Australia’s latest defence planning documents—a strategic update and a force structure review—depict a more perilous security environment in Asia and commit to acquiring greater military firepower as a consequence.
The perceived gravity of the strategic outlook was expressed by the Prime Minister in a parallel with the years prior to World War 2.
“[W]e have not seen the conflation of global, economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s,” he said.
This bleak forecast for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific over the next two decades comes with the additional warning that Australia can no longer depend on the previous expectation that the type of military build-up required to mount a major conventional attack on Australia would be apparent 10 years in advance.
In this series of articles, Asialink contributors assess the implications of the defence update documents for relations with our own region and some of the key strategic and policy challenges we are likely to face in dealing with a more complex security environment.
The articles here explore the government’s strategic and defence decision making from a range of angles, but they all underscore the importance of the renewed defence focus on our immediate region and the need for a deeper understanding of regional dynamics if we are to navigate the more challenging security environment.
Australia Needs Diplomacy Not Just Guns to Shape Strategic Outlook
Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week announced plans to expand Australia’s military power to meet the greatest threat to our security since the 1930s and 1940s. Asialink senior adviser, Donald Greenlees, argues Morrison’s plan to ‘shape’ the strategic environment with a bigger investment in firepower needs to be matched with a similar commitment to the tools of diplomacy.
Australia's Next Submarine: Did We Get It Right?
The release of Australia’s latest strategic update and defence acquisition plan has highlighted the growing risks and shorter warning times of conflict in the Indo-Pacific. Defence observer Mark Dodd asks whether Australia has made the right decision with its biggest-ever defence purchase—the $80 billion submarine— for the uncertain and potentially dangerous times ahead.
Keeping Australia Safe in a New Strategic Environment
As anxieties grow over the strategic outlook, former Defence Minister Robert Hill endorses the need for greater self-reliance. But he notes ‘keeping Australia safe’ will depend on conflict avoidance – something that is not entirely in our own hands.
Assembling the Skillset to Shape our Strategic Environment
The regional strategic environment is in flux amid anxieties over the intentions of both its great powers—the USA and China—and the long-term impact of COVID-19. Asialink International Director Prof. Tony Milner argues Australia can help shape the future, but only if we hone the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the growing security challenges of the Indo-Pacific.
The Growing Risks of Strategic Miscalculation in the South China Sea
Releasing Australia’s latest strategic update, Scott Morrison warned our security outlook was infused with more dangers than at any time since the eve of World War 2. The risks are especially acute over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea. In this article, former Vietnamese diplomat Nguyen Quang Dy writes that ASEAN hopes for negotiation with China, but might have to settle for military deterrence.
Banner image: Members of the Australian Federation Guard march at Gallipoli Reach, Canberra, Australia - March 18, 2017. Credit: katacarix, Shutterstock.