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AND THE US ALLIANCE Virginia-class submarine USS Texas (SSN 775)
Credit: USN / Ronald Gutridge
This is the seventh article in a running series
on SEA 1000. The previous articles have
demonstrated that an appropriately operated
and supported modern Military-Off -The-Shelf
(MOTS) or modified MOTS submarine should
be able to meet 90% of all likely requirements
for Australia’s future submarine at significantly
reduced cost and risk over a bespoke solution
specifically designed to comply 100%.
Despite this, there are some who still argue
that a MOTS submarine cannot be considered
for Australia’s future submarine on the grounds it
might impact on the country’s alliance status with
the US or constrain future levels of US submarine
force cooperation (which, if true, is a damning
statement about the fragility of the alliance).
This month’s article explores the premises
behind these arguments.
An important Relationship ... Universally
The Defence White Paper states “Our alliance
with the United States is our most important
defence relationship”. Few Australians would
disagree. “In day-to-day terms, the alliance gives
us significant access to materiel, intelligence,
research and development, communications
systems, and skills and expertise that substantially
strengthen the ADF. The alliance relationship is
an integral element of our strategic posture”.
The ANZUS treaty is the premier Defence
related agreement existing between Australia and
the US. Signed in 1952, it declares publicly and
formally a sense of unity between Australia, NZ
and the US, “such that no potential aggressor
could be under the illusion that none of the
three countries stand alone in the Pacific Area”.
The treaty is the foundation around which many
other agreements and co-operation between the
two countries are built.
A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP ...
IN WHOSE MIND?
The first premise touted as to why we might
exclude a highly potent but foreign designed
submarine and mission system from the SEA
1000 race is that we need to be sensitive to the
“special” relationship Australia has with the US.
But is it “special”? It’s a question best answered
by viewing the situation from a Washington
perspective rather than an Australian one.
The US is currently the world’s sole superpower.
It interacts regularly with all but few nations.
When one looks at the US State Department’s
list of Treaties in Force it shows that the US
has defence agreements with just about every
nation on earth. Australia is but one of those
nations. Australia’s bilateral defence agreements
occupy five columns in the list. Canada’s occupies
eight columns, Germany’s seven, Japan’s eight,
France’s three, South Korea’s five and Spain’s two.
Agreements with the aforementioned countries
cover “all manner of sins”; mutual assistance,
collaborative research and development, joint
systems and weapon development, joint facilities
operation, personnel exchanges, logistic support,
equipment loaning and the exchange/protection
of classified information. Comparisons don’t
justify a “specialness” label for Australia.
The US makes various commitments in its
various alliance treaties. NATO countries are
afforded the most commitment with Article V
of the associated treaty stating that The Parties
agree that an armed attack against one or more
of them in Europe or North America shall be
considered an attack against them all and goes
on to state that each signatory agrees to assist the
Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith,
individually and in concert with the other Parties,
such action as it deems necessary, including
the use of armed force, to restore and maintain
the security of the North Atlantic area. Other
alliances with the US have a somewhat different
commitment. Article III of the ANZUS agreement
simply states the Parties will consult.
There are a number of world regions where
the US shows significant interest and seek to
maintain permanent presence; Japan, Germany
and South Korea stand out in this respect. Other
countries, on account of their location, receive
numerous visits by USN ships. Permanent and
regular presence naturally induces interaction
and dialogue not currently experienced by
Australia. It is acknowledged that the force posture
review now being undertaken by Defence might
ultimately lead to greater use of Australian bases
by US forces and closer military co-operation in
response to their changing strategic view. This in
itself indicates that the relationship is not there
yet; as US Army Colonel, John Angevine, argued
in his recent Lowy Institute paper, such an act
would take the alliance to the next level.
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