AUKUS Snub Exposes EU’s Shortcomings – OpEd
By Arab News
By John C. Hulsman*
Fairy tales have a wonderful way of illuminating the human condition. One of my favorites is Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — a very funny, wise observation about how adults take on board nonsense as if it was received wisdom. In the fable, a vain, dim, narcissistic ruler is fooled by conmen into believing he is buying the height of clothing fashion, when in reality they are selling him air. His cloying courtiers go along with the lunacy, afraid of either the king’s wrath or fearing that they alone do not see the garments. In the end, it takes a straightforward, truthful child to point out the obvious: The emperor is simply not wearing anything at all.
With the Australia-UK-US defense pact, known as AUKUS, the same fairy tale dynamic has just reappeared, this time on the international scene. When forced to make the weightiest of strategic choices — how to defend itself against an expansionistic China — Australia has chosen a defense pact with its Anglosphere partners, the US and UK, over closer ties with the EU. The basic strategic reason for this is that the Anglosphere is rising and is a credible deterrent to China, while the EU is not.
Australia, like the little boy in the fable, looked at reality, rather than the fatuous comments made in the endless EU conferences that I have been forced to attend over the last generation. In them, it is inevitably and sonorously asserted that the EU is rising and is surely the only alliance option the US has in getting things done in the world. I can attest to the fact that, as an early originator of the Anglosphere concept, it has been disdainfully ignored for the past 20 years, being seen as a reactionary, old white man’s fantasy; a Winston Churchill tribute act rather than the future that it actually is.
The reason for this analytical neglect is simple. If the EU’s cheerleaders were to give credence to the Anglosphere, it would mean “the West” is divided into three parts: The US, the Anglosphere, and the EU. Brussels’ inevitable strategic centrality would be called into question, which is not an intellectual outcome the EU’s many think tank cheerleaders (often shamefully funded by the EU itself) would countenance.
But more and more, as I developed the Anglosphere concept — looking at the links between the US and the former British colonial dominions of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, plus the UK — it became clear that it was real, and that it amounted to the strategic future, not the past. In terms of foreign direct investment, the name of the game in a globalized world, the Anglosphere is at the cutting edge of geoeconomics. For example, the UK is the largest investor in the US, and vice versa.
The commonalities continue at the strategic level, with the remarkable historical fact being that in all three global wars of the 20th century (the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War), each of the five Anglosphere states, in every case, fought on the same side. Given that this means there are 15 separate strategic choices that could have been made, it is remarkable that 15 times the countries all lined up together. This is a record of strategic constancy unparalleled in modern history.
The Anglosphere already has institutional expression in the Five Eyes intelligence consortium, the most important intelligence-sharing network in the world, in which the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia share common signals intelligence in a manner none of them do with any other allies.
This geoeconomic, strategic and institutional closeness is based on the Anglosphere countries having (vitally) a common language, a common democratic culture (more concerned with individual liberty than its EU cousins) and common capitalistic culture (more concerned with the dynamism of capitalism than its corporatist EU cousins). Despite all the EU cheerleaders out there, Australia — in choosing the Anglosphere defense tie-up over France and the EU — ironically just proved the Anglosphere actually exists.
Where does this leave the EU? It is easy to be unkind to the French, a strategic culture that seems to glorify being offended. But, beneath the histrionics, the French have a very valid geostrategic point: Australia, like the little boy in our fable, just said the EU isn’t wearing any clothes. Economically sclerotic, militarily (apart from Paris) impotent and politically divided, this is not the sort of great power that is willing to or capable of helping defend Australia from Chinese bullying. Rather, the Anglosphere, far more dynamic economically, capable militarily and united in a common view that Chinese adventurism in the vital Indo-Pacific must be deterred, makes for a better long-term strategic partner for Canberra.
Under great strategic pressure, Australia embraced AUKUS, cutting its heretofore close ties with France and the EU, precisely because no one thinks the EU would deter Beijing from doing anything it wanted to; this is not the case regarding the Anglosphere. Far from being the great power imagined at endless conferences, Australia has just made it clear that, in terms of great power pretensions, the EU isn’t wearing any clothes.
- John C. Hulsman is the president and managing partner of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political risk consulting firm. He is also a senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the City of London. He can be contacted via johnhulsman.substack.com.