In June 2020, the Australian federal authorities introduced a brand new, A$270 billion defence technique. A part of this entailed spending $800 million on new AGM-158C long-range anti-ship missiles from america.
The brand new spend fashioned a part of an extended custom of Australian defence procurement from the US. In 2017, the Australian Nationwide Audit Workplace estimated the Australian Defence Drive (ADF) had spent an eye-watering $10 billion on American weapons and gear within the earlier 4 years alone.
This pattern appears set to proceed. This Could, for instance, the ADF introduced the institution of a $7 billion house division, which can inevitably deepen Australia’s safety and financial ties with the US.
And because the Biden administration focuses extra consideration on “the Quad” — the quadrilateral safety association between the US, Australia, Japan and India — to counter Chinese language affect within the Asia-Pacific area, Australia will most definitely buy much more American weapons and navy gear.
ANZUS isn’t any safety assure
These shut safety linkages replicate the broader consensus underpinning the Australia, New Zealand, United States Safety Treaty (ANZUS), which marks its seventieth birthday at the moment.
This consensus – shared not simply by US and Australian governments, but additionally by the broader international coverage and media institutions in each international locations – is that ANZUS makes Australia, and the world, safer.
The idea is the treaty — and the deep friendship between our two international locations — provides Australia particular entry to superior American navy know-how that we’d like (though not at a reduction).
And, extra importantly, that it retains us below an American safety umbrella. Australians can rely, within the current phrases of 1 senior bureaucrat, on the “safety afforded” by ANZUS.
This assumption rests particularly on Article IV of the treaty, through which every celebration “declares that it could act to fulfill the widespread hazard”. This language is extensively assumed to represent a safety assure from the US. Nevertheless, the truth is, it doesn’t.
President Harry Truman, who oversaw the start of the treaty, was by no means keen to supply that, nor has any administration since. A dedication to “act” within the face of “widespread hazard” may, in any case, imply completely something.
ANZUS doesn’t present Australia with a safety assure, and it by no means will. And, maybe extra importantly, even when it did, it doesn’t make us safer.
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Reinforcing a notion of perpetual navy risk
Why is that this? One purpose is the treaty (and Australia’s relationship with the US extra broadly) reinforces and perpetuates a perception that Australia faces a perpetual navy risk.
It additionally reinforces the concept that navy may is required to fulfill that risk. The acquisition of extra American weapons, within the phrases of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has the impact of “deterring an assault on Australia and serving to to forestall struggle”.
Even placing the questionable foundation of this assumption apart, this concentrate on navy risk on the expense of all else has had important penalties for each Australia and our area. Different real threats, comparable to local weather change, are at all times handled as peripheral to the core of Australia’s relationship with the US.
It was maybe telling that as Australian officers have been negotiating the acquisition of extra American weaponry final yr, they weren’t utilizing our uniquely shut relationship to safe precedence entry to one thing that will truly make Australians safer: American vaccines.
When Morrison introduced the nation’s new defence technique, he justified each the spending and aggressive posturing on the premise a post-COVID world will likely be “poorer, extra harmful and extra disorderly”.
As I argue in my new ebook, Our Distinctive Good friend: Australia’s Deadly Alliance with america, ANZUS reinforces this fashion of seeing the world.
Hardie Grant Publishing
As an alternative of viewing our area with empathy and generosity — or partnering with the US to forestall the world from turning into poorer, extra harmful or extra disorderly — the Australian authorities seeks to arm itself.
Within the course of, it serves solely to perpetuate a world through which battle turns into ever extra probably, and financial, racial and environmental inequality extra entrenched.
A shift in mentality is required
ANZUS was born out of a shared expertise of struggle within the Nineteen Fifties, and significantly Australian perceptions of ongoing, existential threats from non-white neighbours. These perceptions, primarily based on deep racism and concern, have been improper then, and they’re improper now.
But, the present US-Australia strategic relationship nonetheless requires an enemy – a “widespread hazard”. In consequence, the US and Australia will at all times discover one, collectively.
The one method to change that is by means of a deep, trustworthy reckoning with the origins of Australia’s safety alliance with the US — and its penalties.
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This doesn’t imply scrapping ANZUS. Even when that have been potential, the buildings that exist round it and the concepts that inform Australian international coverage would endure.
It does imply, nonetheless, looking for other ways for Australia to manoeuvre inside these buildings, stepping again from a fear-mongering, navy risk mentality, and forging real relationships with our neighbours.
It means attempting to forge a relationship with america that’s not, within the phrases of a former US president, “sealed with … blood”.
But, even because the current occasions in Afghanistan make the implications of our unquestioning safety alliance so manifestly apparent, there isn’t a indication Australia will do something aside from double down on it.
The mindset that has led successive Australian governments to comply with the US is not going to change, it doesn’t matter what Washington does or who’s in cost. The place of the present authorities is to strengthen the treaty, quite than attempt to dismantle it.
That’s harmful for us and the world. Comfortable birthday, ANZUS.
Emma Shortis’s new ebook, Our Distinctive Good friend: Australia’s Deadly Alliance with america, was printed final month by Hardie Grant Books.
Emma Shortis doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.