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 the US.
The brand new spend shaped a part of an extended custom of Australian defence procurement from the US. In 2017, the Australian Nationwide Audit Workplace estimated the Australian Defence Power (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 area division, which is able to 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 almost certainly buy much more American weapons and army gear.
ANZUS is not any safety assure
These shut safety linkages mirror the broader consensus underpinning the Australia, New Zealand, United States Safety Treaty (ANZUS), which marks its seventieth birthday in the present day.
This consensus – shared not simply by US and Australian governments, but additionally by the broader overseas coverage and media institutions in each nations – is that ANZUS makes Australia, and the world, safer.
The assumption is the treaty — and the deep friendship between our two nations — provides Australia particular entry to superior American army expertise that we want (though not at a reduction).
And, extra importantly, that it retains us beneath an American safety umbrella. Australians can rely, within the latest phrases of 1 senior bureaucrat, on the “safety afforded” by ANZUS.
This assumption rests particularly on Article IV of the treaty, during which every social gathering “declares that it will act to fulfill the widespread hazard”. This language is broadly assumed to represent a safety assure from the US. Nevertheless, the truth is, it doesn’t.
President Harry Truman, who oversaw the beginning of the treaty, was by no means keen to offer that, nor has any administration since. A dedication to “act” within the face of “widespread hazard” may, in spite of everything, 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 army risk
Why is that this? One cause is the treaty (and Australia’s relationship with the US extra broadly) reinforces and perpetuates a perception that Australia faces a perpetual army risk.
It additionally reinforces the concept that army would possibly 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 conflict”.
Even placing the questionable foundation of this assumption apart, this deal with army risk on the expense of all else has had vital penalties for each Australia and our area. Different real threats, reminiscent of 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 12 months, they weren’t utilizing our uniquely shut relationship to safe precedence entry to one thing that will really 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 e-book, Our Distinctive Good friend: Australia’s Deadly Alliance with the US, ANZUS reinforces this fashion of seeing the world.
Hardie Grant Publishing
As a substitute of viewing our area with empathy and generosity — or partnering with the US to forestall the world from changing 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 during which battle turns into ever extra possible, and financial, racial and environmental inequality extra entrenched.
A shift in mentality is required
ANZUS was born out of a shared expertise of conflict within the Nineteen Fifties, and notably Australian perceptions of ongoing, existential threats from non-white neighbours. These perceptions, primarily based on deep racism and worry, have been unsuitable then, and they’re unsuitable now.
But, the present US-Australia strategic relationship nonetheless requires an enemy – a “widespread hazard”. Consequently, the US and Australia will at all times discover one, collectively.
The one approach to change that is via a deep, sincere 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 attainable, the constructions that exist round it and the concepts that inform Australian overseas coverage would endure.
It does imply, nevertheless, looking for alternative ways for Australia to manoeuvre inside these constructions, stepping again from a fear-mongering, army risk mentality, and forging real relationships with our neighbours.
It means attempting to forge a relationship with the US that isn’t, within the phrases of a former US president, “sealed with … blood”.
But, even because the latest occasions in Afghanistan make the implications of our unquestioning safety alliance so obviously apparent, there isn’t a indication Australia will do something apart from double down on it.
The mindset that has led successive Australian governments to comply with the US won’t change, it doesn’t matter what Washington does or who’s in cost. The place of the present authorities is to strengthen the treaty, fairly than attempt to dismantle it.
That’s harmful for us and the world. Blissful birthday, ANZUS.
Emma Shortis’s new e-book, Our Distinctive Good friend: Australia’s Deadly Alliance with the US, was revealed 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.