Biden says US partnership with UK and Australia puts nations ‘in the strongest possible position’

The president and prime ministers for the United Kingdom and Australia announced the next steps in their strategic partnership on nuclear-powered submarines

Eric Garcia
Tuesday 14 March 2023 00:22 GMT
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President Joe Biden announced the next steps of the United States’ partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia, saying it will bolster the group’s ability to respond to global threats.

Mr Biden made the announcement at Naval Base Point Loma with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The three leaders announced that Australia would obtain conventionally armed and nuclear-powered submarines.

The president made clear that the submarines would not be armed with nucelar weapons.

“I want to be clear to everyone from the outset. Right off the bat, no confusion or misunderstanding,” he said, “these subs are powered, not nuclear-armed submarines.”

Mr Biden said that the United States would honour its international obligations and said that Australian crews will embed with US and British troops to learn how to operate the nuclear-powered submarines.

The president hosted the prime ministers of the two partner nations in San Diego and announced it had found the optimal path forward to provide Australia the with nuclear-powered subs. The president said that the USS Asheville would make a port call in Perth as they spoke.

“Simply stated, we're putting ourselves in the strongest possible position to navigate the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he said.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia first announced the partnership, named Aukus, in September 2021, when Boris Johnson served as prime minister of the United Kingdom and Scott Morrison served as Australian prime minister. But that created a row with France, who had previously made an agreement with Australia to provide submarines.

Mr Albanese thanked Mr Biden and Mr Sunak for their partnership.

“Today a new chapter in the relationship between our nation, the United States and the United Kingdom begins,” he said, adding that it was the single biggest investment in Australia’s defence capability in history.

“This is the first time in 65 years and only the second time in history that the United States has shared its nuclear propulsion technology,” he said, adding that Australia would partner with the United Kingdom to construct new submarines called SSN Aukus.

Mr Sunak, for his part, emphasised the need for collaboration between the three nations and said that the challenges that the international community faces have only grown since the collaboration was announced 18 months ago. Mr Sunak specifically cited Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, as well as China’s destablising behavior and that of Iran and North Korea.

“Faced with this new reality, it is more important than ever that we strengthen the resilience of our own countries,” he said. Mr Sunak also announced that the United Kingdom would increase in its defense spending relative to its gross domestic product.

“This will allow us to replenish our oil stocks and modernise our nuclear enterprise, delivering Aukus and strengthening our deterrence,” he said.

“But ultimately, the defence of our values depends as it always has on the quality of our relationships with others,” he said. “And those alliances will be strengthened through the most significant multilateral defence partnership in generations.”

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