THE West is heading towards a new era of militarism, anti-war campaigners have warned – pointing to “major rearmament” plans after a new weapons deal was unveiled.

The UK, US and Australia announced on Monday a new agreement which would see state-of-the-art nuclear-powered submarines sold Down Under in a major boost to the country’s navy amid heightened tensions with Beijing.

Anti-war campaigners have sounded an urgent warning that the deal represents a threat to international peace and risks further damaging relations with China.

Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War coalition, told The National the deal should be seen in the context of a “major rearmament” in China, the surrounding areas and the West.

The National:

Defence spending in Japan, a country with historically stormy relations with its eastern neighbour, was doubled at the beginning of this year. Germany, another country aligned with pacifist aims since the Second World War, is also reportedly considering a major hike in military spending, she noted.

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German said the war in Ukraine was now effectively a proxy war between Nato and Russia – and said the Pacific coast was at risk of becoming a new “theatre” of conflict.

She added: “There is a major rearmament going on in the Pacific which is aimed at, China puts it in terms of ‘encircling’, but it’s certainly aimed at a greater military presence facing China.

The National:

“What it seems to me is happening with the Aukus pact is...I think Nato powers and possibly the Chinese and other forces as well, but certainly the Nato powers have come to an understanding that they are going to be fighting a war on more than one front and that’s a new development in modern times.

“I think they are now making the case for continued war in Europe and continued, increasing armament. Germany is doubling its arms, Poland spends 4% of its GDP on arms – which is a huge amount of money.

“They’re committed to this particular theatre of war [Europe] – but also they are increasingly being committed to the Pacific theatre of war.”

Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, backed German’s comments on the question of Nato powers considering the Pacific as a new theatre of war.

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He told The National the deal should be seen against the backdrop of rising military budgets “in a way we haven’t seen since the Cold War era” following the invasion of Ukraine.

He added: “You’re getting tensions much higher in two completely different areas, one in the Indo-Pacific and China and the other is Europe in relation to Ukraine… These things almost have a momentum of their own.”

And German said Britain’s geographic location meant it should have no involvement in Pacific – claiming the UK Government were acting as an “appendage” to American interests in the region.

She said: “Both [UK and Australia] are acting as kind of surrogates or appendages to the US.

“If the US decides it wants to have a nuclear war, Britain isn’t going to stop it… Once people start thinking about this and the possibility of escalation, then it becomes a very different matter.

“At the moment, what we’re seeing is the journalists in Ukraine telling us what’s going on there. And it’s absolutely horrific, in places like Bakhmut. But they don’t tell you what’s going on in various other parts of the world and will be even worse if this war escalates, or if there is a war between China and the US, which would be a much much worse scenario, even if you stop short of nuclear war.”

Prof. Rogers argued it was important to see the West’s defence posture from China’s perspective.

The National:

He said: “The Australians, British and Americans can argue that this is necessary – the Chinese of course see it entirely differently.

“They’ve got a huge American aircraft carrier permanently based in Japan…The Chinese see the world very differently, they see themselves as being contained militarily.”

The Aukus deal brings Australia much closer militarily with the UK and US – and aims to align its submarines with those used in the American and British navies. It comes as the Prime Minister announced a £5 billion increase to British defence spending on Monday.

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Ross Greer, the Scottish Greens’ external affairs spokesperson, said: "This is a grotesque waste of money and resources that will only further the militarisation of our waters. The transfer of nuclear materials should concern all of us.”

In a statement, Rishi Sunak said: “The Aukus partnership, and the submarines we are building in British shipyards, are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security.

“This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”

The new submarines are not designed to be used with nuclear weapons. The Ministry of Defence did not say whether the new submarines would be built in Scotland or whether training operations to use them would take place north of the Border.