AUKUS: ‘Anglosphere’ versus
the EU?

Could world war break out over Taiwan? There has recently been speculation that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, overturning the post-Cold War settlement, could trigger a Chinese attack on Taiwan—in fact, Beijing has never denied its willingness to use force to ‘return’ Taiwan to the mainland. The author of this article argues that this is not out of the question, since the struggle between the West and China on several fronts has now become a major fault line in international politics, and the United States would hardly stand idly by in the event of a Chinese attack. What is certain, however, is that the spectacular rise of communist China is a challenge for all the players in world politics, which none of them can afford to ignore. In fact, history has shown that the rapid rise of a new great power is always accompanied by a profound reshaping of international relations. Today is no different. Russian–American relations have deteriorated to the extent that Beijing has been able to safely seek cooperation with Moscow and, on that basis, to establish a solid economic position in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. On the other side, the US is also trying to forge alliances, all the more so because the consequences of the COVID pandemic have further sharpened this fault line.

The Five Eyes and the Anglo-Saxon alliance

In this context, it is worth examining the fact that the Anglo-Saxon countries took a decisive step to halt China’s expansion with the AUKUS agreement, which also attracted the attention of the Hungarian press. Formally, it is ‘only’ about the Americans and the British helping Australia, which is increasingly threatened by China, to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. 1For the precise content of the AUKUS agreement, see: House of Commons Library, ‘The AUKUS Agreement, 11 October 2021’, But in reality this agreement is much more: a full-scale military, scientific, and technological alliance. Australia sees Chinese demonstrations of force in the South China Sea, including the militarization of islands and the spy ships sent to its shores as a direct threat, and has therefore requested nuclear-powered (but conventionally armed) submarines.

Given the closeness of civilizational ties, it is hardly surprising that Australia turned to the Anglo-Saxon world for help. In the view of John O’Sullivan, AUKUS seems likely to change the whole pattern of international relations, as much as the Entente Cordiale and the foundation of NATO did in earlier times. The new alliance is ‘more or less the Anglosphere in arms’. 2John O’Sullivan and Tamás Orbán, ‘AUKUS Shuffles the Blocs’, National Review (14 October 2021),

The cooperation limited to the Anglo-Saxon countries is not unprecedented: the Five Eyes intelligence community (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) has been in operation virtually since the Second World War.3 J. Vitor Tossini, ‘The Five Eyes. The Intelligence Alliance of the Anglosphere’, UK Defence Journal (14 April 2020). The author concludes that ‘the Five Eyes is an enormous asset to keep the citizens of the “English-Speaking World” safer’,

Trotsky’s mistake and the transfer of hegemony

The core of Anglo-Saxon cooperation is undoubtedly the ‘special relationship’ between Washington and London. This partnership has always meant much more than a stable political and military alliance between two great powers. In one of the most interesting, though relatively little studied, processes in the history of the twentieth century, the US took over hegemony from Britain, with Britain’s enforced but voluntary consent. In the 1920s, Trotsky was still expecting that within the system of ‘world imperialism’, the decisive conflict of interests would inevitably arise between the two Anglo-Saxon powers, and that a clash between them would therefore be inevitable. Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain, Vol. 1, The Decline of British Imperialism. 4Anglo-American Rivalry and the Growth of Militarism (‘The main antagonism is between the United States and Britain’),, accessed 22 February 2022. This was not the case. As a result of the transfer of hegemony, the British lost their primacy, but they remained the beneficiaries of the ‘special relationship’ in their new role.

Consequently, Britain has never remained neutral in the escalating relationship between Washington and Beijing, and its relations with China have been repeatedly altered. Rather than looking back in history, it is perhaps enough to recall that in January 2020, Boris Johnson’s government decided to allow Huawei to participate in the construction of a 5G network in the UK, despite Washington’s strong disapproval—but that is no longer the case, and Britain, defying China’s wrath, offered British citizenship to those seeking to flee from strangled Hong Kong. 5ITW News, ‘Johnson Informs Trump Huawei Will Be Involved in the UK’s 5G Network’, (28 January 2020), In 1968, London decided to withdraw its military units stationed ‘east of Suez’, but the new treaty promises to restore its global role—and give substance to one of the key promises of the Brexit campaign, the idea of ‘global Britain’. 6‘Finding Britain’s Role in a Changing World: The Principles for Global Britain’, The Foreign Policy Centre, 9 (2020),

Australia’s policy towards China has undergone an even more significant change. In the 1990s, Canberra turned to Asia in an attempt to forge a new regional identity and, in this context, to move closer to Beijing. Today, however, Australia has returned to its Anglo-Saxon roots, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison hailing the new pact as a ‘forever partnership’. Andrew Tillett, ‘PM Hails New Subs Deal as “Forever Partnership”’, 7Financial Review (16 September 2021), Canberra was the first to call for an international investigation into the origin of the COVID-19 virus—one of fourteen serious transgressions that Premier Xi Jinping has laid at the door of the Australians and which he has not yet forgiven. 8Colin Packham, ‘Australia Says World Needs to Know Origins of COVID-19’, Reuters (26 September 2020), Beijing’s ambassador to Canberra warned at once that calls for an inquiry could sour trade ties. As for the Chinese grievances see: Walter Russell Mead, ‘AUKUS Is the Indi-Pacific Pact of the Future, The Wall Street Journal (27 September 2021),

The ‘backstabbing’ of France

At the same time, with the AUKUS agreement, Australia cancelled the contract under which it had ordered twelve diesel-powered submarines from France—a new sharp fault line in international politics. The announcement of the alliance, which had been prepared with maximum secrecy, exploded like a political bomb in Paris. Foreign Minister Le Drian immediately called it a ‘stab in the back’ and ordered the French ambassadors in Washington and Canberra to return home. 9‘AUKUS: UK, US and Australia Launch Pact to Counter China’, (16 September 2021), Almost everyone was talking of national humiliation, and the anti-Anglo-Saxon prejudices that have been shared by so many French people since de Gaulle are now seen as fully justified. The omission of France, which has possessions in the Pacific, has also been seen as a slap in the face by the European Union, with its High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell expressing deep dismay that Brussels had not even been informed of the draft agreement, which was described in Berlin as a ‘declaration of war’. 10Jessica Parker (BBC), ‘AUKUS: Defence Pact an Awkward Wake-up Call for Europe’, (17 September 2021), However, O’Sullivan rightly emphasizes: ‘AUKUS is a product of long-time strategic thinking “prompted by Australian realism rather than of a timely panic”’. 11O’Sullivan and Orbán, ‘AUKUS Shuffles the Blocs’.

It is, of course, no coincidence that France—and the EU—were left out. The Americans see—and there is no real difference between Trump’s and Biden’s perceptions—that Europe cannot really be relied on to take action against China for the time being, and they lack confidence in the French, who perhaps have still not been forgiven for leaving NATO’s integrated military command in 1966. Paris and Berlin have made a number of statements ‘warning’ against strong action against Beijing, and this has not gone down well on the other side of the Atlantic. The EU shocked the new Biden administration by signing an investment deal with China in spite of the pleas of the US for consultation. In respect of Putin’s policy it is worth noting that France and Germany have traditionally been at odds with the Anglosphere concerning how to handle Russia: they have adopted a much more conciliatory approach to it. This is why Washington has taken the position that ‘we have no better allies than the UK and Australia’.

Of course, the willingness of the Anglo-Saxons and the French to cooperate was not helped by the fact that Paris had sought complications on several occasions during the Brexit negotiations. President Macron even threatened to cut power lines under the Channel, and saw the Irish–Northern Irish border as potential for blackmail. If you treat the UK as an adversary, then do not be surprised at the consequences—says Wolfgang Münchhau in The Spectator, concluding: AUKUS is ‘a disaster for the EU’. Wolfgang Münchhau, ‘The AUKUS is a Disaster for the EU’, 12The Spectator (17 September 2021), And to quote The Spectator again, John Keiger rightly argues in the journal that AUKUS is precisely the sort of ‘loose, flexible, and nimble arrangement’ that France and the formalistic, bureaucratic mindset of the EU are deeply averse to. 13John Keiger, ‘The Real Reason France Was Excluded from AUKUS’, The Spectator (18 September 2021),

At the same time, the treaty is in keeping with Churchill’s intellectual legacy, which called for the ‘Anglosphere’ to work together. This term refers to the informal transnational community that includes Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, alongside the United States and Britain—all the states that Churchill included in his famous work on the history of English-speaking peoples. Imperial reminiscence? That is all its opponents say, but it is in fact a living reality, as a major Wall Street Journal article in August 2020 underlined. 14Andrew Roberts, ‘It’s Time to Revive the Anglosphere’, The Wall Street Journal (8 August 2020), And other countries are linked to it. If Bismarck was right that the most important reality of the twentieth century would be the English-speaking United States, then one of the key factors of the twenty-first century may be that India, soon to become the world’s most populous country, is a member of the Commonwealth, and that English is playing an increasing role in it. India, of course, has no wish to be subordinate to its former ‘motherland’, but border provocations by the Chinese have severely strained its relations with Beijing. In the framework of the so-called ‘Quad’ formation (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) India has come much closer to the US, Australia, and Japan, sharing even joint military exercises with the aim of warning the Chinese.

The ‘network civilization’ of the Anglo-Saxons

Attempts to organize the Anglosphere go back a long way, but no institutionalized framework has ever been developed. 15John O’Sullivan, ‘A British-led Anglosphere in World Politics?’, The Daily Telegraph (29 December 2007), In his notable 1946 speech at Fulton, Churchill called in vain for the United States and Britain to be brought together under a common framework of states, a common Anglo-American citizenship. It is telling, however, that as early as the 1990s there were calls for London to turn its back on Brussels and join the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) instead.

The most interesting concept of the Anglosphere in the twenty-first century was developed by the American James C. Bennett, who argued that the current century, after the British-dominated nineteenth century and the American-dominated twentieth century, would be the century of the Anglo-Saxons.16 James C. Bennett, The Anglosphere Challenge. Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century (London–New York–Oxford: Rowman and Littefield, 2004). He saw the key to success not in any ethnic or religious factor, but in the social development of the Anglo-Saxon countries, above all in a strong and self-conscious civil society. Talent is not lacking elsewhere, Bennett points out, but other countries lack the institutional system that only civil society can sustain and provide a pathway for it to flourish. Democracy does not create civil society, but vice versa.

The age of information technology and the reduction in the importance of geographical distance has brought the countries of the Anglosphere closer together again, reversing the earlier trend of ‘drifting apart’. Bennett argues that this opportunity should also be used to create a common organizational framework, all the more so because the momentary interests of individual Anglo-Saxon countries often clash with their long-term interests in civilization. The framework for cooperation should certainly be looser than a centralized state, but deeper than wholly informal relations. The nations of the Anglosphere, moreover, have never affirmed—he reminds us—that speakers of the same language must necessarily be united in a single state. Globalization is undermining the foundations of the ‘economic state’, but it is having much less effect on the ‘civic state’ based on cultural community, a trend that could clearly favour the ‘network-based’ organization of the Anglo-Saxon world. 17Bennett, The Anglosphere Challenge, 2–3. And while the EU is struggling to establish a common identity, the Anglosphere already has one. However, the focus on a common culture implies, by definition, a rejection of multiculturalism.

Churchill singled out respect for freedom and justice as a unique achievement of the Anglo-Saxon world, and in his Reflections on a Ravaged Century, the distinguished historian Robert Conquest rightly emphasizes that the Anglo-Saxon countries have a commitment to these values ‘in a way that is not shared to anything like the same degree by other countries within the general democratic sphere’. 18Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century (London: John Murray, 1999), 275. Nor in the EU. Indeed, it would be difficult to draw any other conclusion from the bloody history of the twentieth century than that no other group of countries has shown more resolute resistance to the temptations of various totalitarianisms than the Anglo-Saxon states. The rule of law is most secure in them.

The risk of Western division

However understandable the Anglosphere’s aversion to an over-bureaucratized EU, the division of the Western world carries serious risks, since it only benefits its enemies. The aggrieved President Macron would in all probability insist again on the old idea of a European deterrent force, independent of ‘Anglo-America’, resulting in ‘strategic autonomy’, but this would not be the right direction. Nor would it be a good idea for the Anglo-Saxon powers to reject France’s possible accession to the AUKUS agreement because they see it as a Trojan horse for the EU (much in the same way de Gaulle twice vetoed the British entry into the Common Market because he saw them as Washington’s proxies).

At this point the question can be raised whether the relation of the Anglo-Saxon world to the West is of a complementary or competitive character—and the author of this study is deeply convinced that the former is correct because Anglo-Saxon civilization belongs to the core of the West. We have to keep in mind that unlike other civilizations, the West is bicentric, consisting of North America and Europe, and in the event of any major conflict it only has a chance through joint action. This is not in any way to deny that the Anglosphere represents a markedly distinct civilization within the West. As Browning and Tanro point out, the Anglosphere even represents a challenge to the West from inside, by calling for a return ‘to a set of core values which have been lost in the European emphasis on communalism’. 19Christopher Browning and Ben Tonra, ‘Beyond the West and towards the Anglosphere’, 2009,

In light of the fact that the 24 February Russian invasion of Ukraine and the threats from Beijing against Taiwan have fundamentally called into question the stability of the international order, the Anglo-Saxon countries’ unity seems an understandable step. Rana Mitter informs us that on the Chinese social media there has been chatter about the similarities between the cases of Ukraine and Taiwan and the general atmosphere has become ‘much more militaristic around the Taiwan issue’. 20Rana Mitter, ‘Could the Ukraine War Save Taiwan?’, The Spectator (5 March 2022), As Professor John Mearsheimer has emphasized on several occasions, China cannot increase its power through peaceful means indefinitely and, consequently, the United States and China will find themselves in an intense rivalry with significant potential for war. 21John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014); see also Michael R. Austin, ‘Pacific Century: John Mearsheimer on the Inevitable US–China Rivalry’, Interview with John Mearsheimer, Hoover Institution, 1 December 2021, China will probably try to dominate Asia as the United States dominates the West. (In his influential book published in 2021, The Strategy of Denial, Elbridge Colby argues that the US must by all means defend Taiwan because its security depends on preventing Beijing’s conquest of the island; it must deny China the ability to seize Taiwan.)

However, in the short-term the present situation is extremely critical. A two-front-war with both China and Russia would be the worst-case scenario for the West, though this is not a likely outcome. In the context of this article on AUKUS, it is of special importance that from the point of view of the Anglosphere the West is declining precisely because it is not able to take unified and concerted action in the world. In other words, the Anglosphere has no other choice than to act if the West remains passive. In the present situation the Anglosphere needs to be what the West has failed to be. 22Browning and Tonra, ‘Beyond the West and towards the Anglosphere’. It says a lot that Russia and China condemned the AUKUS alliance in a combative joint statement after the Putin–Xi Jinping summit, on 4 February 2022. 23Michael Schwirtz, ‘Putin and Xi Proclaim Bond as Russia Deploys More Forces near Ukraine’, The New York Times (3 February 2022), The document is a clear declaration of their intent to build a new international order on the basis of their political values and preferences. This challenge requires a joint response from the Anglosphere.

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