Australia’s Historic Navy Spending Reflects Delicate State of Indo-Pacific Security

On Tuesday, Australia announced plans to increase its fleet of warships from 11 to 26 vessels — a number not seen since the end of the Second World War — by the mid-2040s. The procurement process will cost an estimated C$48 billion over the next decade.

Japan may be rethinking its defence spending as well. Tokyo’s massive C$391-billion defence plan — budgeted over the next five years — may, in fact, be “insufficient,” according to the head of an expert panel on defence. Japan decided to ratchet up defence spending in 2022 to reflect security threats from China and North Korea, but the yen’s depreciating value and the escalating cost of defence equipment may bump up spending, although the government remains non-committal. This comes as Tokyo negotiates a security and defence partnership agreement with the EU on maritime security, intelligence-sharing, and hybrid attacks.

‘No country’ epitomizes AUKUS values like Canada: Boris Johnson

Canada, too, is rethinking its military spending priorities — and coming under fire to increase its budget. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CTV on Tuesday that Ottawa should outline when it will increase defence spending to two per cent of its GDP. NATO estimates put Canada’s defence spending at 1.38 per cent of its GDP.

Canada’s ongoing defence review, a process kickstarted by a 2022 budget commitment, received more than 1,500 public comments over a six-week consultation process in 2023. The review complements pledges in Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific Strategy to “invest in an enhanced military presence, along with intelligence and cyber security,” to promote regional stability.

Observers are now encouraging Canada to do just that: former U.K. prime ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, along with former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, were quoted in a February 9 piece by a London-based think-tank saying AUKUS’s non-nuclear ‘Pillar II’ — encompassing advanced military capabilities — would be stronger with Canada. Johnson said that “no country better epitomizes the values that make AUKUS possible — and Canada has a huge amount to offer."