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?Read more
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.Read more
Marcus Hellyer provides a measured and considered analysis of the spending and force structure proposals associated with Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan. The article considers the proposed funding model, tests the connections between the strategic drivers identified and the capabilities proposed for acquisition, and identifies some of the risks that could affect the successful delivery of the proposed capabilities.Read more
The 2020 Defence Strategic Update has given us the ‘defence pivot … designed to increase the military costs for an enemy thinking of attacking Australia, and to boost the ability to strike back at a distance if such an attack occurred’. But does the price tag amount to significant increase in Defence spending? Michelle Grattan observes that ‘the $270 billion ‘spend’ on hardware over a decade doesn’t actually represent a big increase from the 2016 figure of $195 billion’.Read more
With the rise of “nontraditional threats”, people are actually feeling increasingly insecure. But “to keep our nation safe and protect our way of life for future generations” the Australian government is promising to spend $270 billion on defence. Even if we weren’t facing the prospect of plunging into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, this sort of spending and the thinking that underpins it looks highly questionable and unlikely to achieve its central goals.Read more
Only a select group of voices is heard most often and most loudly on the subject of Australia’s strategic policy. This creates a false sense of certainty around what is a speculative and inexact policy area. The policy choices, and the connection between strategic policy and force structure, deserve to be intensively examined and validated through public debate – not least of all because the opportunity cost of defence investment is huge.Read more
Australians should not take comfort from recent government statements around the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations – claims that Australia makes its own decisions, its own judgments, in the Australian national interest, in order to uphold Australia’s security, prosperity and values. Reassuring words are the slippery province of diplomacy. Strategic policy is founded in force structure and force posture.Read more
A candid assessment of Australia’s challenges, but will the planned measures be enough? (James Goldrick) Author: James Goldrick | The Interpreter (Lowy Institute) | Published 2 July 2020 The update is as ambitious in its strategic scope as in its capability plans. “The Defence Strategic Update 2020 launched yesterday in Canberra is a notably candid assessment of the strategic challenges Australia faces and the measures with which the government plans to meet them. It explicitlyRead more
Ankit Panda reflects on the new context of Australia’s 2020 Strategic Update compared to its predecessor, the 2016 Defence White Paper, and the “bold prescriptions” that flow from Australia’s reassessment of the strategic environment – in particular, the notion of investing more in conventional stand-off weaponry – long-range missiles. This development will be a welcome one for many in the US strategic community, he notes, where calls for American allies to acquire such capabilities have long persisted.Read more
The recent release of the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan provided an outline of the Australian government’s defence policy and capability priorities for the next decade. The Force Structure Plan in particular helps define how an additional [AUD] $270 billion will be invested to deliver critical capabilities for a more lethal, flexible, enhanced and independent Australian Defence Force (ADF). The $270 billion shopping list has some surprising inclusions… a close reading of the document reveals items that have largely escaped notice but are interesting because of their value, proximity, implications, novelty – or because they’re just plain weird.Read more
The Australian prime minister’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update has many strengths, but it does not address the critical factors of diplomacy and development. Australia’s unbalanced strategic posture risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Author: Richard Moore | Australian Institute for International Affairs’ Outlook | 10 July 2020 China under President Xi Jinping is more of a menace, there is no doubt about that. And the US under President Donald Trump, and probably his successors, is lessRead more
What strategic developments did the 2016 Defence White Paper not anticipate? Do any of these point to a need to radically change Australia’s defence posture? Which of these equate to risks that increased defence spending can obviate? Author: Greg Raymond | The Conversation (Australia) | 22 November 2018 Although written in late 2018, it’s arguable that this article’s observations and judgements have stood the test of time, perhaps taking on greater resonance in the wake of theRead more
Announcing the strategic shift proposed by Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Prime Minister Morrison compares the current strategic environment to “the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s”.
Arguing from historical analogy is a dubious business. But if the Prime Minister believes current global circumstances are comparable to those that preceded the Second World War, the response in the Strategic Update is inadequate. If he doesn’t, his references amount to fear-mongering.Read more
There is little to quarrel with in Hugh White’s assessment of the uncertainties in East Asia. His counsel to the government on the way forward for strategic policy, on the other hand, is less satisfactory.
To embark on a major expansion of Australia’s military forces is not the way to protect Australia. On the contrary, it is hard to see where engaging in war against China can result in anything but seriously adverse outcomes for Australia.
The way forward is harder than buying rockets. Australia will need to find a way to live peacefully in the Chinese behemoth’s backyard.Read more