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Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

Civilian casualties and the media

The issue of civilian casualties in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts has received plenty of media coverage recently. From claims that a mosque was deliberately targeted in Aleppo province with nearly 50 civilians killed, through an airstrike hitting a school housing displaced families in Idlib Raqqa

London attack: Tragic and widely predicted

Yesterday’s tragic attack in London was both predictable and widely predicted. Since August 2014, the UK terror threat level has been 'severe', meaning that an attack is highly likely. The UK Government had repeatedly and very publicly warned of the likelihood of a terror attack, while

US-style Homeland Security: Back on Australia’s agenda?

There are some ideas in politics that do a lot of laps around the track before they finally find sufficient favour to turn into government policy. Few have done the distance that the proposal for a super national security department has. Recycled in various forms for more than a decade, the idea

China's defence spending: What's behind the slowdown?

China’s 2017 defence budget, announced earlier this week at the National People's Congress in Beijing, has the lowest rate of increase in years. At 7%, it is lower than the 7.6% for 2016, and represents the second year in a row that growth in defence spending has been kept below 10%, which has

The United States Coast Guard: Starving the remarkable

Reports that the United States Coast Guard (USCG) will be subject to substantial budget cuts even as the new administration proposes to increase funding for the United States Navy (USN) reflect a myopia that has deeper roots than the advent of President Trump. The USCG is a remarkable organisation

How Islamic extremism seeped into rural Australia

On Tuesday the Australian Federal Police arrested a man for attempting to provide Islamic State with advanced missile technology. What is unusual about the arrest of this Australian-born electrician is the location; not an urban centre but a remote property north of Young in the South West Slopes

Singapore’s strike eagles show up flightless kiwis

It was recently reported that New Zealand and Singapore are conducting a feasibility study into basing F-15SG multi-role fighters at Ohakea Air Base, on North Island. If the proposal succeeds, up to 500 Singaporean personnel would be stationed at Ohakea to support a detachment, if not a full

Meet the Australian pilot flying F-22s with the USAF in the NT

Last week the Lowy Institute's International Security Program director Euan Graham recorded an interview with David Skalicky, the USAF Lieutenant Colonel leading the 90th Fighter Squadron, currently deployed to RAAF Base Tindal, in the Northern Territory. In that interview we revealed that

Getting past the awful logic of nuclear weapons

In August last year I wrote on why Australia should support negotiations on a nuclear weapon ban. Subsequently the UN General Assembly voted by a three-to-one majority to convene negotiations on a ban on 27-31 March and 15 June-7 July. The General Assembly will then review progress and decide on

What's behind Russia's missile treaty violation?

Earlier this week the New York Times broke a story that Russia is fielding new cruise missiles in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). This is significant, not because Russia stands accused of violating the Treaty, but rather how and why. The INF Treaty

Beneath the surface of Pakistan's AMAN-17 exercises

Formally, the AMAN (Urdu for peace) international naval exercises that ran this week are about practicing responses to maritime threats such as piracy, terrorism and the smuggling of arms, drugs and people. But swirling not far beneath the surface of the Arabian Sea manoeuvres and the Karachi

US signals to China from Darwin with F-22s

Last Friday’s statement from Defence Minister Marise Payne that a squadron of US Air Force F-22 Raptors was arriving at RAAF Base Tindal to begin a rotation under the Enhanced Air Cooperation (EAC) agreement sparked surprisingly little media interest. The announcement, made on the very day of

Living with terror in Lahore

It's been some time since I lived on Mall Road near Lahore's busy Mayo Hospital which treats most emergency cases but ambulance sirens still wake me at night, a feature now sometimes of nightmares where I see again the dead bodies and terror victims I have reported on through the years. On 15

Will the Western Pacific’s long peace endure?

The security picture in the Western Pacific is marked by maritime boundary disputes, nationalist enmities and rapidly modernising militaries. Against that backdrop, the prolonged absence of war between states poses an analytical conundrum. How has the region stayed so peaceful for so long?

Australia and South Korea: Time to expand co-operation

This week the Lowy Institute's International Security Program, supported by the Korea Foundation, is hosting the Australia-Republic of Korea (ROK) Emerging Leaders International Security Forum in Sydney and Canberra, bringing together scholars and future policymakers focused on the bilateral

Democracies take up arms against cyberattacks

As the Trump Administration starts ticking off targets for its first 100 days, the fallout from the Russian influence operation on the US presidential election is still working its way around the world. Multiple Western countries (mostly in Europe but also Australia) are grappling with how

Spycatcher revisited

More than 30 years after he gained international prominence for inflicting humiliating defeat on Margaret Thatcher's British government in the Spycatcher case, espionage is back on Prime Minister Turnbull's agenda, but in an utterly different form. Sometime towards the middle of this year, the

Taking the terror out of terrorism (part 3)

This is the third post of a three-part series. For part one, click here, and for part two, click here. The relationship between terrorism and the media is long and well-established. To achieve their core aim of provoking irrational fear in large groups of people, terrorists have relied on the

Taking the terror out of terrorism (part 2)

This is the second post of a three-part series. For part one, click here. An individual is entirely reliant on the actions of others (government agencies) to keep them safe from the threat of terrorism. In this context, basing a communications strategy around government prevention efforts

Taking the terror out of terrorism (part 1)

This is the first post in a three-part series. The current terrorist problem is, by most metrics, larger than ever. There have been four successful terrorist attacks in Australia since September 2014. Outside of Australia, terrorist attacks are occurring more frequently and killing greater

Neil Prakash is more than just a terrorist

It’s been almost a month since Australian Neil Prakash, thought to be the most senior Australian in Islamic State, was arrested in Turkey. In 2015, the Australian Federal Police issued an arrest warrant for Prakesh for being a member of a terrorist organisation and for incursions into a foreign

'Tis the season to be wary

The advent season has brought with it a renewed focus on the globalised nature of terrorism. This week’s grim tally of atrocities includes the assassination of the Russian ambassador at an art gallery in Ankara by a Turkish policeman, the death of 12 people at a Berlin Christmas market at the

Northeast Asia: Five big security shifts in 2016

As the year winds down, it's time to look back on the biggest stories in the always-tense northeast Asian region. End-of-year lists are a useful, if soft, methodological tool in that they force a ranking or prioritisation on events. Issues that may seem like a big deal at the time can blow over,

Quick comment: Rodger Shanahan on Neil Prakash

We are learning more about the arrest of the Australian terrorist, Neil Prakash, in Turkey late last week. Writing in The Australian yesterday, Paul Maley revealed the Australian Federal Police anticipated Prakash would try to cross from Syria into Turkey and were on hand in Ankara to help confirm

Neil, an Australian terrorist

The detention of Neil Prakash is of significant interest to Australia but perhaps less so for other countries. At this point, so little is known among open sources about the circumstances of his capture that it is difficult to make definitive statements about what it means. There are certainly many

Jakarta rally exposes division among Islamic State loyalists

By Nava Nuraniyah, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Jakarta. Extremist groups have failed to exploit the 4 November Islamist protest against the Jakarta governor in order to spark sectarian conflict. In fact, the rally has deepened internal

Trump and the Iran nuclear deal

The election of Donald Trump raises many uncertainties about the future direction of US foreign policy, including nuclear weapons and nuclear non-proliferation. A major aspect of this is the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), concluded between

PLA Air Force unveils its pride and joy

Yesterday at the Zhuhai Air Show, China's air force officially unveiled its worst-kept secret, the J-20 stealth fighter. What is China hoping to achieve by showing off this new weapons system? In earlier times China would have waited until a new fighter entered squadron service before even

Why Indonesian extremists are gaining ground

If anyone wonders why Indonesia has been ineffective in curbing extremism, the anti-Ahok campaign provides an object lesson. In the name of demanding that the Jakarta governor be prosecuted for blasphemy, it brings together violent extremists, moralist thugs and powerful political interests. And

Correcting for market failure in terrorism insurance

After the 9/11 attacks, there was a market failure in the terrorism insurance arena: insurance and reinsurance companies around the world, including in Australia, progressively withdrew cover for terrorism risk. As the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O'Dwyer recently

Australia's FONOP debate: A necessary storm in a teacup

This is a disconcerting period for all those hoping to see more pushback against China's bid for supremacy in the South China Sea, and its pressure tactics towards that end. The US is in the throes of an epochal political convulsion masquerading as a presidential election campaign. Its ability to

New cyber threat report has warnings for all of us

The newly released Australian Cyber Security Centre Threat Report  contains some fascinating tit-bits and telegraphing of messages. It's the Centre's second report but the first since the Government released its Cyber Security Strategy. Here are my takeaways: 1. Diverting from the approach of

Picking Pakistan's next top general

Some people collect stamps, others play golf; Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif picks army chiefs. It’s a perilous hobby. If things go smoothly, in November Sharif will be required to pick the country’s top general for the sixth time in his career, which has involved previous stints as

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