Australia, the US and Britain have announced a historic new military alliance – one that explicitly relegates New Zealand to the sidelines. New Zealanders can thank Jacinda Ardern and her Labour predecessors for turning their country into, at best, a strategic irrelevance, at worst, a client state of communist China.
It was a New Zealand Labour Government which trashed the ANZUS treaty by banning American nuclear-powered vessels. Now another has trashed the Five Eyes agreement. In an ironic twist of history, nuclear vessels are at the heart of the new agreement. Under the new agreement, Australia will acquire nuclear powered submarines for the first time.
The new partnership, dubbed AUKUS, was framed by the Prime Minister as a new arrangement where “our technology, our scientists, our industry and defence forces are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region.”
Mr Morrison said the new fleet of nuclear submarines would be built in Adelaide and provided an assurance that Australia was not “not seeking to establish nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.”
This is a critical domestic issue: despite the world’s longest coastline to guard, submarines have been an ongoing debacle for Australia’s military for decades. The Collins class subs were bedevilled by years of setbacks and massive, costly retrofitting to bring them up to scratch. The deal to build a new fleet was, frankly, a complete cock-up by the Turnbull government. Scott Morrison is tearing up that agreement and entering a new one, which will give Australia a world-class nuclear fleet for the first time – and, just coincidentally, maintain shipbuilding jobs in a crucial South Australian seat.
But the biggest story in this deal for New Zealanders is its security implications for their own country.
Far from the “incredibly benign strategic environment” Helen Clark twittered about, New Zealand is beset by the same threat as Australia: an agressively expansionist China. Except, where the Morrison government has chosen to take a public stand against China, the Ardern government is sneakily cosying up to the brutal communist regime.
A key strategic issue is technology, most obviously 5G and Huawei, the Chinese telco run by an ex Chinese military official. Australia and the US locked Huawei out of their 5G rollout, over spying concerns. The UK initially allowed Huawei to take part in theirs, but have since done an about-face. Of the Five Eyes alliance, that leaves only Canada and New Zealand.
It’s fair to say that the split over Huawei has fractured the Five Eyes alliance. Indeed, in announcing the new deal, the US specifically mentioned New Zealand.
The historic “trilateral security partnership” that emerged from Defence Minister Peter Dutton’s meeting with the US Defence Secretary in Washington, is a ‘new ANZUS’ that sidelines New Zealand, cements Australia’s alliance with the US in the 21st century, and provides the “stealth, speed and manoeuvrability” to counter any Chinese threat to stability in the Indo-Pacific region, a senior Pentagon official said.
“We see this as a very rare engagement between Australia, Great Britain and US. We’ve done this only once 70 years ago with Great Britain. Technology is extremely sensitive and is a major exemption to the usual policy. This is a one off […]
“We have no better allies than Australia and the UK. The relationships with these allies are time tested,” the official said, stressing Australia had “no desire” to acquire nuclear weapons, which is ruled out under global nuclear non-proliferation treaties.
Former US Ambassador Joe Hockey said the AUKUS agreement was “ANZUS 2.0”, a “real and tangible statement about the growing depth in the relationship between Australia, the US and UK” that would “reverberate around the world” […]
Evan Medeiros, an expert on US-China relations at Georgetown University, said […] New Zealand’s “growing accommodation to China” was “just sad.”
“It didn’t have to happen this way; something will happen and they will get thrown out of the car and kicked to the kerb, and we’ll all be sad because it’s just a nice country,” he added.The Australian
This is the brutal reality the new tripartite alliance exposes: Jacinda Ardern might steam the knickers of women’s magazine editors, set hearts aflutter in the left-media, and garner endless heart-reacts from the blue-ticks on Twitter, but that matters for nothing in terms of hard, strategic reality. She has embarrassed and degraded New Zealand’s status and alienated its closest and oldest ally and two of the most powerful nations in the world. New Zealand is seen as flaky, tricky and unreliable. Americans might make movies in New Zealand on the cheap, but they don’t trust your leaders.
That forthcoming BRI deal with Xi Jinping better be worth it.
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