Australia’s Defence Posture

Australia’s Defence Posture. By Greg Sheridan.

After the US, the most important nation for us strategically should be Japan, and then, in a basket, India, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and other key Asian neighbours — but above all Japan. …

Australia has no defence force capable of defending ourselves, with no strike capability, no ability to push aggressors away at distance, no war-fighting mass and no discipline in force structure, because we have deliberately chosen not to acquire such a defence force. …

We would always expect to be operating in coalition with our allies, chief among them the US. This has led, sadly, to a shocking form of psychological and operational dependence in the structure of the ADF, such that it is designed to provide only niche supplemental capabilities to the US, never under any circumstances to do anything militarily significant on its own.

We have consciously chosen this national impotence. Israel, with an economy about a quarter the size of Australia’s, can provide for its own strategic and tactical security.

We are so wealthy we could certainly produce an ADF which would provide an independent deterrent. We could create an ADF which would mean that any potential aggressor, whatever its size, would have to factor in paying a terrible cost if it acted against us. We have chosen deliberately to be defenceless, except for our reliance on the US, which has never been more total than now. …

Tony Abbott’s strategic vision to partner with Japan, with deep US involvement, in acquiring modern, conventional submarines was right in terms of submarine capability, but also, more important, on deeper strategic grounds.

US, Japanese and Australian submarines will always operate in alliance. Their technological fusion would have been a profound and beneficial strategic development. All three allies would have been strengthened. And we would nearly have our first sub now.

Everyone involved in choosing the French subs should hang their heads in shame.

The ludicrous French over-­reaction to losing the submarine contract shows how fraudulent is their strategic commitment to the Indo-Pacific. They lose a contract so they try to blow up Australia’s entire strategic position. They are not seriously concerned about China or anything else beyond their own commercial interests.

The contrast with Japan is striking. We asked the Japanese to help us with subs but then betrayed their agreement, embarrassed them and gave the deal to France. The Japanese, and a lot of Americans, thought we did this because we were scared of Beijing’s reaction if we chose Japan. The Japanese were deeply annoyed, but our profound strategic relationship with Tokyo continued.