Blinken Assures Canberra Will Get Its Subs Amid GOP Threats to Block Transfer

 Blinken Assures Canberra Will Get Its Subs Amid GOP Threats to Block Transfer

© US Navy photo

Top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger Wicker, is threatening to obstruct the provision of U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia until the Biden administration augments defense expenditure. This has created anxiety among Australian officials who are concerned about the potential strategic shortfall after they passed on a $65 billion submarine agreement with France.

“Congress has a critical role to play in our system, and we’re working through the details. But everything I’ve heard and seen suggests to me that there is robust bipartisan support and a commitment on the part of Congress to move forward. So that’s fully my expectation,” Blinken said in an interview with Australian media when asked to comment on the “hurdles” being faced by the so-called AUKUS deal – the 2021 Australia-UK-US security pact promising to provide Canberra with nuclear submarine technology in exchange for basing rights.

Despite increasing opposition from certain U.S. legislators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is anticipating the continued progression of the Virginia-class nuclear submarine supply to Australia. In response to queries regarding possible delays in the submarines’ delivery and prioritization for the U.S. Navy, Blinken affirmed his confidence in ongoing support based on the information he received. Blinken dismissed suggestions that the AUKUS deal arrives “too late” amid escalating U.S.-China tensions over Taiwan, emphasizing that AUKUS primarily seeks to modernize a longstanding defense and military alliance and collaborate on future-shaping technologies.

The future of the AUKUS pact, which caused a stir in France after a surprise announcement in September 2021 deprived Paris of a profitable $65 billion diesel submarine contract with Canberra, is uncertain due to increasing Republican threats to utilize the agreement for domestic military spending priorities.

Last week, 22 GOP senators and representatives urged the Biden administration to boost defense spending and production of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. They warned that prioritizing Australia’s needs could risk U.S. national security.

“This plan, if implemented without change, would unacceptably weaken the US fleet even as China seeks to expand its military power and influence…To make up for the sale of at least three attack submarines to Australia, the US would have to produce somewhere between 2.3 to 2.5 submarines per year to avoid further shrinking our fleet’s operational capacity,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint letter to President Biden.

The rogue politicians are calling for increased defense capabilities beyond what was agreed upon in the June debt limit deal, which allocated $886 billion for national security spending in 2024, a 3.3 percent rise from the current year. Some legislators argue this increase is insufficient given the U.S.’s engagement in proxy conflicts with both Russia and China. The Virginia-class attack submarine, commissioned in the mid-2000s with 22 built to date and a total of 66 planned for the U.S. Navy, is at the center of this debate.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating criticized the AUKUS submarine deal earlier this year, arguing that the projected $360 billion for eight Virginia-class submarines was a poor investment. Keating warned of an over-reliance on U.S. defense manufacturers and argued for more affordable and numerous non-nuclear Collins-class replacements. Amidst these criticisms, the AUKUS deal has been lambasted for its potential to militarize the Asia-Pacific region, with Beijing, Moscow, and Pyongyang all condemning it for threatening regional stability.

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