Colombo, September 18: Two recent decisions of the United States, one on Afghanistan and the other on the supply of nuclear submarines to Australia, have raised the question as to whether Washington’s collaborators and allies can count on it to stick to its commitments.
These decisions have raised eyebrows also because Joe Biden became US President promising that he will defend US interests by taking with him America’s tried and tested allies and that the unilateralism of the Trump era would cease.
And yet, under Biden, the US sidestepped and ignored the Ashraf Ghani government (its collaborator in Afghanistan) when it cut a deal with Ghani’s arch rival, the Taliban. The US quit Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel in indecent haste only to let the Taliban militants to do what they pleased. Thousands of local collaborators and dependents were abandoned as US troops and White Americans were evacuated.
Again, the Biden regime kept France in the dark about its plan to give nuclear submarines to Australia ignoring an already existing five-year old US$ 66 billion Franco-Australian deal for the supply of French-made conventional submarines.
Biden formed AUKUS, a new anti-China security alliance between Washington, London and Canberra, behind the back of France and the whole of Europe. The US-Australia nuclear submarine deal comes under AUKUS.
Biden’s decisions have adversely affected Europe’s confidence in Washington. Christopher Caldwell, writing in New York Times, points out that the Afghan war was a US-NATO operation, involving Europe. “American fecklessness has left European leaders infuriated,” Caldwell says. He quotes Adrien Jaulmes, a French war correspondent, as saying that Trump and Biden have together sent a message to the allies and adversaries of the United States that Washington’s commitments are only temporary.
European alienation from the US has come at a time when Europe is emerging as a unified whole with a collective personality. Today the EU is “State-in-Embryo” to which all but a handful of Western European countries belong. In every European country, the educated and the empowered want more of Europe and less of nation-state sovereignties.
Pro-European Union politicians even seek a measure of military autonomy for the bloc. That would weaken military ties with the US. Bernard Guetta, a member of the European Parliament from the party of President Emmanuel Macron of France, called on Europeans to find a “geostrategic substitute for an increasingly inward-looking United States.”
Paolo Gentiloni, a former Prime Minister of Italy and the current EU Commissioner for the Economy, said, “It’s a terrible paradox, but this debacle could be the start of Europe’s moment.”
France Recalls Envoys
Following the formation of the AUKUS, the US-UK-Australia strategic military tie up to counter China in the Pacific, and the US decision to give nuclear submarines to Australia leading to Australia’s cancelling a submarine deal with France, France has “recalled” its Ambassador from Washington and Canberra for “for consultations.”
France declared the US-Australian deal as “unacceptable between allies and partners.” It is the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations.
The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a “brutal” American decision and a “stab in the back” from Australia, the media said.
The US is trying to patch up with France, but its words have no takers in Paris. “The temporary return of the ambassadors to Paris amounts to a severe diplomatic rebuke that is usually used against adversaries,” the New York Times said. And Le Monde added: “For any who still doubted it, the Biden Administration is no different from the Trump administration on this point: The United States comes first, whether it’s in the strategic, economic, financial or health fields. ‘America First’ is the guiding line of the foreign policy of the White House.”
Le Monde further said: “Beyond French sensibilities, it is the place of Europe and its role in the world that have been thrust into question.” It then asked: “Where does Europe want to stand in the global realignment happening in the shadow of the America-China confrontation?”
America’s stand on the Afghan withdrawal is that the war in that country had gone on for two decades without any result and that it was no longer possible to justify continuing the 20-year US$ 2.6 trillion war.
The US had made efforts to set up a credible Afghan administration, and later, to arrive at a fair solution to the Afghan problem through months of negotiations with the Taliban. It did not succeed in these ventures and time was running out.
On its deal with Australia, the US stand is that it is in the world’s interest to stem the growing power of China in the Indo-Pacific region. As C.Rajamohan said in Foreign Policy that the US felt that it was time it thought “out of the box.”
The AUKUS has naturally angered China which described it as a manifestation of the Cold War mentality which will only exacerbate tensions in East Asia and the Pacific. But India is happy about AUKUS, given its confrontation with China on the border and also on the issue of cross-terrorism from the Pakistan side.