead, it has been shelved.
“Another striking example of Biden’s surprising Trumpian foreign policy is the Iran deal, one of the landmark accomplishments of the Obama administration.
“Throughout his election campaign, Biden argued that Trump’s withdrawal from that agreement had been a cardinal error and that as president, he would rejoin it as long as Iran would also move into compliance. His national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, described Trump’s reimposing secondary sanctions against Tehran despite opposition from U.S. allies as ‘predatory unilateralism.’
“But since he took office, Biden has failed to return to the deal and has even extended some sanctions. Having long argued against trying to renegotiate the deal, Biden officials now want to ‘lengthen and strengthen’ it….
“Or consider policy toward Cuba. The Obama administration was bold enough to tackle one of the most glaring failures in U.S. foreign policy. Having isolated and sanctioned Cuba since 1960 to produce regime change in that country, the United States had instead strengthened Cuba’s Communist government….
“As with Iran, the cost of these policies has been paid by ordinary people. One of the cruelest aspects of America’s sanctions policy is that it is so readily deployed because it satisfies special interest groups in Washington and is painless to Americans, but inflicts horrific damage on the poorest and most powerless — millions of ordinary Cubans and Iranians …
“Obama began to relax these policies toward Cuba. Trump reversed course. Biden has kept in place the Trump policy and actually tightened sanctions. In a recent U.N. General Assembly vote condemning America’s 60-year-old embargo, the vote was 184 to 2. (Israel was the only country to vote with Washington.)….”
Zakaria is usually a mainstream commentator on foreign policy, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the think tank of the ruling class’ debates on it, and is a firm supporter of U.S. imperialism.
That he could write such an article indicates that it represents some resistance to Biden’s continuation of Trump’s foreign policy among ruling class’ thinkers.
But so far there is bipartisan support in Congress.
Other areas where Biden continues Trump’s foreign policy concerns are immigration and the border with Mexico. Biden has continued Trump’s (and previous administration’s) racist resistance to Latin American immigration to the U.S.
In recent years, this has meant keeping out asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Biden has continued Trump’s policy to keep thousands of these asylum seekers from horrendous conditions in those countries in Mexico, so they cannot apply for asylum.
He has also begun to deport more people trying to immigrate who do make it into the U.S. than Trump did.
He is now deporting many thousands of new asylum seekers from Haiti that have swarmed across the border. They are fleeing that country’s disintegration on top of a powerful earthquake and many have not been in Haiti for years.
The U.S. has been based on white supremacy from its beginning, so it was bad enough for the almost all-white ruling class’ interests that brown people from Latin America were coming in what Trump called an “invasion”, but now actual Black people were “invading”.
Scenes of brutal attacks by Border Patrol agents on horseback, wearing cowboy hats, chasing down, whipping Black Haitians, has shocked many people in the U.S.
Biden’s mass deportations of Haitians now out-do Obama’s deportations – which earned the latter the label of “Deporter-in-Chief”.
Immigration is a domestic U.S. issue. Included are the 11 million immigrants without documents, allowed over the years into the U.S. to do hard work in the agricultural fields, in meat packing, etc. Biden continues the bipartisan refusal to allow them to become citizens with civil rights.
But it is also a foreign policy issue. The conditions asylum seekers from Central America and Haiti are fleeing are the results of U.S. imperialist exploitation for well over 100 years, including wars and military occupations, imposition of corrupt dictatorial regimes, and more.
Those who hoped Biden would at least reverse some of Trump’s foreign policies are getting a rude awakening.