The metrics of strategic competition with China don’t add up

The recent Belfer Center report by RAAF Group Captain Jason Begley, Winning Strategic Competition in the Indo-Pacific, offers important insights into the strategic thinking of the Australian military. The author’s analysis of the strategic competition with China in which the US and Australia have engaged far surpasses the level of the policy arguments offered in the Australian government’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update.

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For moral certainty, war is the solvent

The brutal reality of war never features in political discussions of strategic and defence policy. How many non-combatants in foreign countries is it moral to kill, displace, or impoverish in order protect or preserve some objective, principle or values? In ministerial offices and cosy think tank suites, distant from the ruined cities, refugee camps, and destroyed lives, decision makers and advisers should think on these things.

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The open secret of US war plans: what does Australia know?

The influence of the US in Eurasia will continue to falter, and as its economic, diplomatic, and moral potency dwindles, America’s military will become its primary asset. In America’s strategic logic, loss of leadership demands a military response – and the nature of the military preparations for war on a recognised emerging Asia hegemon are now well known. While the trajectory to war is not irreversible, and the step to launching a war is huge, the consequences would be calamitous. Is Australia complicit in the preparations?

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ASPI’s guide to submarines leaves the biggest strategic questions unanswered

ASPI’s Special Report; submarines, your questions answered aims to “become the go-to guide for authoritative comment on all things to do with the present and future of Australian submarines”. However, rather than clarify the issues around submarine warfare and the Attack class, it raises more questions than it answers. That’s not to deny that there are important contributions in the report from Andrew Davies, Marcus Hellyer, Malcolm Davis, and others.

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Sustaining an undersea advantage: Hudson Institute anti-submarine warfare report

The spotlight is back on Australia’s future submarine program, SEA1000. The Hudson Institute report Sustaining the Undersea Advantage: Disrupting Anti-Submarine Warfare Using Autonomous Systems is an excellent introduction to the history of anti-submarine warfare, and to some recent transformational developments in its conduct. It will help readers understand the long history of undersea warfare and how past experience has made older concepts hard to shift.

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Exaggerated threats and contrived military strategies shouldn’t drive Defence spending: a response to Jon Stanford

In a series of three articles, Jon Stanford has argued that Australia needs “a sound military strategy to deter an attack by a great power and careful analysis of how to design the right force structure to deliver it”. An external, more ‘neutral’ review of Australia’s military strategy is proposed. But it is not clear that Australia needs a new military strategy – let alone one that would require a 50 % increase in the Defence budget.

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US and India sign Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation

Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation As anticipated, the United States and India have today [27 October 2020] signed an agreement for the sharing of sensitive satellite data during a biannual “2+2” security dialogue in New Delhi. According to Indian defence sources, the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) on Geospatial Cooperation will provide India with access to a range of topographical, nautical and aeronautical data necessary for more accurate use of missiles

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Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force in January 2021

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified on 24 October 2020 by a 50th country, Honduras, and is now expected to enter into force in January 2021. The Treaty bans the use, development, production, testing, stationing, stockpiling and threat of use of such weapons. The nuclear-armed countries are not signatories to the Treaty.

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India, US set for signing of geospatial cooperation agreement during Pompeo visit

Reuters reported on 22 October 2020 that an agreement on geospatial cooperation that, amongst other things, will give India access to US satellite data for better accuracy of missiles and drones, might be concluded during the visit next week of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to New Delhi for talks with their Indian counterparts Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Rajnath Singh.

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By 2030, US could be unable to shape when and why wars occur: RAND Corporation

Discussion around defence policy and spending tends to focus on the quantum, efficiency, and economic impacts and not on the implied end use: war. The Future of Warfare in 2030 looks at what war might mean in the near to medium term for the United States. Defence policy is put clearly in the context of war, and the issues surrounding conflict are explored. The study provides valuable inputs into US allies’ considerations of the consequences of following America into major power conflicts.

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National Cyber Power Index 2020: which is the world’s most powerful cyber nation? (Belfer Center)

Which is the most powerful cyber nation in the world? A recently published Belfer Center report, National Cyber Power Index 2020, is a new approach to conceptualizing and measuring cyber power at the country level – a multidimensional and disaggregated measure of national cyber power that reflects the complexity of the concept. The results provide a richly-layered and informative way of assessing the cyber capabilities of the studied countries.

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Strategic mirror: Pentagon’s China report reveals converging power and strategy

The Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on military and security developments in China describes an already formidable military capability, and China’s intention that its military strength will achieve parity with the US by 2049. Ironically, the report unintentionally reveals that China’s major strategic objectives mirror those of the US, past and present. Additionally, the report provides evidence that Australia’s increasing investment in Defence is no substitute for diplomacy.

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Primer on Hypersonic Weapons in the Indo-Pacific Region (Atlantic Council)

With Russia, China and the United States leading the development of operational hypersonic weapons, other Indo-Pacific states, including Australia, have indicated that they intend to do so in the intermediate future. This comprehensive Atlantic Council primer seeks to marry technological characteristics, geostrategic and military imperatives, and regional dynamics in order to provide a basis for further analysis about hypersonic development and application trajectories in the Indo-Pacific.

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Out of shape: Australia’s lack of strategic influence

It seems clear from recent surveys that the Australian government is overestimating its influence in ‘the immediate region’ and underestimating the capacity of the ASEAN states, in particular, to recognise their own strategic interests. The strategic objectives set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update rest on the assumptions that Australia will be able to ‘shape’ strategic perceptions in the region, and that this can best be done while acting in close association with the US. Are the foundations of Australia’s strategic logic sound?

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Why is the South China Sea such a hotly contested region? (Greg Austin)

Australia’s statement on the South China Sea in July 2020 was its strongest rejection yet of China’s claims to the waters. It did not represent a new position on the legal issues, but marked a fresh determination to confront China over the maritime disputes. The United States is also pressuring Australia to join its freedom of navigation exercises in the sea — a move likely to further anger China. As tensions in the South China Sea mount, it’s important to understand how this dispute began and what international law says about freedom of navigation and competing maritime claims in the waters.

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A bigger canvas: Russia, China and Australia’s strategic policy

The proximity and size of China, and the belligerence of the US toward China, has occluded the view of Russia among Australia strategic planners. While Russia poses no credible direct threat to Australia, it could be a key player in a conflict between the US and China. Once Russia is factored into the analysis of the situation in East Asia, the global consequences of a war are magnified and the recklessness of contemplating participating in such a conflict becomes even clearer.

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China’s newfound intimacy with Russia is a strategic blind spot for Australia (Alexey D Muraviev)

We have become very China-centric in our strategic thinking in Australia — and this could be to our detriment. Beijing’s deepening defence ties with Russia remain a blind spot in our public debate. China and Russia have grown much closer in recent years, especially when it comes to security and defence. Instead of taking a serious look at the ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ between Russia and China, we largely play down what unites these two major nuclear powers and the world’s most potent militaries outside the United States.

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Defence spending and plans: will the pandemic take its toll? (IISS)

That the Covid-19 pandemic will have an impact on defence ministries is beyond doubt, but can governments and defence ministries find a way to deal with the possible effects on military spending and resource allocations? One way or another, national governments and defence ministries will have to grapple with the immediate and extended effects of the pandemic on their countries’ military spending and resource allocation.

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