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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.

Taming the “grey zone”

Unease about so-called “grey zone” tactics is increasingly in vogue. From a position of relative obscurity, the term has surged onto the official agenda. There was no mention of “grey zone” in Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper, but it appears 11 times in the 2020 Defence Strategic

Honouring the dead on the path to Korean peace

Almost 70 years on, the Korean war is still not formally over. The United States and South Korea are in the final stages of drafting an end-of-war declaration text. Since his address at the United Nations General Assembly in September, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has made the declaration

The Doha accord and Taliban legitimacy

Under the 2020 Doha Agreement, the US withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan was conditional on Taliban security assurances that Afghan territory would not be used as a launch pad by al-Qaeda or Islamic State for attacks against the United States. Similar accords seeking security promises from

Maldives: India first or India out?

Recent protests in Maldives against India’s influence in the country calling for “Indian military out” has led the Maldives government to respond by reiterating its “India First” policy. This has highlighted the difficulties that both countries face in building a stable strategic

The Indo-Pacific Operating System: How can America shore up the regional order?

Five essays from experts from, or based in, Southeast Asia provide a sense of the region’s complexity and the nuance with which any effort to shore up – or rebuild – regional order must grapple

It’s time to talk about existential risk

Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi was having lunch with his colleagues in 1950 when he asked a now famous question: where is everybody? He was referring to the apparent contradiction that, despite the mathematical probability that humans should have seen evidence of intelligent extra-

Arms control is not just about arms

Relations between Russian and the United States have been rocky since the 2014 Crimean crisis. Washington imposed various sanctions on the Kremlin in the aftermath of the annexation, accusing it of violating Ukrainian sovereignty. US charges of Russian interferences in the 2016 and 2020 elections

Foreign fighters: The question of justice

The legal fallout from Islamic State’s short but bloody existence is both complex and enduring. For those Westerners who travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the jihadist project, which ended with the fall of Baghouz in southeastern Syria in March 2019, justice has taken different forms. Many were

Would a war over Taiwan be legal?

Australia’s former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called for “solidarity” with Taiwan in the face of China’s “intimidatory sorties” testing its air defences. As the war drum incessantly beats, would a war against China to defend Taiwan be legal? For all the abstract talk about a rules-

AUKUS: Why Beijing didn’t go ballistic

China was expected to be furious about the recently signed AUKUS security pact. After all, it is generally believed that the deal to provide Australia with technology to build nuclear submarines and the associated cooperation with the United States and United Kingdom amounts to a significant

Subs: Australia’s reputation overboard

The prevailing view in Australia of the momentous submarines imbroglio seems to have become that the $90-billion mega deal with the French – friend, ally and partner in the Indo-Pacific – was scrapped for a combination of contractual, operational and geopolitical reasons. Australia, so this

Chinese warplanes overhead Taiwan (or maybe not)

China’s PLA Air Force’s (PLAAF) latest flights into the Taiwanese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) have gained people’s attention. The arcane ADIZ term denotes a block of airspace established over, and usually somewhat beyond, a nation’s territory in which any unknown approaching

In defence of AUKUS

When Barack Obama announced the rebalance to Asia in 2011, he also revealed the rotational deployment of US Marines to Darwin. In the intervening decade, however, additional changes to US regional posture have been few and far between. As a result, leading US defence expert Michèle Flournoy has

An arms control stocktake

Nuclear politics and nuclear policy shifts get plenty of coverage – atomic-powered submarines for Australia, China’s missile silo fields, North Korea’s enrichment activities in Yongbon, Iran’s compliance with international monitoring, as well as weapons modernisation all receive considerable

SSN vs SSK

Are nuclear-powered submarines better – more cost-effective – for Australia’s operational needs than conventionally-powered ones? This is one of the many questions that deserve a bit more attention than they have received since Scott Morrison’s AUKUS coup. Let’s agree that the French

AUKUS and the nuclear non-proliferation regime

Whether Australia leases, buys or builds nuclear-fuelled submarines, it will be the first non-nuclear state to do so. The recent announcement of AUKUS – the Trilateral Agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States – to procure this technology brings into focus the

AfPak’s back, alright

In 2021, it’s positively tinfoil hat territory to utter the phrase “deep state”. But they’re the words that come to mind when reading about developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is getting comfortable back in the halls of power, Pakistan expresses jubilation at home, and Pakistani

Digital authoritarianism not just a China problem

According to 2019 data from the World Trade Organisation, China is the largest global supplier of telecommunications equipment (generating US$296 billion compared to US$169 billion for the whole of the European Union) as well as office and telecom equipment (US$633 billion compared to US$363 billion

AUKUS and the CPTPP: It’s all about China

China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) just hours after announcement of the new tripartite AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) security partnership may – or may not – have been coincidental.

Australia’s wartime seaborne trade: insights from before

China’s maritime warfare capabilities become more potent almost daily. Thomas Shugart’s new Lowy Institute paper explores this and then imagines the potential dangers arising for Australia. Shugart’s US-centric perspective is nicely complemented by Hugh White’s and James Goldrick’s debate

China – a lonely superpower

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia move to form a new AUKUS grouping, various reports have emerged of a “new Quad” led by China and featuring Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Iran’s imminent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and plans for the four countries to

Sunk! France cries outrage over snubbed subs

The French word déception means disappointment rather than deception, making it one of the infamous “false friends” the French language abounds in for English speakers trying to learn it. But when Naval Group, the French company that just lost what has been described in France as “

North Korea’s calculated restraint

September is an important month for South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to make a last ditch attempt to revive relations with a recalcitrant North Korea before the presidential election next March. To such an end, his administration has sought to use major inter-Korean anniversaries this month,

An Afghan test leaves Australia’s principles wanting

When the Taliban emerged from the wastes of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the international community was caught completely off guard. Intelligence on the ground was pretty much non-existent and whatever policies that followed in dealing with this new threat reflected this deficiency. Subsequent events

9/11: A President reacts on a day of fear and anger

Twenty years on, there are many different ways to remember 9/11. Many rightly focus on the families of the victims, as Jennifer Senior does in her remarkable article in The Atlantic describing the way grief echoed through the lives of a single family. The Lowy Institute has released a new

Policing national security since 9/11

9/11 and the subsequent terror attacks in Bali were the catalysts for rapid and considerable change in the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Most obviously the AFP was deployed to Indonesia in the aftermath of bombings in Bali and Jakarta. But the national security role for the police extended

The evolving Taliban-ISK rivalry

The attack on evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport by the Islamic State- Khorasan Province (ISK, ISKP, or ISIS-K) triggered much speculation about the Afghan Taliban’s ability to constrain terrorism in the country. But it also served as a reminder of the intense rivalry between the Taliban and

Japan’s nuclear identity and the complicated endgame

Book Review: Akimoto Daisuke, Japan’s Nuclear Identity and its Implications for Nuclear Abolition (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) It has been rare in recent years for the anniversary of the atomic bombings in Japan to pass without controversy, invariably concerning remarks made by the prime

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