Reflecting the prevalent view, that the AUKUS agreement is a threat to peace, a conglomeration of peace groups (under the banner ‘Raising Peace’) brought together opponents of the agreement from the three nations involved, for an on-line discussion on September 19.
By chance the zoom meeting co-incided with the funeral of QEII – but it nevertheless attracted a large audience.
First to speak was Australian Bruce Haigh, who has already made his views on AUKUS abundantly clear in Pearls and Irritations. Haigh emphasised the fact that the deal has been done with no proper information being put before the Australian parliament or its people, leaving no opportunity for its virtues or shortcomings to be properly debated.
He contended that AUKUS is a smokescreen, behind which the USA is building up its military presence in Northern Australia and planning to establish bases for its own nuclear submarines on Australia’s East and West coasts. Haigh was scathing about Defence Minister Marles’ recent remark that Australian and US forces could become ‘interchangeable’, suggesting that this may mean that Australian forces might actually operate under US direction. He described Australian military personnel being trained with USA and UK submarine crews, as a ‘charade’, similar to the pretence of ‘joint’ military facilities on Australian soil. He made clear his opinion that the USA is currently actively preparing for war with China, evidenced by expansion of military assets in Guam as well as Australia. The AUKUS pact is very much a part of this preparation, in Haigh’s view.
Next to speak was Kate Hudson, who spoke from the UK, as General Secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Hudson’s main concern was with the problem of nuclear proliferation. As things stand there are unresolved legal questions over whether or not a non-weapons state can use nuclear propulsion in a warship without contravening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Hudson confirmed that there is little likelihood of the UK or the USA being able to supply Australia with the submarines it is seeking – because their own programs are already at full capacity and plagued with delays. She told the meeting that the UK is struggling to produce two types of submarine (the ‘Astute’ and the ‘Dreadnought’) and that it has taken 20 years to produce just five vessels. She also mentioned the fact that Rolls Royce, the company that manufactures the nuclear reactors for the submarines, is experiencing production problems.
Meanwhile, Hudson said she has observed a massive expansion in co-operation between the UK and the USA in cyber warfare, Artificial Intelligence etc., which may be more important aspects of AUKUS than the submarines. She stressed that, in the UK, AUKUS is being sold as an arms-sale deal that might boost the UK’s military industry. But she expected it to be another, sorry story of plans that are ultimately undeliverable. Kate Hudson said that the dangers inherent in AUKUS are being shared by the entire populations of the countries involved and ended on a plea for greater international co-operation in the cause of peace.
The final speaker was Bruce Gagnon, the US-based Co-ordinator of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, which has adopted the slogan “Keep Space for Peace!”. Gagnon took the meeting back to 1997, then the US Space Command issued its “Vision for 2020”. According to him, this document sets out the USA’s desire to have full control of space and space technology, with a view to maintaining global domination.
Gagnon said that the USA is yet to come to terms with the shift to a multi-polar world that is currently taking place. He said that the emergence of the ‘BRICS’ group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is being experienced as a challenge to Western (i.e. USA) dominance and that this is leading the USA to seek to expand its system of alliances in slightly desperate ways – such as through AUKUS.
He drew attention to the rocket-launching facilities that are springing up in many nations that, in the event of hostilities, would be commandeered for military purposes. Gagnon pointed out that the sale of weapons to Ukraine by NATO countries will mean that new systems will have to be purchased – and that everyone will be expected to buy from the USA. He saw a need for Australians to assume a leadership role in promoting peace in the South East Asian region.
Raising Peace’s event was just one of several centred on AUKUS and taking place on the first anniversary of the announcement. The event was recorded and will shortly be available on Raising Peace’s website. The popularity of the event indicates considerable strength of feeling within the Australian community. For example, one advertisement in a national newspaper on Saturday September 17, with another one to run on the 24th, have 800 direct supporters, who together raised more than $18,000.00 for the purpose. A national anti-AUKUS Coalition is stretching its wings.