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Academics pen open letter against AUKUS

The letter focussed on AUKUS’ cost, and its likely inadequacy by the time its nuclear submarines are delivered.

Academics across Australia have signed an open letter opposing the latest AUKUS deal, arguing that it undermines the principle of nuclear non-proliferation. 

The academics directly challenge “pillar one” of the AUKUS deal — the joint development of the nuclear-powered submarines and accompanying infrastructure. The letter fights for a position in the interests of the Australian public, stating current nuclear defense literacy is “inadequate”.

The academics demanded an explanation for AUKUS’ budget of $368 billion, asking the government to justify how this deal would “make Australia safer and at an acceptable cost”.

The government claims that AUKUS’ offering will provide “superior” capabilities which the letter points out as “conditional on specific operational environments”. The academics argue that technology developments in the years before the submarines are delivered will render these assets less effective.

The academics say that protecting Australia’s undersea communications infrastructure does not require nuclear protection. The cables are “vulnerable” due to the “large geographic area” which is incompatible with the size of the proposed fleet and can easily be compromised by “relatively unsophisticated and cheap technologies”. 

The proposed size of the fleet is insufficient to protect the cables which are exposed in a “large geographic area” and can be compromised by “relatively unsophisticated and cheap technologies”, according to the letter.

They further state that the AUKUS deal is at direct odds with “desires to achieve peaceful and balanced strategic order”, expressing concern over the impact this will have on the Indo-pacific region. 

The letter counteracts the view that the nuclear submarines are vital to Australia’s defense as Australia’s existing extensive trading routes “pass through the South China Sea” which could lead to transpacific tensions. The academics then state this could “play a frontline role in hunting China’s nuclear-armed submarine force and its second-strike nuclear deterrent capability”.

However, the academics hold “no question that submarine capability is critical for Australia’s defense” but oppose the “offensive long-range power capabilities” that the nuclear submarines offer. In particular, they reference Scott Morrison’s 2021 failed deal with the French to build the “regionally superior” Collins Class Submarines, also protest the government’s changing rhetoric around national Defense decisions due to a lack of transparency. 

The letter’s most significant concern is the strategic risk of the Australian government’s decision. The worries lie “with respect to nuclear warfare”, as the AUKUS deal will equip the nations involved with “offensive oriented strategies” and active nuclear capability.

The academics conclude with a call for the government to not proceed with AUKUS until the Australian public receives the transparency and explanation for willing involvement in potential nuclear proliferation. 

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