Australian news, and some related international items

Australians not all that keen on military partnership with USA

Support for alliance strong but not quite all the way with the USA,

Andrew Tillett  

more 5 Dec 22

Australians remain supportive of the American alliance but are wary about going all the way with the USA, with concerns it makes Australia a target for China and crimps Canberra’s ability to act independently in strategic policy, research has found.

Supporters also want Australia to expand the alliance, which is underpinned by the ANZUS treaty, beyond its traditional scope of defence to cover other security matters, notably climate change.

“There is a sense in which Australians expect the alliance to deliver on what they see as the main challenges facing Australia and the world; many do not see the same energy applied to co-operation with respect to pressing non-defence challenges.” the report said.

“In this respect, the alliance is, for many Australians, an incomplete project.

“The broader point expressed by participants is that the alliance will need to adapt to new and emerging challenges if it is to remain relevant in the 21st century.”

The launch of the report on Monday comes ahead of the annual diplomatic and defence talks known as AUSMIN in Washington, DC this week, where Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defence Minister Richard Marles will meet their US counterparts on Tuesday (Wednesday AEDT).

Mr Marles and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will hold crucial talks with British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace the following day for the first AUKUS defence ministers’ meeting.

Bluntly put, Australians believe that maximum benefits should be extracted from the US with minimal input on Australia’s part.

— From the report An Incomplete Project

The report, titled An Incomplete Project, was prepared by academics from Sydney University’s United States Studies Centre, Griffith University’s Asia Institute and the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. It was funded by the Defence Department to gauge the views of everyday Australians about the US alliance.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents believed the US alliance was a net positive for Australia. Thirty per cent were full supporters with no misgivings and wanted deeper integration with the US, but the biggest group was “reserved supporters”, who backed the alliance but wanted to see a measure of independence from the US.

Sceptics, who were unconvinced the alliance was benefiting Australia and wanted to see changes, comprised 23 per cent of respondents. Outright opponents of the alliance made up 8 per cent.

While the report found most Australians supported the alliance, opinions were not clear-cut and did not blindly toe a pro-American line.

One participant said: “We need the alliance, it’s just how we go about it and how we project it. Once we advance in areas like Pine Gap, we put a target on our back, so we have to be careful of that. Think about China’s advancement in the South China Sea and consider whether it’s defensive or offensive.”

Unintended consequences

Some approached the alliance with a transactional mindset. “Bluntly put, Australians believe that maximum benefits should be extracted from the US with minimal input on Australia’s part, and that greater Australian engagement within the alliance should lead to identifiable benefits in terms of influence, access, or resources from the United States,” the report said.

However, researchers also detected concerns Australia could find itself at war by default because of the alliance, especially with the US agreeing to share the crown jewels of military technology, nuclear propulsion.

”Fear of entrapment features prominently, particularly with respect to the AUKUS agreement and how Australian support for US military operations against China might be taken for granted because of Australia’s intimate co-operation with the US on nuclear submarines and other cutting-edge military technology,” the report said.

There was also concern across all sides about the prospect of Donald Trump, or a Trump-like figure, becoming US president and making the alliance unstable.

Among opponents there was strong hostility. One said Australia had become a “vassal state” of the US and “has chosen the declining superpower to hang onto through the coming storm”. Another said it was an “unequal relationship that had led Australia into endless and disastrous wars”.

Recommendations include governments more regularly explaining the benefits of the alliance; adding more substance to the non-security aspects of the alliance, such as trade, health, education and climate policy; emphasis on Australian sovereignty within the alliance; and focusing alliance co-operation in Australia’s immediate region of the Pacific and South-East Asia, with Australia’s involvement in US-led Middle Eastern conflicts seen as an alliance failure.


December 12, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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