- by Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2016
From 28-30th June, NATO leaders met in Madrid, producing a new Strategic Concept and declaring that Russia and China are the key threats to western security, interests and values.
The NATO summit was expanded for the first time to include Asia Pacific “sentinel states” encircling China – Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand – and the North Atlantic was expanded to include the Indo-Pacific region.
And we must not forget that this is the NATO that without UN Security Council approval waged an illegal war on Afghanistan and bombed Libya. This is the NATO that waged an illegal war on Iraq that cost between 185,000 and 208,000 civilian deaths and destabilised the Middle East.
US TIGHTENING GRIP
In a fact sheet released on 12th July, the US government outlined its latest efforts to retain its economic and political control of the Pacific region and to contain and control China. The fact sheet includes:
“The US government will adopt its first National Strategy on the Pacific Islands which will “prioritise the Pacific Islands in American foreign policy.
“The US will establish new embassies in Kiribati and Tonga and intends to reopen its embassy in the Solomon Islands.
“The US government will triple its current funding to US$60 million (AUS$89 million) per year for the next ten years linked to a new Economic Assistance Agreement with the Forum Fisheries Agency.
“The US government will appoint its first US Pacific Islands Forum Envoy and “increase our overall diplomatic footprint across the Pacific Islands.
“The US will send the Peace Corps to the Pacific, first to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu, and later expanding to additional Pacific island countries.
“The US will re-establish its Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Mission for the Pacific in Fiji in order “to improve close co-operation.
“The United States and its allies – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the UK – have established a new co-ordination mechanism, the Partners in the Blue Pacific which it plans to expand to include “members and observers, including in Europe and the Indo-Pacific”.
Supporting this expansion NATO is carrying out war games throughout July – the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises. The largest air, land, and sea war manoeuvres in the world, they involve 238 ships, 170 aircraft, four submarines and 25,000 military personnel from twenty-six countries.
NATO is becoming a Pacific military force.
Nearly half of the twenty-six countries participating are NATO members or partners. Eight are members of NATO – Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States. Four countries are Asia-Pacific “partners” of NATO – Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
RIMPAC increases the likelihood of armed conflict between the US and China and Pacific communities are calling for an alternative future that replaces militarised security with genuine human security.
In Hawai’i, the Malu ‘Aina Center for Non-Violent Education and Action says:
“Join the call to cancel RIMPAC and establish a demilitarised Pan-Pacific Zone of Peace. Redirect the massive expenditure of funds from war-making to serve humanity suffering from lack of food, water, and other unmet human needs amid a global pandemic, and expanding climate catastrophe. No More War and Training for War! Restore the Pacific as an Ocean of Peace!”
Expanding Australian militarisation is increasing chances of conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific and the threat of a wider, cataclysmic war.
RIMPAC is supplemented by regular US naval patrols in China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Australia, in coordination with Washington, is installing in the EEZ sensing devices so the US can destroy Chinese vessels as quickly as possible at the start of any conflict.
Australia has joined provocative US warships’ freedom of navigation exercises off China. The exercises have nothing to do with freedom to transit the region. They are part of US efforts to maintain its military dominance of the region.
The 290 US military bases encircling China increase threats to Chinese security.
An important element in this militarisation is AUKUS, the military pact between Australia, the UK and the United States announced on 15th September 2021
The major component of AUKUS is the agreement to transfer US technology for nuclear powered submarines to Australia.
Under AUKUS Australia will be further militarised and garrisoned with more deployments of US aircraft in Australia, more US surface and subsurface vessels in Australia, more joint war games, four new military bases, two new bases for the militarisation of space, greater co-operation in hypersonic weapons, cyber warfare, underwater systems, artificial intelligence, and long range strike capabilities, and support for combined military operations in the region.
Hugh White in his Quarterly Essay “Sleepwalk to War: Australia’s Unthinking Alliance with America” regards AUKUS as a colossal folly. The planned eight nuclear submarines, expected to be delivered around 2040, will take too long to arrive and will be too few to make much of a difference in a war with China.
AUKUS, he says, is tying Australia closer to America when it should be pursuing a more independent foreign policy.
Recently Defence Minister Richard Marles said the government will announce by March which nuclear powered submarines Australia will acquire and whether it will spend even more money to build a conventionally powered submarine fleet to bridge the gap between the retirement of the Collins class and the arrival of nuclear-powered vessels.
The Quad is composed of the United States, Japan, India and Australia. It has intelligence exchanges and interoperable equipment and an increasing number of military exercises, strategic dialogues, technical agreements and co-ordinated activities.
The US, Japan and Australia have signed an infrastructure agreement. Japan has been permanently included in India-US naval exercises. India’s air force participated in Australia’s Pitch Black exercises. India is buying US weaponry.
Japan and Australia have held naval exercises and are planning air exercises and negotiating a visiting forces agreement. Japan has agreements with India on defence equipment and the security of classified communications. India and Australia have regular port visits and increasing military exercises.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg has said: “China is openly contesting the rules based international order” and challenging “our values, our interests, and our security.”
Australian strategic analyst Clinton Fernandes comments that the rules-based order differs sharply from the United Nations international order underpinned by international law.
For the US and its allies, the UN Charter has two flaws. One is that it bans “the threat or use of force” in international affairs. That means that it bans US foreign policy.
Noam Chomsky points out: “The rules-based international order overcomes this flaw. It permits the threat and use of force […]. Illustrations are so dramatically obvious that one might think that they would be difficult to ignore. That would be a mistake: they are routinely ignored. […]
“The second flaw is that the UN Security Council and the World Court set the rules. That flaw is also overcome in the rules-based international order, in which the US sets the rules and others obey.”
The RIMPAC war games are contributing to the destruction of the ecology and aggravation of the climate crisis in the Pacific region. RIMPAC will wreak havoc on whales, dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals and other marine mammals through explosions, sonar, and ship strikes, and will pollute the ocean with contaminates from vessels.
Land forces will conduct ground assaults that will tear up beaches where green sea turtles come to breed.
Other examples of the military’s destruction include in Hawaii where the US Navy’s jet fuel storage has contaminated Oahu’s aquifers.
In Henoko, Okinawa, activists have been fighting US Marines to preserve coral reef and the endangered dugong.
AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE POLICY
The defence policies of the new ALP Government show little improvement on the previous Morrison Government’s disastrous approach.
While Albanese and his ministers are making efforts to rebuild their influence among Pacific states and Foreign Minister Penny Wong has had one meeting with her Chinese counterpart, there is no sign of change in what Paul Malone calls “some move away from Australia’s position as a vassal state of the United States, some move to temper the war-mongering rhetoric.”
Speaking recently in Washington, Deputy PM and Defence Minister Richard Marles claimed China was engaging in the biggest military build-up since the end of Word War II. “It is massive. It is completely changing the strategic circumstances of the Indo-Pacific and I think, beyond that, the world,” he said.
He claimed that the US-Australia alliance “will need to contribute to a more effective balance of military power, aimed at avoiding a catastrophic failure of deterrence,” he said.
“We will make the investment necessary to increase the range and lethality of the Australian Defence Force,” Marles said.
In The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx warns that the constant class struggle can end “in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
Chomsky echoes this when he writes: “We will find ways to co-operate to avert disaster and create a better world, as we still can. Or we will bring the human experiment to an inglorious end.”
CUT MILITARY SPENDING
If spending on the military could provide us with peace, wouldn’t we have achieved that already?
It should be obvious by now that countries trying to outspend one another by buying more and more deadly weapons systems does not create peace or security. It has not worked in the past and it never will.
It is time for us to join together and call on governments around the world to cut military spending, and to instead invest in the true needs of the people and the planet to build a just and sustainable peace.