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Upping the ante with China in the Pacific

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison. Rohan Thomson/Getty Images

If the definition of political courage is “making big calls crisply and effectively”, despite the risks, then it seems to me Joe Biden and Boris Johnson qualify right now, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. Biden braved the foreign policy “Blob” and got out of Afghanistan. Yes, it was “horribly messy”, but ending wars always is. Equally, the sudden announcement last week of a new alliance in the Pacific between Britain, the US and Australia was a bold signal to China that America is not about to abandon the region. Militarily, it targets one of China’s weaknesses, its submarine programme, and is a “serious act of enhanced deterrence” against China’s aggression in the Pacific. For Johnson, AUKUS turns his “otherwise iffy” slogan of “Global Britain” into a reality.

It was foolhardy on Britain’s part to snub the French, whose own $55bn submarine deal with Australia has been canned as a result, says Matthew Parris in The Times. Britain might love to talk up the special relationship, but France came to our aid far more readily than the US during the Falklands War. It’s our closest and largest neighbour; we rely on it for much of our electricity; our militaries are deeply intertwined. Our secular, relatively stable societies resemble each other far more than America’s. “I enjoy a joke about the froggies”, but our behaviour over AUKUS has treated a crucial ally with contempt.

Actually, the AUKUS alliance makes good historical sense, says Daniel Hannan in The Sunday Telegraph, and Macron’s withdrawal of his ambassadors from Canberra and Washington was “an act of almost comical sulkiness”. “Britain and its Anglosphere allies have traditionally thought in maritime terms”, while France has busied itself with “building and leading a European bloc”. In a multi-polar world full of shifting alliances, the time was ripe for a “Pacific pivot”. Since calling for an investigation into Covid’s origins, Australia has been bullied, diplomatically and economically, by Beijing. If defending a British ally means building her top-notch submarines, “so be it”.