The United States and United Kingdom have shouldered out the French in a deal to supply submarines to Australia. And not just any submarines, potentially nuclearpowered submarines.  France was poised to ink a deal worth more than $65 billion for sale of its diesel-electric subs. The deal comes as part of a new alliance among the three anglophone states—AUKUS—and will see either US or British-supplied subs to boost Australia’s role in upholding maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.

China, the unstated but obvious target of such a movie, has responded with the expected frustration and condemnation of “outdated Cold War” thinking. But it is France who has provided the most popcorn-worth apoplexy. Which makes sense. A new global order is underfoot, and the French are not front and center. Also, it’s several tens of billions of dollars their industries lost out on. Also, they were supposedly only given a day or so of advance notice. The French have even recalled their ambassadors from the US and UK for consultations. It’s all a delicious soap opera.

As fun as it is to be on the outside looking in, the submarine deal and the destruction of the deal that preceded it are not the real story here. The bigger story here is that the Australia broader exchange in military technology and expertise between the Australians, the US, and the UK. I’m thinking particularly of the fact that Australia is slated to receive some pretty capable ship-and-submarine launched cruise missiles. Some with a range exceeding 1500 miles. Australia having the ability to strike Malacca from its own territories, and giving it some nuclear-powered teeth against Chinese maritime ambitions is a huge geopolitical development, and not just in the broader Indo-Pacific basin.

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