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What is AUKUS and what is it not_banner

What is AUKUS and what is it not?

By Michael Shoebridge

What IS the new AUKUS partnership between the US, the UK and Australia? How does it fit with the Quad, ASEAN and other new forums like the government-tech Sydney Dialogue?

This new ASPI Insight sets out what AUKUS is—a technology accelerator that’s’ about shifting the military balance in the Indo Pacific. Just as importantly, it sets out what AUKUS it isn’t, to reset some of the discussion that has made some assumptions here. AUKUS isn’t a new alliance structure, a competitor to the Quad between Australia, India, Japan and the US, or a signal of decreased commitment to ASEAN forums by the AUKUS members.

And the Insight proposes some focus areas for implementation of this new ‘minilateral’ technology accelerator, including having  a single empowered person in each nation charged with implementation and ‘obstacle busting’. This is to break through the institutional, political and corporate permafrost that has prevented such rapid technological adoption by our militaries in recent decades. As is the case with James Miller in the US, this person should report to their national leader, not from inside the defence bureaucracies of the three nations.

On purpose and urgency, the report identifies a simple performance metric for AUKUS implementers over the next three years. On 20 January 2025, when the Australian prime minister calls whoever is the US president on that day, AUKUS has become such a successful piece of the furniture, with tangible results that have generated broad institutional, political and corporate support that, regardless of how warm or testy this leaders’ phone call is (think Turnbull-Trump in January 2016), AUKUS’s momentum continues.