The US role in the world: a new normal

President Trump has pursued a different vision of the US’s role in the world – one which has had an undeniable impact on relations with allies and competitors alike, and has reshaped perceptions of the US as a global actor. A robust debate over its future global role has ensued. US allies like Australia should be paying close attention, because whether or not Trump wins re-election, the US will not be able to resume some quasi-mythical past role, and the world will need to adjust to a new normal.

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The future of multilateralism and strategic partnerships (Elena Lazarou)

The current European Commission has set the defence and reform of multilateralism as one of its key priorities. In this ideas paper from the EU Parliament’s Research Service, Elena Lazarou tackles the question of how to achieve the EU’s objective in an environment where coronavirus has exacerbated the struggle to uphold multilateralism in a climate of growing nationalism, protectionism and rising great power competition.

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Why is ‘values’ the new buzzword in Australian foreign policy? (Benjamin Reilly)

In international affairs, words are bullets, according to an old diplomatic saying. If so, Australia in recent years has begun firing new ammunition. ‘Values’, a word seldom used in the past, has now assumed a central place in our foreign policy rhetoric. Speeches, press conferences and policy statements vibrate with the V-word. If values are now the coin of our foreign policy realm, we will have to start walking the talk.

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Into the dragon’s mouth: the dangers of defence-led foreign policy (Richard Moore)

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 less

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Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne

Australia’s foreign policy: Resurgent realism or the survival of multilateralism?

Conceptual confusion in thinking about foreign policy is evident as the post World War II era’s structured international arrangements of durable institutions and agreed norms – designed to facilitate peaceful dispute resolution and cooperation on security, economic and social matters between nations – is challenged by the United States and others.

The indeterminacy over whether a gradual transition from the rules-based order to a degree of anarchy is taking place is generating a certain dissonance in the speechmaking of leading Australian political figures.

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Securitisation – turning problems into threats (Allan Behm, The Australia Institute)

One of the more disturbing tendencies of modern governments is ‘securitisation’ – transforming policy problems into threats, thereby elevating them into the national security domain. In many western democracies, especially among the allies of the US, security is accorded pre-eminent status among the various domains of public policy, creating the preconditions for securitisation to elevate the levels of state intervention in handling issues in a way that displays, emphasises and enhances the power of the state and its control over its citizens.

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Sovereignty and self-determination: The wider implications of Israel and the West Bank

Australia’s Prime Minister recently said that Australia always respects the sovereignty of other nations, and simply expects the same in return. But cases like Kosovo, Crimea, Jammu-Kashmir and Hong Kong illustrate the tension between sovereignty and self-determination – and the significance of precedent-setting. Recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank requires careful, nuanced consideration. What position will Australia take?

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Anticipating a new US Foreign Policy (FES, Lauren Schwartz)

Lauren Schwartz from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung considers what US foreign policy might look like under a Democrat president – after Trump, and after coronavirus. The paper canvasses “30 years of ambivalent foreign policy” – from 1989 through to 2020, and a Trump administration prepared to signal its willingness and ability to adopt a more competitive approach towards its rivals, militarily, economically and diplomatically. A new American foreign policy should expand its reach beyond the

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Australia’s strategic quandary: political leadership and the abandonment of strategy

Strategy, the link between policy and the battlefield, is now more important than ever.

Australia’s strategic quandary emerges from its status as an ally to a great power. If it abrogates its responsibility to set national policy aims by joining in a coalition in which one great power antagonist determines the goals of the war it cannot claim to have a strategy. It cannot claim to be linking Australia’s national priorities to the military actions. Its fate would be in the hands of its great power ally.

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A tale of two Americas: Australia’s foreign policy choices post-pandemic

Writing in ‘The Strategist’ (Australian Strategic Policy Institute), Michael Shoebridge rightly points out that how the US rebounds from the COVID-19 crisis will be important. For better or worse Australia is tightly bound with the US economically and strategically.

But Shoebridge’s arguments posit an excessively flattering picture of the US and an incomplete view of its history – at a time when it is crucial that Australian foreign and strategic policy-makers have a realistic and unvarnished understanding of how the US might approach the post-pandemic world.

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Trump Netanyahu Meeting

Pew Research Centre: few in other countries approve of Trump’s major foreign policies, but Israelis are an exception

New analysis suggests that evaluations of US President Donald Trump’s signature foreign policies are generally negative around the world – except in Israel, the only surveyed country where a majority of people (55%) express net approval of Trump’s policies, and where the level of net approvers is 18 percentage points higher than it is in the US, the second-most-approving country.

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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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