Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Donald Trump alienates America’s allies, raising the question “Should Australia get its own nuclear weapon?”

“The irony of the North Korean denuclearisation deal could be that everybody else decides to go nuclear. If it fails and Kim remains in power and countries doubt our commitment, then what’s to stop Japan or South Korea or Australia going nuclear?”

Trump triggers talk of Australia going nuclear, SMH, By Peter Hartcher 

Should Australia develop its own nuclear weapons? It seems an outlandishly radical thought for such a safe country to consider. But a former adviser to Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop thinks it’s an idea whose time is fast approaching.

In his book Why Australia Slept, launched this week, Peter Hendy says that Australia needs to consider nuclear weapons because “if we could financially afford them, [they] would secure an even more independent foreign policy” for the country.

Hendy, a former Liberal federal MP, former head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and now a consultant, is not the first to raise this delicate subject. The way things are going he won’t be the last.

Three former deputy secretaries of Australia’s Defence Department – strategists Hugh White, Paul Dibb and Richard Brabin-Smith – have mooted the idea in the past year. Till these most recent months, it’s been something of a taboo topic in respectable circles.

One big reason? Australia already has the protection of the United States nuclear umbrella. Under this system, the US pledges that if anyone should launch a nuclear strike on one of its allies, Washington would retaliate against the aggressor.

So to suggest that Australia now needs its own atomic arsenal is to suggest that there has been a fundamental breakdown in trust. In short, that the US alliance is dead.

The four fissile firebrands – Hendy, White, Dibb and Brabin-Smith – don’t press this as an urgent priority. But they don’t want Australia to be caught unprepared if it should become so.

………. the first point is that no one can yet know whether Trump has actually de-fanged a dangerous enemy. But the second point is what everyone does know now – that Trump is prepared to trade away the interests of an ally if he thinks it will help him get a deal with an enemy.

Trump announced that he had promised Kim he would stop the big military exercises that the US conducts with South Korea twice a year. ………

The problem? The cancellation was news to South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-In. It was news to another keenly interested US ally, Japan’s Shinzo Abe. And it was news to Trump’s own military commanders, who were in the middle of preparations for the next exercises, two months away.

And in announcing the end to the manoeuvres, Trump adopted the language of the North Korean propagandists. Pyongyang has long railed against the exercises as “provocative war games”. The US has never called them war games nor described them as provocative; Trump did both.

It seems that Kim put the demand to Trump in the negotiating room and Trump agreed on the spot. He agreed to a demand by an enemy without consulting his ally. “It is urgent to make bold decision,” Kim told the US leader, in the words of the North Korean official news agency, and Trump bought it. ……

Professor Shi Yinhong, of the People’s University in Beijing drew the connection: If US troops in South Korea were to stop the military exercises, it could cause allies to lose confidence in Washington and undermine the entire US military presence in Asia, he told America’s National Public Radio. …..

“We see a clear pattern of Donald Trump turning against his allies,” says a close student of Trump foreign policy, Tom Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “He’s generally hung his allies out to dry.”

Just in the last two weeks he has harmed US alliances with Britain, France, Germany and Canada, putting punitive tariffs on their exports and insulting Canada’s Justin Trudeau on top, calling him weak and dishonest.

He upset his allies at the annual G7 summit by proposing that Russia be restored to the group’s meetings, when the G7 is supposed to be ostracising Putin for invading Ukraine.

Trump has inflicted so much political damage to America’s European and Canadian alliances that “the community of North American and European nations forming the nucleus of the alliance that won the Cold War for the West is closer to breaking up now than at any time since the 1940s” in the assessment of Walter Russell Mead, an American scholar.

“And,” says Wright, “he completely sidelined Japan” with this week’s Kim summit. It seems that there was only one US ally who had been able to persuade Trump decisively to change US policy, and even that has turned sour, says Wright.

South Korea’s Moon was the one who persuaded Trump to try directly negotiating with Kim, yet in those very negotiations Trump ended up trading away a South Korean interest. “Moon thought he could ride the tiger, control where he went, but didn’t realise the tiger goes where the tiger wants to go,” as Wright puts it. “He brought Trump into this but then lost control.”

Why does Trump consistently act against the interests of his allies? Wright, who predicted just this  pattern of behaviour before Trump was elected, explains: “In his 30-year history of talking and writing about this stuff, Trump has always been more aggravated by America’s friends than its enemies.

“He has been consistent about this for 30 years. It’s not sophisticated or complex, but he is much more ideological than people think: interdependence is a bad deal for America.” Trading partners will cheat America; allies will free ride on America’s military budget.

Australia has been unscathed so far; Wright says that this will likely change only if some disagreement emerges.

……… If Trump’s North Korean gambit works, he will have a serious achievement. If it fails? Says Asher: “The irony of the North Korean denuclearisation deal could be that everybody else decides to go nuclear. If it fails and Kim remains in power and countries doubt our commitment, then what’s to stop Japan or South Korea or Australia going nuclear?”

It could lead to “mass nuclearisation – it’s a very bad position, 20 countries in the region with nukes, like 20 people in a room all pointing guns at each other”.

These are, of course, imponderables, possible futures that no one hopes for but governments need to plan for. Hendy and White and Dibb and Brabim-Smith may be tending towards alarmism, but they want Australians to think about the world after the American-led alliance system has passed into history.

An American journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, writes in The Atlantic this week that he asked a number of unnamed White House officials whether there is a Trump doctrine in foreign policy. One, described as a senior official with direct access to the President and his thinking, replied that there is. And it is: “We’re America, bitch.” History is in the making. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/trump-triggers-talk-of-australia-going-nuclear-20180615-p4zlsa.html

 

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June 15, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war

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