When you’ve just been handed a big poo sandwich, sometimes all you can do is grin and do your best to force it down.
Make no mistake, the overnight announcement of an historic new alliance between Australia, the US and Britain is, for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, a massive steamer served up between two slices of Vogel’s bread. Lest anyone doubt where New Zealand stands in the new strategic order in the Pacific, Pentagon officials specifically mentioned that the deal “sidelines New Zealand”.
So, is Ardern just doing her best to put on a chocolate-stained grin, or does she really believe her own guff?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the new security pact involving Australia, the United States and Britain would not change New Zealand’s security arrangement with the three countries.
This is utter nonsense, of course. As Ardern’s further statements make clear.
“Australia’s arrangement with the US and the UK is primarily around technology and defence hardware, with the centrepiece being the purchase of nuclear submarines by Australia.
“This arrangement in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada.”
The only problem with this sunny assessment is that Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing alliance. “Intelligence” inevitably involves “technology”.
In fact, technology has been at the heart of the ongoing schism in the Five Eyes partnership. Particularly the building of 5G networks. 5G is not inherently more vulnerable than previous mobile networks, but its reach, especially in the “internet of things”, makes it an exceptionally sensitive technology.
China is already notorious for leveraging the internet to enable spying, theft and havoc on a staggering scale. China steals billions of dollars worth of intellectual property every year. A slew of nations on China’s shit-list, from India to the US, have been subjected to crippling cyber-attacks including shutting down energy grids and logistical networks. China is also notorious for forcing its supposedly “private” companies to submit to military and regime directives.
With all that in mind, three of the Five Eyes partners have moved to lock Chinese telcos, especially Huawei, out of their 5G rollouts. But not Canada, nor New Zealand.
The Ardern Government merely piled insult onto stupidity when it openly refused to participate in a joint statement criticising China.
So, to pretend that a new, technology-heavy, security alliance that is aimed squarely at reining in China, and specifically freezes out New Zealand, isn’t going to affect an existing relationship like Five Eyes is ludicrous.
As is pretending that the new alliance is irrelevant because New Zealand is focused on the Pacific region.
She said New Zealand was first and foremost a nation of the Pacific and it viewed foreign policy developments through the lens of what was in the best interest of the region.
“We welcome the increased engagement of the UK and US in the region and reiterate our collective objective needs to be the delivery of peace and stability and the preservation of the international rules-based system.”NZ Herald
“Peace”, “stability”, and “preservation of the international rules-based system” are incompatible with accommodating China.
China is openly threatening war with Taiwan and rattling sabres at Japan; its navy is ramming fishing vessels from the Philippines and Vietnam. From its kleptocratic attitude to intellectual property, and its rapacious expansion in the South China Sea, to its trade and diplomatic bullying of nations like Australia and India, China is making a mockery of “the international rules-based system”.
Jacinda Ardern has to know all this. If she doesn’t, that’s even worse.
Because Ardern is more and more openly pivoting to China.
From parroting Chinese talking-points at climate gab-fests, to inching ever-closer to signing on to Xi Jinping’s personal project, the Belt and Road Initiative, Ardern is leaving little doubt where New Zealand’s priorities lie under her government.
New Zealand’s increasingly distant allies clearly have little doubt. When Scott Morrison says that AUKUS, as the new tripartite alliance is dubbed, is “built on a strong foundation of proven trust”, the inescapable corollary is that New Zealand isn’t trusted. When the US’s other significant Indo-Pacific initiative, the “Quad” informal alliance, also excludes New Zealand, the message is clear.
So, let’s hope for New Zealand’s sake that Ardern is just forcing down a bit of a very unpalatable sandwich when she smiles and hand-waves away the implications of AUKUS. Because if she really believes her own nonsense, New Zealand is in more trouble than we thought.
Eventually, perhaps, New Zealanders will send Ardern off to spend her twilight years in some globalist sinecure, like Helen Clark . But the strategic damage she is inflicting on the country will haunt her successors for decades to come.
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