Thursday 20 Jun 2019 | 12:49 | SYDNEY
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Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

SSBNs are unnecessary and destabilising

A Chinese Type 094 (Jin-class) SSBN. (Wikipedia.) Regarding the Chinese and Indian ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs and their impact on international security, my arguments are: (1) they are not necessary; (2) noisy SSBNs are destabilising and should not be deployed; and (3) China's

Sea-based nuclear weapons in Asia: Stabiliser or menace?

On this day in 1945, the first nuclear weapon was used in conflict, with devastating consequences for the people of Hiroshima. In Asia today, nuclear weapons remain part of the strategic reality, for better or worse. But calculations about nuclear armaments in the region may be changing, notably

Russia, China and the risk of 'salami tactics'

The MH-17 tragedy and Moscow's behaviour in Ukraine underscore the risks of the strategies revisionist powers are deploying to subvert the status quo from Eastern Europe to the South China Sea. While these strategies are diverse in their methods and objectives, they are marked by the same central

Relax, Japan is not remilitarising

In my previous post I argued that the last few months have seen a spike in punditry claiming that Northeast Asia's status quo is about to change, and that conflict is more likely. Japan's constitutional revisions have provoked exaggerated responses from South Korea and China, while Chinese President

Ukraine: US and Europe fail, crisis deteriorates

It is now two weeks since the downing of MH17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. In that time we have witnessed frenetic activity by leaders in Europe, the US and Australia. But amid the flurry of diplomacy, little seems to have changed for the better, either for the investigation or

Why does no one care about nuclear weapons?

Terrific segment here from British comic John Oliver's new HBO show Last Week Tonight on the terrifying but seldom discussed risk of nuclear weapons mishaps. There's some NSFW language: At around the 13.45 mark, Oliver turns to the issue of public engagement in debates around nuclear weapons. As

Relax, Korea is not drifting toward China

Perhaps inspired by the centenary of World War I, this year has provoked a lot of clamouring about shifting security in Northeast Asia. The general vibe is that Japan's Article 9 're-interpretation' reflects a looming Sino-Japanese conflict, and that Xi Jinping's trip to South Korea is pulling Seoul

Time to put security issues on G20 agenda

Given developments in the Ukraine and tensions elsewhere in the world, the time has come to put security and geo-political issues directly on the agenda for the meeting of G20 leaders, and for those leaders to bring their foreign ministers to the Brisbane Summit. Soon after President Bush announced

Russia's MH17 response: How to mismanage a crisis

For Western audiences, Moscow's initial prickly attitude to the downing of MH17 can be read as an example of how not to manage a crisis. Even with the weak hand he inherited, President Vladimir Putin has been consistently strong when on the foreign policy offensive, devising creative ways to advance

Israel's Gaza ground operation: How does this end?

This morning I recorded this conversation with Lowy Institute Middle East expert Anthony Bubalo about the escalation of Israel's military operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As the NY Times reports, after ten days of air operations against Hamas, Israel has overnight launched a ground

China's determination to be a great power

John Garnaut, writing for Fairfax yesterday, says I'm wrong to argue that Prime Minister Abbott and Foreign Minister Bishop do not understand the nature of China's challenge to the Asian regional order. He says Bishop's remarks, in the fine interview John did with her last week*, show that she

Alliances in Asia: South Korea unlikely to be lost

'Washington, you're on your own' is the gist of a recent piece by Stephen Walt, who assesses that Europe would have no dog in an Asian fight and will therefore distance itself from the American's long list of troubles involving China. This was underscored by Angela Merkel's recent visit to China,

Does Abbott understand the China challenge?

Sam Roggeveen says that Mr Abe's visit last week, and Julie Bishop's interview with John Garnaut, show that the Abbott Government now accepts there is a serious strategic competition underway in Asia as China challenges US primacy. If so, I think this would be an important shift. The simplest

Malcolm Fraser talks 'Dangerous Allies'

Earlier this week the Lowy Institute hosted former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser to discuss his new book Dangerous Allies. Below is the full video of the event. Yesterday evening Mr Fraser tweeted the video, adding that he was 'debating the established political class!', which brought

Abe's Canberra speech: Dispelling doubts

Prime Minister Abe's carefully crafted speech to the Australian parliament gave credence to Prime Minister Abbott's much tut-tutted claim that Japan is Australia's best friend in Asia. The historic speech also clearly helped dispel one doubt about Prime Minister Abe: that he was unwilling to

Middle powers in Asia: The limits of realism

In the world of international relations theory, the realist paradigm reigns supreme. In large part, this is because it has core features that exert strong appeal beyond the academy: explanatory parsimony and the use of historical analogy. Realists place great emphasis on Europe's experience of

India's nuclear doctrine: The fog lifts

Lieutenant-General BS Nagal was an important man in India's nuclear weapons program. From 2008 to 2010 he served as India's Strategic Forces Commander, an office established just over a decade ago to lead the process of managing and using nuclear weapons. After his retirement from the military,

Japanese collective self-defence: Abe's changes won't help

Clearly Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has deep personal and political motives for wanting to change Japan's strategic posture, 'escape from the postwar regime' and make Japan a normal country. But he has only been able to push this week's changes through because many Japanese who reject Abe's

US drone policy: Little prospect of rethink

A new report on the consequences of America's increasing use of drones as a counter-terrorism tool caused quite a stir in US national security circles last week, largely because it was written by a task force made up of many individuals who formerly reported to the Obama Administration. Most

America can, and should, sit out the Iraq fight

Peter Jennings says 'pretending that America can sit out (the Iraq) fight is just not realistic'. That's exactly what many pundits were saying a year ago about air strikes against Syria. But to his everlasting credit, President Obama reconsidered, and where are we now? Syria remains a tragedy that

Bishop invokes World War I

As Julian Snelder wrote yesterday, World War I analogies are all the rage among Asian security scholars this year (we posted a two-part examination of the similarities and differences by Robert Kelly in March). Now Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has joined the fray, with what Fairfax's

China and the World War I analogy: How does this end?

Painting depicting the signing of the armistice in 1918. (Wikipedia.) One hundred years ago last weekend, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering World War I. The origins of the Great War have, for good reason, been intensely scrutinized. They are a

America can't sit out the Iraq fight

Sam Roggeveen asks: 'What is controversial about a US president saying that there are a whole bunch of conflicts the US will not get involved in?' True, superpowers don't clean windows. But controversy, in my view, is unavoidable when a president narrows US interests to the point that a wholesale

The limits of American power

ASPI's Peter Jennings yesterday drew parallels between President Obama's recent West Point speech and a 1950 speech by then US Secretary of State Dean Acheson which set geographic boundaries to US interests in Asia. South Korea was placed outside those boundaries, and the speech is widely thought to

Home-grown jihadists: An innovative solution

Over the past three years, large numbers of Australians have chosen to leave the freedom, opportunity and safety of our community to enter the abyss of sectarian war and violence in Syria, northern Lebanon, and most recently, Iraq. The numbers are frightening. Over 200 Australians are estimated to

Snowden: Assorted notes and links

A few items that have crossed my desk today: The Canberra Times reports today on the massive increase in the number of Australian bureaucrats with security clearances, including plumbers working for the Industry Department and field workers for the Plague Locust Commission. It's all because so

Does inequality make a country less secure?

In the first post in this series I explored several implications of rising inequality with respect to military capacity and international security. In this post, I will explore the relationship between inequality and internal stability. The association between economic disparities and social

Why the US (and Australia) should not go back to Iraq

Anthony Bubalo's Why the US (and Australia) Should Go Back to Iraq deserves your attention. In the most direct sense, it is a call for renewed diplomatic and political engagement in Iraq. But in arguing that the Middle East continues to demand American (and Australian) attention, it also questions

Documentary trailer: The Kill Team

This looks gripping. Amazing trailer: Here's the synopsis from the official website: THE KILL TEAM goes behind closed doors to tell the riveting story of Specialist Adam Winfield, a 21-year-old infantryman in Afghanistan who attempted with the help of his father to alert the military to heinous

Why the US (and Australia) should go back to Iraq

ISIS's dramatic seizure of Mosul last week has caused much geo-strategic hyperventilation. Commentators are variously predicting the collapse of Iraq and eulogising (once again) Middle Eastern borders as defined by Sykes and Picot. The prospect of the US – and perhaps allies such as Australia

Australia-US defence deal: What it means

This morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott and US President Barack Obama announced the conclusion of a series of agreements between the US and Australia. Chief among these is the US–Australia Force Posture Agreement. It details arrangements for the enhanced military cooperation measures first

Mapping the world's EEZs

What does a political map of the world look like if you include those sometimes contentious 200nm Exclusive Economic Zones? Here's a handy tool from Open Democracy, who stress 'this map is not to be taken as the endorsement of one claim over another.' Below, I have pasted a detail incorporating the

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