As London-France-US relations sank to their lowest levels in decades, Britain emerged as a unlikely winner of the maritime security alliance, which spread anger and criticism on three continents.
According to officials in London and Washington, the British government played an early role in mediating a tripartite alliance between the United States and Australia to deploy nuclear submarines in the Pacific Ocean. With a groundbreaking agreement, Australia withdrew from the $ 66 billion deal in diesel electric submarines with France, causing anger in Paris and quiet satisfaction in London.
For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will meet with President Biden at the White House this week and speak at the United Nations, it is his first concrete victory in a campaign to bring Britain to life on the world stage after Brexit.
Since leaving the European Union 18 months ago, Britain has been aiming for somewhere in the world. Brexiteers stuck to the phrase “Global Britain,” which always seems to be a marketing slogan rather than a consistent foreign policy.
Nonetheless, the agreement signed on Wednesday between the United States and the United Kingdom to supply Australia with submarines confirmed Britain’s position as a military force with nuclear expertise and its credible allies. It also gave confidence to Johnson’s efforts to build a British presence in Asia. This strategy initially looked like a nostalgic reversion to the empire’s past.
The UK is now negotiating trade agreements with Australia, Japan and South Korea and has deployed air carriers to help the United States monitor China in the South China Sea. In the South China Sea, Beijing claims its own empire ambitions by building military chains installed.
“It’s the first time we’re fleshing out Global Britain,” said Kim Darroch, a former British ambassador to Washington. “We are beginning to build a real presence in the field of defense and economics in that part of the world.”
Mr. Darokku warned that the economic dividend for the transaction, how many jobs and how much money would flow to the UK factory, still had to work with the United States. Participation in an extensive security alliance has also imposed costs and expectations on Britain, which has reduced the size of its troops and, like many countries, has devastated its finances by pandemics.
Still, it was a welcome return to relevance for a country that was treated only as a retrofit by President Biden in its recent withdrawal from Afghanistan. British officials cited the deal as evidence of their ability to act well in the post-Brexit world — in this case at the expense of their European neighbors.
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According to British officials, Australia first approached Britain, proposing to help Britain and Americans deploy nuclear submarines. Australians have concluded that the diesel model offered in the French deal is not sufficient for the future in which China poses a greater threat than ever before.
Britain’s relations with the United States on nuclear technology date back to the 1958 Defense Pact. As a result, the notion of two allies working together was not only natural but unavoidable. The United States provides highly enriched uranium that powers submarine reactors.
Officials said the UK and Australia had aggressively pitched to Washington, including an exchange between Johnson and Biden at the Group of Seven conference in Cornwall, UK in June. They said Britain had to fend off US officials questioning why Australia simply couldn’t buy submarines directly from the United States.
In the British claim, its military protocol is more closely aligned with the Australian military protocol, making it easier for Australians to operate vessels with British technology. Biden administration officials said the White House had never considered separating Britain from the alliance.
“This was primarily a technical decision,” said Bates Gill, senior researcher at the Royal United Services Institute based in Sydney, Australia. “But it may have been partly a reliability decision.”
For Johnson, who made “special relations” with the United States a cornerstone of foreign policy, the submarine deal was a compensation for Biden’s clearing of his view of Afghanistan.
Officials said Johnson wanted the withdrawal to depend on the situation at the scene. Regardless of the rippling feathers, the Prime Minister has revealed that Britain will support Mr Biden’s top priority, competition with China.
“They are making choices, and those choices bring results,” said Thomas Wright, director of the Brookings Institution’s US and Europa Centers, who praised the UK approach.
For some people in the UK, these results may not be profitable. Theresa May, the predecessor of Prime Minister Johnson, warned that Britain could be involved in a war with China over Taiwan.
In 2016, Johnson argued that leaving the European Union would allow Britain to become more independent of China. It was before Beijing cracked down on Hong Kong, a former British colony. At present, China’s policy in the United Kingdom seems to be almost the same as that in the United States.
Johnson wants to further develop his UK profile by hosting a successful host at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November. However, it is not clear how much help he will get from Mr. Biden. The UK is pressing the United States to double its $ 100 billion annual endowment to help countries mitigate the effects of climate change. I haven’t done so yet.
Britain may benefit from having a new foreign minister, Liz Truss, who won praise in the final job of trade deal negotiations in Asia, analysts said. Johnson demoted his predecessor Dominic Raab after being severely criticized for taking a vacation on Crete last month when the Taliban rushed to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.
“There are slanderers in Liz Truss,” said former British ambassador Peter Westmacott. But he said she was “arranged like anyone trying to add substance to the Global Britain slogan.”
For all of London’s satisfaction, Britain still faces difficult geopolitical realities. Submarine transactions can worsen relations with France. France is already tense due to post-Brexit conflicts over fishing rights and immigration across the English Channel.
The French government’s disdain for Britain was evident in its response to the news of the alliance.