Australia Releases New Defence Strategy

Unprecedented military modernization in the Asia Pacific . . .

Australia’s Department of Defence has released a Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan outlining the country’s renewed approach to defence and the investments needed to deliver it. With this new strategy, announced July 1, Canberra hopes to avoid being a bystander to the increasingly conflict-ridden relationship between the U.S. and China. Instead, Australia wants to better shape its strategic environment, deter actions against its interests, and allow its military to respond if ever required. The Structure Plan outlines the military’s needs, and the necessary adjustments to meet Australia’s defence capability plans. All in, the new strategy pledges to spend about C$75B on the navy, C$65B on the air force, C$55B on the army, C$15B on cybersecurity, and C$7B on space over the next 10 years.

Increasing tensions in the region . . .

The Defence Strategic Update lays out the government’s vision of the changing security environment, which, according to the government, has deteriorated more rapidly than was anticipated in the country’s 2016 Defence White Paper, becoming more dangerous and with heightened risks of escalation and miscalculation. Indeed, the U.S. Navy deployed two aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to conduct a freedom-of-navigation operation starting last weekend, just as China is conducting military exercises in the disputed territory. Combined with the recent border clash between China and India, a military conflict in Australia’s strategic environment has never seemed so imaginable.

A security dilemma in the making?

Not surprisingly, Chinese media reacted and stated that China would not back down to provocation from Australia and that Beijing could counter by upgrading its forces. With the U.S. also recently announcing that it will redeploy thousands of soldiers currently based in Germany to various countries in Asia to “face the Chinese threat” and counter an already more aggressive China, an arms race seems to be fully underway in the region. Whether or not increasing military spending is the answer to the current challenging environment, countries in the region now seem to be gearing up for more than just an ideological struggle.