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Issue #1917      June 1, 2020

AUSTRALIA IS US’ MOST LOYAL MILITARY ALLY, BUT WHEN IT TRADES WITH CHINA, TRUMP BULLIES IT LIKE ANYONE ELSE

Despite years of supporting the US in major war efforts, Australia is being treated with contempt by the Americans, who want to dictate who the country does business with.

While there appears to be this unfaltering assumption that America’s greatest ally who must be protected at all costs can be found in the Middle East, most Americans seem oblivious to the fact that Washington’s most diehard backer since World War II is more likely to be found in Canberra.

In fact, Australia has contributed to every major US war effort including Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and even Iraq. Note how many of these conflicts became absolute PR nightmares and resulted in little but wanton destruction. Other notably close allies such as Israel did not support or partake in the destruction of Iraq.

Imagine supporting and assisting a close ally through some of its dirtiest, darkest secrets, and then having to deal with the inability of Donald Trump’s administration to entertain diplomacy on any sort of level. The current go-to mantra of the US president and his cohorts appears to be as simple as yelling “it’s our way – or the highway” at everyone on the world stage and expecting a fearful reaction.

This was seen again in US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent warning to Australia that the US would “simply disconnect” and “simply separate” from Australia if the state of Victoria proceeds with its Belt and Road agreement with Beijing. I wish someone could issue a similar warning to the US the next time it decides to extra-judicially assassinate prominent political figures.

Washington’s insistence that countries bow to the will of the Trump administration puts almost every nation in an increasingly unrealistic universe; one in which it could never please the United States even if it tried.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner. At the end of the day, this fact alone will dictate the overall relationship between the two parties. As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said in response to questions over Pompeo’s remarks: “It doesn’t mean we agree on everything. There are many things we don’t agree on. But what I think all of us here, and indeed, both parts of our partnership, both Victoria, Australia and China, surely we all have to concede, we all have to recognise, that a good strong partnership is in everybody’s interests.”

US’ HARSH STANCE

Having been following this particular topic for years, I can’t help but feel Washington’s stance is egregiously harsh in the circumstances. Australia is one of the few countries that joined in the berating of China over the COVID-19 pandemic from the outset. When Australia called for an inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, it swiftly dug itself a compromised hole which quickly escalated into Beijing slapping an eighty per cent tariff on Australia’s barley exports, blocking beef imports from four of its abattoirs and restricting imports of Australian coal.

Further, while echoing the US State Department on a regular basis, Canberra has often accused China of “foreign interference,” building “roads to nowhere in the Pacific,” and has engaged in competing with China for control over the Pacific region, and even sent warships to the South China Sea.

It’s not as if Australia hasn’t given China a good run for its money – those naval ships are not there to sightsee. Yet the US, as is often the case, is ready to turn a blind eye to years of unfettering loyalty if it even sniffs that some sort of meaningful progress with China is being developed in the background.

China, for its part, is set to increase its defence spending by 6.6 per cent. Some experts think the actual spending is higher than it would appear, as some items are not even included in the official defence budget. Unsurprisingly, there is a heavy focus on the navy; as we have seen even during the pandemic, Chinese and American warships and fighter jets are continuing to confront each other in the South China Sea.

AMERICA’S WARNING TO AUSTRALIA

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Australia also received a stern message from China to “distance” itself from the US amid the rising tensions between the two nations. As has become clear, these two countries have the means and mechanisms of having a dramatic effect on the Australian economy and/or its international security, leaving it in somewhat of a delicate situation.

But then again, Australia may have other cards up its sleeve. The recently announced Trans-Tasman travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand is now likely to be extended to allow in their smaller Pacific neighbours, helping to jumpstart a woeful economic situation. Given that some of the smaller Pacific states have done a tremendous job of preventing the COVID-19 pandemic from decimating their shores, this could very well become a reality.

However, the real reason behind Australia’s willingness to proceed down this path may be so that it can generate a means to counter China’s rising stature in the region. For example, if a country has a strong trading relationship with China, Australia could tell that country to take a hike until that relationship is either severely downsized or made completely redundant.

Personally, I don’t see a war (whether hot or cold) involving China or the United States or any other country for that matter as being in the best interests of anyone. I had hoped the recent pandemic would have helped put a number of geopolitical issues into some much-needed perspective, but it has only helped to aggravate and accelerate them.

Russia Today

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