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Australian Military Buildup And The Rise Of Asian NATO

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Australian Military Buildup And The Rise Of Asian NATO
Rick Rozoff

On March 2, 2009 the Australian Department of Defence released a 140-page white paper called Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific century: force 2030 (1), which announced $72 billion in new military spending for an island nation of barely 20 million inhabitants with no adversaries except those it chooses to make for itself.

The document details the Australian government's plans to acquire and expand a full spectrum - air, sea and land - arsenal of advanced weaponry in the nation's largest arms buildup since World War II. Canberra will replace six submarines with double that amount possessing greater range and longer mission capabilities, "hunter-killer submarines" [2], representing "a big new investment in anti-submarine warfare" [3] ; three new destroyers "specialising in air warfare" [4], which presumably be be Aegis class ones with missile killing capacity, and eight new frigates.

All of the above are to be equipped with land-attack cruise missiles with a range of up to 2,500 kilometers, almost certainly of the Tomahawk ground-launched cruise missile variety, which will make Australia "the first regional defence force to have the potent weapons system." [5]

The nation is also to acquire 46 Tiger [German-French Eurocopter multi-role combat] helicopters, Hercules and other new generation military transport planes, 100 armored vehicles and, most alarmingly, 100 F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighters. The last is a Lockheed Martin-manufactured fifth-generation, multi-role stealth-capable military strike fighter capable of short- and medium-range bombing.

Australia has been working with Norway on the Joint Strike Missile, "a newly developed anti surface warfare and land attack missile that will be adapted to meet an uncovered operational need on the F-35 Lightning II - Joint Strike Fighter" [6], which will be available for the 100 of the latter Australia plans to obtain.

In addition, plans include "the veteran AP-3 Orion [anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare] fleet being replaced with a mix of at least eight P-8 Poseidon [US Navy anti-submarine warfare and electronic intelligence] long-range surveillance aircraft, together with up to seven unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles, possibly the US-made Global Hawk...." [7]

Insular, comparatively isolated, unthreatened Australia has no legitimate reason to amass such an array of offensive, advanced weapons for use on land and sea and in the air. An article in a major Australian daily entitled "Kevin Rudd's push for missile supremacy," referring to the prime minister's unprecedented peacetime military expansion, states inter alia that the "navy will acquire a formidable arsenal of long-range cruise missiles for its new submarines, destroyers and frigates, able to strike at targets thousands of kilometres from Australia's shores." [8]

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To project deadly force thousands of kilometers from its shores, in various interpretations of the new military policy, is based on designs that "Our military strategy will be a proactive one in which we seek to control the dynamic of a conflict, principally by way of sea control and air superiority" and "The government intends to place greater emphasis on our capacity to detect and respond to submarines" [9] and "Force 2030...will be a more potent force in certain areas, particularly in undersea warfare and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) surface maritime warfare, air superiority, strategic strike, special forces, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and cyber warfare" for use in a potential "wider conflict in the Asia-Pacific region."

What the nature of that conflict might be and which nations are viewed as prospective co-belligerents in it was alluded to in a feature in the Financial Times: "Joel Fitzgibbon, defence minister, said the country's first defence white paper in almost a decade acknowledged the continued regional dominance of the US. But he warned of 'strategic tensions' arising from new powers, particularly China but also India, and the re-emergence of Russia." (10)

India is a red herring as it too is enmeshed in US-led plans for the creation of an Asian-Pacific military bloc unless, of course, a change in the political leadership and foreign policy orientation of the country would ally it with Russia and China, thereby in fact creating "strategic tensions" from the West's point of view.

The white paper, as seen above, grants the United States "regional dominance" in an area thousands of miles away from the superpower yet simultaneously attempts to strike a pose of Australian assertiveness and even self-reliance and independence. This is quite in keeping with the foreign policy of the Nixon-Kissinger years in which certain key allies were assigned the role of regional military policemen and enforcers or, as many described it at the time, regional subimperialist strongholds.

There is no truth is this 'patriotic' posturing, though. Australia is being built up as the major military strike force in its neighborhood and far beyond even as it is being integrated ever more tightly with the Pentagon. And NATO.

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In February of 2007 in an article called "Secret new US spy base to get green light," it was announced that "Australia's close military alliance with the United States is to be further entrenched with the building of a high-tech communications base in Western Australia" which "will provide a crucial link for a new network of military satellites that will help the US's ability to fight wars in the Middle East and Asia" and "will be the first big US military installation to be built in Australia in decades, and follows controversies over other big bases such as Pine Gap and North West Cape."[11]

Last September Australian Prime Minister Rudd visited Hawaii and met with the head of the Pentagon's Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating, to brief him "on the Australian Defence Force deployments in East Timor and Solomon Islands.

"The pair are understood to be discussing broader strategic trends in the western Pacific, including the steady build-up in regional maritime capabilities.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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