Russia says it is concerned that the AUKUS defense agreement between Australia, Britain and the United States will allow Australia to join the select group of nations operating nuclear-powered submarines.
- Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the pact is a challenge to global nuclear proliferation
- The EU has delayed free trade negotiations with Australia for a month, but denies that it is retaliation for tearing up a submarine agreement with France
- The AUKUS announcement has angered China, which has previously questioned Australia’s willingness to improve relations
Currently, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China operate such submarines.
The three-way pact, under which Australia will bring nuclear submarine technology from the United States, has angered France and worried China since it was announced.
The French became angry and recalled their ambassador to Australia because the deal saw the Morrison government scrap an $ 90 billion deal to build submarines with state-owned Naval Group.
Earlier in the week, Russia said it was seeking more information on the pact, and on Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he saw it as a challenge to global nuclear proliferation.
“We are also concerned about that … partnership that will enable Australia, after 18 months of consultations and years of trying to get sufficient number of nuclear-powered submarines to become one of the top five countries for this type of armament,” he said. Mr Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russia’s news agency TASS.
“This is a major challenge for the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier this week that the security pact poses a hidden threat to regional peace, stability and international order.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying also questioned whether Australia really cared about improving relations with China.
The Defense Pact has worried some of Australia’s closest neighbors.
Indonesia reiterated Malaysia’s concern that the agreement could lead to a new arms race in the region and cause other actors to take more aggressive action, especially in the South China Sea.
However, Japan and the Philippines welcomed the pact, while Singapore made no objections.
‘Not to punish’
Russia’s comments came when a round of free trade negotiations between the EU (EU) and Australia was postponed by a month.
EU Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said the decision to delay the meeting was taken by the EU’s executive arm.
Asked whether it was a retaliatory measure for Australia that annulled the agreement with France, Mamer said, “the EU is not in the process of punishing anyone”.
Miriam Garcia Ferrer, EU Commission spokesman for trade, insisted the delay did not end discussions, while Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he still planned to meet with his EU counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis next week to discuss the negotiations now set for November.
“A free trade agreement is in the interests of Australia and the European Union and will strengthen our relationship based on a common commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and economic transparency,” Tehan said in a statement.
“We understand the French reaction to our submarine decision, but ultimately every nation must act in its national interest – which is what Australia has done,” he added.
The EU began negotiations on a trade agreement with Australia in 2018. The 12th round of talks was scheduled to take place later this month via video conference.
ABC / wires