Is the United States of America a normal country?

Remarks at the Munich Security Conference by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are full of unconscious irony.

If ‘the United States’ was substituted for every reference to ‘China’ in each address not much of their coherence would be lost. Can the two premier US leaders of foreign and strategic policy genuinely be so naïve about the current impact of America’s policies on the world order, multilateralism, alliances, and international security?

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The warning that wasn’t: Robert Gottliebsen’s warning to the Australian nation on the Future Submarines

Robert Gottliebsen (‘The Australian’ 12 Feb 2020) has found ‘a clear warning to the Australian nation’ of risks associated with the procurement strategy for Australia’s Future Submarine Program – risks which ‘may even ultimately put the [ANZUS] alliance at risk’.

Gottliebsen’s suggestion is that, because of French involvement in the procurement, the US will be unwilling to supply a state-of-the-art combat system. But Is there really any reason to think that the US would refuse to supply a suitable combat system? Or, more broadly any evidence that Defence is not managing the project risks effectively?

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NATO, the Middle East and the policy vacuum

Recent public statements inspired by the Iran crisis fromNATO Secretary General Stoltenberg andPresident Trump reveal the real depths of the crisis for the NATO alliance. Increasingly the strategic interests of the Europeans and the Americans have diverged and the balance between costs and risks for America’s NATO partners is shifting.

If, as Hugh White recently observed, real alliances only work when there’s a clear alignment of strategic objectives – because countries only commit themselves to alliances, and accept the costs and risks, to serve their own objectives, not those of their allies – Jens Stoltenberg’s comments are telling.

At the same time, the comments of the Australian Prime Minister lack any indication that Australia’s foreign and strategic policy reflects a sophisticated appreciation of the geopolitical shifts taking place.

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