From the Honest History vault: another look at AUKUS and our ‘strategic environment’

Today in Pearls and Irritations, retired diplomat Dennis Argall had some perceptive things to say on the Greg Sheridan interview in The Australian with the prime minister. The breadth of the issues discussed should remind us (Lest We Forget as Remembrance Day approaches) that this whole foreign affairs-defence thing is way more complicated than the question of which underperforming and/or potentially vulnerable to drone attack – and thus redundant before it is built and delivered – submarine we retain, refurbish, or let ourselves get conned into buying by retired American admirals moonlighting as consultants for our Department of Defence. (That’s an issue in itself which has been covered recently by the Washington Post, Pearls and Irritations, but not, as far as we can see, by the mainstream media.)

When Honest History first looked at AUKUS just over a year ago we concentrated more on the small print than on the submarines. We said this:

Today, we suggest that commentators – and the people to whom they address their comments – are dills … if they think the big story recently has been all about whether we stick with the French submarines or go with the US and the UK, and whether or not we do it with nuclear power in submarines which will be available and serviceable at some date in the future (assuming other developments, particularly in drone technology, do not make them redundant first).

We looked in that post at the official statement from the September 2021 AUSMIN talks between Australian and US representatives in Washington. The knobbly bit in the statement is at pages 16-17 under the headings ‘Enhanced Force Posture Cooperation and Alliance Integration’ and ‘Strategic Capabilities Cooperation’. Here’s a sample:

Enhanced Force Posture Cooperation and Alliance Integration

Acknowledging it had been 10 years since the establishment of the United States Force Posture Initiatives (USFPI) in Australia and that the strategic challenges of our time center in the Indo-Pacific region, the Secretaries and Ministers committed to significantly advance Australia-United States force posture cooperation.

Reestablished at AUSMIN 2020, the bilateral Force Posture Working Group convened in May 2021 to develop recommendations to promote a secure and stable Indo-Pacific region and deter our adversaries. The Secretaries and Ministers endorsed the following areas of force posture cooperation:

  • Enhanced air cooperation through the rotational deployment of U.S. aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises.
  • Enhanced maritime cooperation by increasing logistics and sustainment capabilities of U.S. surface and subsurface vessels in Australia.
  • Enhanced land cooperation by conducting more complex and more integrated exercises and greater combined engagement with Allies and Partners in the region.
  • Establish a combined logistics, sustainment, and maintenance enterprise to support highend warfighting and combined military operations in the region.

The successor government to a government that signed up to that should have no surprises – assuming the successor government read the small print. Are the rest of us punters as well informed though? Will we be surprised?

David Stephens*

7 November 2022

* David Stephens is editor of the Honest History website.


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