Russia says it is concerned that the AUKUS defence agreement between Australia, Britain and the United States will allow Australia to enter the select group of nations that operate nuclear-powered submarines.
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Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the pact is a challenge to global nuclear non-proliferation
The EU has delayed free trade talks with Australia for a month but denies it is in retaliation for ripping up a submarine deal with France
The AUKUS announcement has angered China which has previously questioned Australia’s willingness to improve relations
Currently the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China operate such submarines.
The three-way pact, under which Australia will obtain nuclear submarine technology from the United States, has angered France and concerned China since it was announced.
The French were angered and recalled their Ambassador to Australia because the deal saw the Morrison government scrap a $90 billion deal to build submarines with state-owned Naval Group.
Earlier this week Russia said it was seeking more information about the pact and on Friday Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he saw it as a challenge to global nuclear non-proliferation.
“We are also concerned about the … partnership that will allow Australia, after 18 months of consultations and several years of attempts, to obtain nuclear-powered submarines in sufficient numbers to become one of the top five countries for this type of armaments,” Mr Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russia’s TASS news agency.
“This is a great challenge to the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.”
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier in the week that the security pact brings a hidden danger to regional peace, stability and international order.
Foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying also questioned whether Australia really cared about improving relations with China.
The defence pact has worried some of Australia’s closer neighbours.
Indonesia echoed Malaysia’s concerns that the deal could lead to a new arms race in the region and provoke other actors to take more aggressive action, especially in the South China Sea.
However, Japan and the Philippines welcomed the pact, while Singapore raised no objections.
‘Not in the business of punishing’
Russia’s comments came as a round of free trade talks between the European Union (EU) and Australia was postponed by one month.
EU commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer said the decision to delay the meeting was taken by the EU’s executive arm.
Asked whether it was a retaliation measure for Australia cancelling the deal with France Mr Mamer said “the EU is not in the business of punishing anybody”.
Miriam Garcia Ferrer, the EU commission spokesperson in charge of trade, insisted the delay does not mean the end of discussions while Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan said he would continue planning to meet with his EU counterpart Valdis Dombrovskis next week to discuss the negotiations now set for November.
“A free trade agreement is in the interests of Australia and the European Union and will strengthen our relationship that is built on a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and economic openness,” Mr Tehan said in a statement.
“We understand the French reaction to our submarine decision, but ultimately any nation must act in its national interest – which is what Australia has done,” he added.
The EU launched negotiations for a trade agreement with Australia in 2018. The 12th round of talks was scheduled to take place later this month via videoconference.