THERE were moments over the past year when this country looked in a tight spot.
We had voted to sever our alliance with the European Union. Partly because the EU wanted to go in a very different direction from us, with an EU Army and other Brussels projects we wanted no part of.
Then, as luck would have it, we reached out to our allies in the Anglosphere only for Joe Biden to become US President.
Biden and other senior members of his party had made some very negative noises in the past about Brexit Britain. So we were right to be worried.
And that is just one reason why the announcement this week of the new partnership between Britain, Australia and the US is so welcome.
Biden, Boris Johnson and Australian PM Scott Morrison unveiled a new AUKUS pact. It will see the three countries work together to build Australia’s first ever nuclear submarines — a fleet of at least eight.
But it will also see a greater sharing of other military technologies, including cyber-defence and long-range strike capabilities.
This is important for many reasons. One is British jobs. British expertise in these hi-tech areas is among the world’s best, and this announcement will bring in much-needed work.
But the bigger win is security. Not least a tightening of alliances with our most reliable partners.
Because among the things noticeable in this deal was not just who was in it but who was left out. The world´s greatest intelligence-sharing network is the Five Eyes, which, as well as the UK, US and Australia, includes Canada and New Zealand.
But the recent behaviour of New Zealand has thrown doubt on their reliability.
Woke left-wing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern never misses an opportunity to try to come across as the most caring person on the world stage. But as an ally against brutal regimes she is proving world-leadingly wobbly.
All about Beijing
Straight after the AUKUS pact was announced, Ardern said Australian nuclear sub-marines would be banned from New Zealand waters.
Which is a heck of a way to talk to your nearest “ally”.
And on the big question of China, she has spent recent months continuing to cosy up to the communists and to distance herself from those who identify the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a threat. Her party has even come under investigation for alleged financial links to China. So New Zealand being left out is a telling and damning detail.
Other grumblings came from France, but for the usual cynical reasons. It had expected to get the submarines contract worth an estimated £65billion. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called this week’s announcement “a stab in the back”. As it happens, the French had promised to deliver the submarine fleet some time in the mid-2030s. Whereas the new pact allows for a less leisurely affair.
So this was just belly-aching from Paris. The more serious complaints came from Beijing. Because although the British, Australian and US leaders were careful not to present it in this way, the new alliance is all about Beijing. In recent years China has increased its military presence in the South China Sea. It has also been making increasingly hostile noises against Australia. Not least sanctioning it for demanding an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.
Although China is increasingly bold on the world stage, the communists who run it are also hypersensitive.
The slightest question about their human rights record, or military grandstanding, brings wounded noises.
Followed by furious denials. Then threats.
The CCP condemned the AUKUS deal as “extremely irresponsible”. China’s foreign ministry spokesman called it “exclusionary” and said it “seriously undermines regional peace and stability and intensifies the arms race”.
Which shows exactly why this pact is needed. Because the country actually destabilising the region is none other than China.
It is the CCP, led by Xi Jinping, that makes threatening noises against Taiwan, the CCP that keeps trying to expand its military area of influence, and the CCP that has been trying to win an arms race against America and her allies. Indeed, China is the only country able to compete with the US military.
Beijing is now warning about a “Cold War mentality” because it recognises that, in announcements like the one this week, the world is waking up to the CCP threat.
It is right to worry. The AUKUS pact shows the world’s leading democracies will not agree to be on our knees before the CCP. Nor take their threats lying down.