Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne

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

By Mike Scrafton | 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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Sovereignty and self-determination: The wider implications of Israel and the West Bank

By Mike Scrafton | 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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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.

If there is another great power war, it will be imperative for the political leadership to be clear and definitive about their strategic goals and about what victory would look like – at a time when the range and technological complexity of the weapons systems involved will provide a major barrier to the level of understanding of civilian leaders.

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 international relations and Australia’s foreign policy.

But his arguments posit an excessively flattering picture of the US and an incomplete view of its history.

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. For better or worse Australia is tightly bound with the US economically and strategically.

Following the US lead may prove to be the right course. However, good, clear-eyed policy in the post-COVID environment cannot be based uncritically on an illusion.

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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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