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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The global order after COVID-19 (Stephen Walt)

The COVID-19 crisis will not produce a dramatic and enduring increase in global governance or significantly higher levels of international cooperation. Instead it is likely to reinforce divisive trends; to accelerate a retreat from globalization, raise new barriers to international trade, investment, and travel, and give both democratic and non-democratic governments greater power over their citizens’ lives. The post-COVID-19 world will be less open, less free, less prosperous, and more competitive than the world many people expected to emerge only a few years ago.

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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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Strategic suspicion and coronavirus consequences: the cost of Australia’s defence (Marcus Hellyer)

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.

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Today’s risks and the history of war: recognising the unknowable

Is a great power war in prospect? The study of war provides insights into the preconditions for conflict and an awareness of the unpredictable nature of war. It shows that great power wars can be as unpredictable as they are transformational. The winners are hidden from sight at the inception, and the losers risk everything. If Australian leaders assume they could come out unscathed on the winning side of an East Asian war they are taking a huge gamble on behalf of Australian citizens.

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Australian strategic policy: why we need a robust public debate

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.

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AUSMIN 2020: confirmation of Australia’s abandonment of strategic autonomy?

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.

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Defence Strategic Update 2020: A first assessment (James Goldrick)

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 explicitly

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Australia’s 2020 Defense Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan: A Paradigm Shift (Ankit Panda)

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.

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

Author: Richard Moore | Australian Institute for International Affairs’ Australian Outlook | 10 July 2020 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. 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

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The rationale for Australia’s 2020 Force Structure Plan: A 2040 war?

There is a mismatch between the urgent need to respond to the supposed recent deterioration in Australia’s strategic circumstances, and Australia’s recently-released 2020 Force Structure Plan.

It is highly improbable that many, or most, of the investments proposed in the Plan will be delivered on time and within cost. Ministers and defence planners know this. But bringing capabilities into the ADF inventory within the next 20 years doesn’t seem to be the priority for government, despite the apparent deterioration in the strategic environment.

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A replay of the 1930s: Fact or fearmongering?

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.

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Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update: no talk of war here

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.

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Rising powers: grand strategies, balance of power and Australia

Grand strategies are the territory of great powers, while other states see their strategic independence incorporated into another state’s grand strategy. The comfort that Australia embraced while enclosed in an American grand strategy can’t last, and hard choices lie ahead. In the shifting power balance, Australia will need to recover its autonomy.

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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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DGAP: Deterrence and defense in times of COVID-19 – Europe’s political choices

In this policy brief from the German Council on Foreign Relations, the authors suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic could see Europe heading for a much deeper recession than the economic downturn after the 2008 financial crisis. To avoid a devastating impact on national defense sectors the brief argues that governments can acs to mitigate the effect on defense – but that to safeguard political and defense priorities, EU and NATO States need to act jointly and decisively.

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Strategic strike, deterrence and the ghost of the F-111

Some confusion has emerged in Australian strategic thinking over ‘strategic strike’, where a threat to an adversary’s key war-making assets produces a deterrent effect, and ‘tactical strike’, where an effect is sought on the battlefield. The provenance of the concepts in Australian strategic thinking is closely tied to the acquisition of the F-111 fighter bombers…

It was the geostrategic situation that made the F-111s seem an effective strategic deterrent. Now, without the ability to threaten, degrade or destroy China’s essential war-making ability, there’s no strategic deterrence.

Strategic deterrence is a game for the nation with the preponderance of power and broad options.

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