The book & # 39; How to defend Australia & # 39; examines the need for nuclear weapons


Facing a shaky ally in the United States and an increasingly warlike China, Australian military strategists cautiously discuss whether we should consider developing our nuclear deterrent.

The Australian defense forces have had relatively little to worry about for decades.

A secular alliance with the United States has brought guaranteed bank guarantees, while mineral exports to China have secured 28 years without recession at home.

But Donald Trump's limited consideration of Xi Jinping's alliances and primacy research in the Pacific has cast doubt on both pillars of Australian security.

"Far from being in a strategic backward zone, Australia is now a frontline state," said Malcolm Davis, a military planner who has long been calling for a rethink in defense of Australia.

So far, Canberra's response has been cautious: trying to preserve the alliance with the United States while trading with the growing world economic power.

But Hugh White, a former prime minister and dean of Canberra military analysts, believes it is time to get out of the fence.

Among his arcane discussions of strategic autonomy, interests and abilities, his book How to defend Australia, published this month, ignited a firestorm with a simple question: "What about nuclear weapons?"

White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, defends neither for nor against nuclear weapons, but says the demand is becoming inevitable.

Citing "major strategic changes in Asia", he argues that "it is no longer clear that nuclear weapons would never make sense" for the Australian defense.

"The strategic costs of renouncing nuclear weapons in the new Asia could be much greater than they have been until now," he said.

Developing even limited deterrences would entail huge economic, political, diplomatic and social costs, which require Australia to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty and provoke neighbors.

But the vastness of Australia can be extremely difficult to defend on its own with a limited population and conventional weapons.

White argues that without a guarantee of iron from Washington, even the mere threat of a nuclear attack from China could "force us to capitulate in a conventional war."


The discussion is not completely out of the blue.

White reports that for decades, Australian planners have silenced nuclearization and worked on assessing how long it would take weapons to develop.

But until now Canberra has always decided that the price was too high, the risks were low and Washington had his back.

But Trump's temperamental temperament means that half a century of politics could change with a single tweet.

Meanwhile, the threat perspective has changed.

Historical documents show that defense analysts did not believe that Australia would also be targeted in a serious nuclear conflagration between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Bumping against China seems much more likely.

And two regions within the sphere of interest of Australia have become geopolitical hot spots: the South China Sea and the South Pacific.

Australian warships and planes regularly patrol the South China Sea, much of which is claimed by Beijing.

Even when Australian ships stick to international waters, they are shaded and challenged by the Chinese army.

In a recent incident, the Australian Navy's helicopter lasers shone laser by taking part in a naval operation lasting months, forcing them to land.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has launched a diplomatic "step-up" in the South Pacific, hoping to re-engage in a region that increasingly attracts Beijing's attention.

Critics have described White's ideas as inaccessible, unrealistic and unnecessary.

"To put it mildly, the bipartisan political consensus on Australian defense policy is by no means close to White's position," said Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute in a review of White's book.

Nevertheless, Roggeveen went on to say that White's vision of a growing China and diminished United States was "built on a dispassionate analysis" and was "convincing" to him.

Not everyone is equally convinced, but the fact that White's ideas are taken seriously speaks of a growing concern about the role of Australia in the world.

In recent weeks, both a Chinese naval task force and a US assault ship sailed into Sydney Harbor – the fact that both were invited did very little to appease the public debate about how Australia relates to the two major powers in the world.



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