ASPI suggests
15 Nov 2013|

There was heartache this week after a near miss in talks with Iran. On a similar note, this article in The National Interest suggests that nuclear history may at least rhyme, with Russia modernising its nuclear force. So it seems a good week to look at the above video; it’s a timeline, showing the 2053 nuclear tests by seven countries between 1945 and 1998.

Meanwhile, according to The New York Times, ‘Typhoon Haiyan, described as the most devastating natural calamity to hit the Philippines in recent history, is emerging as a showcase for the soft-power contest in East Asia.’ Rory Medcalf foreshadowed this issue in an Interpreter post earlier this week.

Closer to home, our own Mark Thomson has this piece via RUSI, entitled Australian Defence: The Future under Abbott.

There is an air of tentative optimism within the Australian defence community following the accession of the Liberal-National government in September’s federal election. After six years of centre-left minority Labor government, during which numerous promises were made and broken in quick succession, it is hoped that, when it comes to defence, the incoming government led by Tony Abbott will be both more consistent and more generous. Such optimism, however, must be tempered by the recognition that the new government will face the same financial situation that shaped its predecessor’s behaviour, at a time when hard decisions are called for in key parts of the defence portfolio.

Back in May, another colleague and Strategist executive editor Andrew Davies reported from New Zealand that the NZDF faced the risk of being unable to recapitalise its naval and air capabilities when the time comes. NZ Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman made a significant speech this week:

The Government knew it had inherited a significant long term funding gap in defence and it now had to be quantified. That work identified a $537 million shortfall in operational funding by 2021 and a $4 billion shortfall in capital funding by the mid 2020s. …we always knew that new money would still be required to deliver on policy intent [and] there is no strategy without dollars.

… the Government has committed to a sustainable long term funding approach for the NZDF out to 2030 which will enable the NZDF to deliver on the capability expectations set out in the White Paper. The details of the funding are still to be announced, and will be made at the next Budget.

He also made a commitment to fund the big ticket items—an upgrade to the RNZN’s Anzac frigates, and to upgrade (and ultimately replace) the C-130 airlift and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft. If the government delivers on its promises, the gap between aspiration and funding should be closed. Of course, those of us who remember the promises in the Australian 2009 Defence White Paper and the details of the budget less than two weeks later would counsel our kiwi mates to wait until you see the money.

Sticking to our region, there’s been a little bit written lately about cooperation with Indonesia and India. The first is a CogitAsia post about enhancing bilateral cooperation between the two countries. While security cooperation between Jakarta and New Dehli has been slow to take off, there’s room for optimism (and a role for Australia):

Focusing on building mutual confidence through cooperation in regional groupings and boosting bilateral exchanges, alongside more ambitious goals like the co-production of defense equipment, seems like a realistic mix. Experimenting with newer defense dialogues and mechanisms, such as trilateral cooperation between India, Indonesia, and Australia, could also offer promise, even though divergent threat perceptions could impose some limits.

The second is an advanced release of a new NBR report on enhancing US cooperation with ‘global swing states’, Indonesia and India (PDF). The report’s author, Ted Osius, argues there’s a lot of potential in each of those bilateral relationships but they’ve got to begin with getting past the historical baggage.