New Western Security Alliance | Daily News

New Western Security Alliance

US President Joe Biden announces a three-way alliance with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the White House on September 15, 2021 after the announcement of a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia.

US President Joe Biden announces a three-way alliance with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the White House on September 15, 2021 after the announcement of a new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain and Australia.

Two key western powers US and UK, with Australia, are setting up a trilateral security partnership aimed at confronting China, which will include helping Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The initiative, called Aukus (Aus, UK, US) was announced jointly by US President Joe Biden and Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, joined virtually by videoconference. They presented it as the next critical step in an old alliance.

President Biden said: “We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region, and how it may evolve, because the future of each of our nations and indeed the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead.”

Speaking from London, UK PM Johnson said the three countries were “natural allies” even though “we may be separated geographically” and said the alliance would create “a new defence partnership and driving jobs and prosperity”.

Australian PM Morrison said teams from the three countries would draw up a joint plan over the coming 18 months for assembling the new Australian nuclear-powered submarine fleet, which will be built in Adelaide. The project will make Australia only the seventh country in the world to have submarines propelled by nuclear reactors.

“This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia,” the Australian prime minister said, referring to the international treaty obligations on handling nuclear fuel. Morrison added: “But let me be clear. Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.”

None of the three leaders mentioned China, but analysts see the initiative as a response to China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea and increasing belligerence towards Taiwan.

Turning to the Australian submarine-building plan, Johnson said: “This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world, lasting decades and requiring the most advanced technology.

A senior US official described the agreement as “a fundamental decision, that decisively binds Australia to the United States and Great Britain for generations”.

The agreement spells the end for a $90bn contract Australia signed with the French company Naval Group in 2016. That deal had become bogged down in cost overruns, delays and design changes. It marks a setback for President Emmanuel Macron.

“The world is a jungle,” the former French ambassador to Washington, Gérard Araud, observed on Twitter. “France has just been reminded of this bitter truth by the way the US and the UK have stabbed her in the back in Australia. C’est la vie.”

Australia insists that it has no intention of pursuing nuclear weapons and will abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), but critics said the decision could still indirectly spur the proliferation of weapons.

An important aim is to put Australia’s currently diesel-powered navy on a technological par with China’s navy, the world largest.

As well as cooperation on naval technology, the partnership will involve closer alignment of regional policies and actions, and greater integration of the militaries and the defence industries of the three allies. The three also intend to work together on cyberwarfare and on artificial intelligence capabilities.

The formation of Aukus comes at a time of rising tensions, especially over the South China Sea and Taiwan. A new book about the last weeks of the Donald Trump administration said that in late 2020 the US became concerned that China was increasingly convinced it would be the target of a pre-emptive attack.

In July, the UK’s new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, arrived in the South China Sea, the focal point of US-Chinese tensions, triggering denunciations from Beijing. The US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, welcomed the deployment at the time but wondered “are there areas that the UK can be more helpful in other parts of the world”.

A senior US official suggested that the UK government had pushed for a heightened role in the region. “Great Britain is very focused on the concept of global Britain, and their tilt is about engaging much more deeply with the Indo-Pacific and this is a down payment on that effort,” the official said.

Nuclear power will allow Australian attack submarines to remain at sea for as long as five months and operate more quietly than the country’s existing Collins class diesel powered vessels, allowing them to better evade enemy detection.

New Zealand out

Left out of the new alliance was Australia’s South Pacific neighbour New Zealand, which in the 1980s enacted policies and laws to ensure it remains nuclear-free. That includes a ban on nuclear-powered ships entering New Zealand ports, a stance which has seen it clash, at times, with the US.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that New Zealand wasn’t asked to be part of the alliance and wouldn’t have expected an invitation.

The Chinese government has long suspended minister-to-minister contact with Australia because of soured bilateral relations. But Morrison said he was willing to discuss the new alliance with President Xi Jinping.

“There’s an open invitation for President Xi to discuss these and many other matters,” Morrison said.

China’s Washington, DC, embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said countries should not build exclusionary blocs targeting or harming the interests of third parties. “In particular, they should shake off their Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice,” he said.

Australia would become the first country without nuclear weapons to obtain nuclear-powered submarines.

Donor Aid to Afghans

As the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is continuing, indicating a diplomatic and political trend that will shape the Middle East for many years, a major issue of poverty and hunger has emerged in the country, with need for global assistance.

Donors have pledged more than a billion dollars to help Afghanistan at a conference in Geneva this week. Poverty and hunger have spiralled and foreign aid has dried up since the August 15 fall of Kabul – a desperate situation that means the international community must engage with the Taliban to help the needy, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

After decades of war and suffering, Afghans are facing “perhaps their most perilous hour”, Guterres said in his opening remarks to the Geneva donor conference. “The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once,” he continued.

He said food supplies could run out by the end of this month, and the World Food Programme said 14 million people were on the brink of starvation.

“It is impossible to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan without engaging with the de facto authorities,” Guterres told journalists on the sidelines of the donor conference, adding it was “very important to engage with the Taliban at the present moment”.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan according to their strict interpretation of Islamic law from 1996-2001 and were toppled in an invasion led by the United States, which accused them of sheltering militants behind the September 11 attacks.

They swept back to power last month in a lightning advance as the last US-led NATO troops pulled out and the forces of the Western-backed government melted away.

With billions of dollars of aid flows abruptly ending due to Western antipathy and distrust towards the Taliban, several speakers in Geneva said donors had a “moral obligation” to keep helping Afghans after a 20-year engagement.

Beijing announced last week it would send $31 million worth of food and health supplies. Iran said it had dispatched an air cargo of humanitarian aid.

Pakistan sent supplies such as cooking oil and medicine and called for the unfreezing of Afghan assets held abroad.

The United States pledged nearly $64 million in new humanitarian assistance at the conference, while Norway pledged an extra $11.5 million.

Even before the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul last month, half the population – or 18 million people – depended on aid. That looks set to increase due to drought and shortages.

The World Health Organisation, another UN agency that is part of the appeal, is seeking to shore up hundreds of health facilities at risk of closure after donors backed out.

Biden - Xi talks

U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke for 90 minutes, in their first talks in seven months, discussing the need to ensure that competition between the world’s two largest economies does not veer into conflict.

In a statement, the White House said Biden and Xi had “a broad, strategic discussion,” including areas where interests and values converge and diverge. The conversation focused on economic issues, Climate Change and COVID-19. “President Biden underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” the White House added.

Chinese state media said Xi had told Biden that U.S. policy on China imposed “serious difficulties” on relations, but added that both sides agreed to maintain frequent contact and ask working-level teams to step up communications.

“China and the United States should ... show strategic courage and insight, and political boldness, and push Sino-U.S. relations back to the right track of stable development as soon as possible,” state media said, citing Xi.

Asian currencies and share markets strengthened, as investors speculated that the call could bring a thaw in ties between the two most important trading partners of regional economies.

President Xi said that if “core concerns” on both sides were respected, diplomatic breakthroughs could still be made in the area of climate change, adding that the issue could add “positive factors” to the relationship.

EU: Big moves ahead

The European Union’s chief executive Ursula von der Leyen pledged to accelerate the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations around the world, offering another 200 million jabs for low-income countries in her annual State of the European Union speech on Wednesday.

The EU will also act on the climate crisis and new defence strategies.

“Our first and most urgent priority is to speed up global vaccination,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “We have already committed to share 250 million doses of vaccine. I can announce today that our mission will add a new donation of another 200 million doses by the middle of next year,” she said.

Looking forward, von der Leyen said the next year will be “a test of character” for the EU. “A pandemic is a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” she noted. “Let us make sure that it does not turn into a pandemic of the non-vaccinated.”

The former German defence minister has put tackling Climate Change at the top of her agenda with bold steps for the EU to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, along with a digital transformation of its economy. Von der Leyen said the EU would double its international funding to protect nature and halt the decline of the world’s biodiversity, adding: “My message today is that Europe is ready to do more.”

“This is a generation with a conscience, they are pushing us to go further and faster to tackle the climate crisis,” she said.

She said the EU would increase its financial support to help poorer countries fight Climate Change and adapt to its impacts. “We will now propose an additional €4 billion for climate finance until 2027,” said von der Leyen before calling on the EU’s allies to step up their commitments on tackling Climate Change.

“We expect the United States and our partners to step up too. This is vital, because closing the climate finance gap together, the US and the European Union, would be such a strong signal for global climate leadership,” she said. The EU already contributes $25 billion per year in climate finance, von de Leyen said.

Climate finance is expected to be a decisive issue at the UN’s COP26 summit in November, where world leaders will attempt to unlock commitments to cut emissions faster and stave off catastrophic climate change.

On the foreign policy front, von der Leyen said the EU would hold a defence summit next year during France’s rotating presidency of the bloc to push for a more autonomous military capacity.

The humanitarian and security fallout of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan has intensified debate in Brussels about the EU’s global security role.

“It is time for Europe to step up to the next level,” said von der Leyen, adding that she will co-host the upcoming defence summit with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is expected to push for member states to commit to more defence coordination.

Von der Leyen vowed to work with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on a new EU-NATO joint declaration to be presented before the end of the year.


Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday for talks on Israeli-Palestinian relations and bilateral ties, in the first official trip by an Israeli head of government to Egypt for a decade.

Bennett, the head of a far-right party who took office in June, was invited to visit by Sisi last month. Since May, Egypt has played a prominent role brokering and trying to reinforce a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after 11 days of conflict there between Israel and Palestinian faction Hamas, which controls the enclave.

Bennett said the talks in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh covered diplomacy, security and the economy. “We created a foundation for a deep connection going forward,” he said before flying home.

In the discussions, Sisi cited Egypt’s efforts to maintain calm in the Palestinian territories and the importance of international support for rebuilding efforts there, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.

An uptick in cross-border violence since late August has tested the fragile truce in Gaza. Over the past week, Palestinian militants have fired rockets into Israel for three nights in a row, drawing Israeli air strikes.

Sisi also “affirmed Egypt’s support for all efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, according to the two-state solution”, the presidency statement said.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014 and analysts say there is little prospect of reviving them. Bennett, a nationalist atop a cross-partisan coalition, opposes Palestinian statehood. His government has focused on policies to improve economic conditions in the Palestinian territories.

Bennett and Sisi had also been expected to discuss regional issues, including Iran’s influence in the Middle East and the crisis in Lebanon, diplomats and security sources said.

The last official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Egypt was when Benjamin Netanyahu met former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 in Sharm el-Sheikh, just before the uprising that toppled Mubarak.


Lebanon’s new government held its first meeting Monday with a call by the president to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund, to help kick-start its recovery from one of the world’s worst economic crises in more than a century.

New Prime Minister Najib Mikati will seek to help improve conditions in the country of 6 million, including a million Syrian refugees. More than half the population now lives in poverty amid extended power outages and severe shortages in fuel and medicine.

President Michel Aoun told ministers during the Cabinet meeting that their government policy statement should include the resumption of talks with the IMF, which were suspended last year.

He also called for a plan to fight corruption and move forward with the investigation into last year’s massive explosion at Beirut’s port that killed at least 214 people, wounded over 6,000 others and damaged parts of the capital.

The formation of a new government Friday came after a 13-month deadlock, one of Lebanon’s longest periods without a fully functioning government at a time when the country was sliding deeper into financial chaos and poverty.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman who served twice before as premier, plans to hold intense Cabinet meetings to work on improving matters that “have direct effects on citizens.”

The country’s economic crisis, unfolding since 2019, has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst the world has witnessed since the mid-1800s. It has impoverished more than half the population within months and left the national currency in a freefall, driving inflation and unemployment to unprecedented levels.

Norway - elections

Norway’s left-wing opposition headed by Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Store won Monday’s general election after a campaign dominated by questions about the future of the key oil industry in Western Europe’s largest producer.

The left-wing has unseated a centre-right coalition headed by Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg since 2013.

“We waited, we hoped, and we have worked so hard, and now we can finally say it: We did it!,” Store, in all likelihood the next prime minister, told cheering supporters after Solberg conceded defeat.

The five left-wing opposition parties were projected to win 100 of the 169 seats in Parliament. Labour was even expected to win an absolute majority with its preferred allies, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left, preliminary results showed with more than 95 percent of votes counted.

The five countries in the Nordic region -- a bastion of social democracy -- will thus all be governed by left-wing governments soon.

The Greens had said they would only support a left-wing government if it vowed an immediate end to oil exploration in Norway, an ultimatum Store had rejected.

The August “code red for humanity” report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the issue at the top of the agenda for the election campaign and forced the country to reflect on the oil that has made it immensely rich.

The oil sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway’s gross domestic product, as well as 40 percent of its exports and 160,000 direct jobs.

In addition, the cash cow has helped the country of 5.4 million people amass the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, today worth close to 12 trillion kroner (almost 1.2 trillion euros, $1.4 trillion).

Add new comment