Tuesday 21 Aug 2018 | 14:25 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

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.

Bring Australia’s Navy home from the Middle East

Last Wednesday, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Warramunga docked at Garden Island, ending a nine-month deployment to the western Indian Ocean. It was the 66th deployment of an Australian warship to the Middle East region, part of an almost continuous Australian

Managing the release of convicted terrorists

It has been nearly two decades since the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a national framework to combat terrorism. Now, in the long shadow of the September 11 attacks, some of Australia’s convicted terrorists are nearing the completion of their custodial sentences. From 2019 onwards,

Indo-Pacific: are the British coming back?

The British Royal Navy looks set to make a significant reappearance in the Indo-Pacific after the long distraction of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Australian decision to buy nine BAE Systems Type 26 ASW frigates is the latest in a flurry of indications suggesting the UK has an increased

Turkey must be thinking of the Bomb

Actors not invested in the Western liberal order are enjoying a period of resurgence. While analysts chase meaning in US President Donald Trump’s many erratic policies, there are some threads of consistency, including his affection for strongmen and his scepticism about the existing economic

High anxiety: Donald Trump’s summits

US President Donald Trump evidently expects his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin to be the easiest of his upcoming high-level meetings. If so, he has brought that condition upon himself. Trump’s choleric, ignorant, menacing, and, to be honest, strategically illiterate ramblings about

China’s expanding navy

Recent reports of problems with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) carrier-borne J-15 jet fighters have opened a small window on challenges facing China’s expanding navy, presenting a narrative counter to the recent wave of triumphalist advertisements of new capabilities. Stresses on

Burdens and threats at NATO summit

US President Donald Trump’s incessant complaints about sharing the burden of defence spending between NATO allies would be the main worry on many European leaders’ minds as they meet over the next two days in Brussels. Yet these leaders would wish to achieve more than burden sharing – a long

Mai Tai diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific

It’s Mai Tai time again for many of the world’s navies and some air forces. The month-long, biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise is underway off the Hawaiian Islands once more. RIMPAC has been a constant since 1971, but the exercise has evolved, reflecting changing times and tensions,

The “unsinkable” island is no substitute

In a recent Interpreter article (Glug, glug, glug: India’s interest in unsinkable aircraft carriers), David Brewster poses an interesting question: is there a cheaper and less risky way for India to project power in the neighborhood than by continuing to rely on its aircraft carriers? By

Mindful Mattis did just fine at the Shangri-La Dialogue

The theme of geopolitical competition which ran through the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue was appropriately expansive for the debut of the US Indo-Pacific strategy as outlined by US Defense Secretary James Mattis. Given that Singapore will host the Trump–Kim meeting in just over a week

Has the PLA really overlooked its amphibious force?

It might surprise the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to learn they’ve short-changed themselves on amphibious capability. Sam Roggeveen wrote on The Interpreter recently (“Why China isn’t planning to storm Taiwan’s beaches”) that “China’s navy has grown dramatically over the past two

US naval accidents revisited

The US Navy is usually acknowledged as the biggest and best navy in the world. It is by far the biggest, and the best in terms of the hardware of naval warfare, although that position is now being challenged by China in some dimensions, such as missile technology and a

Surabaya and the ISIS family

Indonesia has again exploded in a paroxysm of terrorist violence, but with a new twist: family suicide bombers. This may be the first time in the world that parents took their children on a family outing to blow themselves up. The three families included the six killed in the bombings of

China’s first homebuilt carrier sails: so what?

For weeks now, the online community that follows Chinese military affairs has speculated about photos indicating China’s first homebuilt aircraft carrier, known for the moment as the Type-001A, would sail for the first time. The carrier looked finished, cleaning crews appeared to be making

Iran’s May Day

The deadline looms for the Iran nuclear deal. US President Donald Trump will have to decide by 12 May whether to continue to waive sanctions against Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). What Trump will do is unclear, and his intention was clouded even more by

The taming of the west

Australia’s adoption of the “Indo-Pacific” as a way of seeing its neighbourhood is a welcome change. The term reflects a broader perspective that moves away from an overwhelming focus on the Pacific to include much of the Indian Ocean – a region where many of Australia’s future

Australia’s Chinese ballistic missile problem

Late last year in Australia, there was sudden interest shown in ballistic missile defence (BMD). Although the driver was North Korea’s missile testing, the real issue is China. China’s latest ballistic missiles, combined with its new island bases, are steadily undercutting Australia’s

Australian warships challenged in South China Sea

How should we react to news reports that China challenged Australian warships in the course of transiting the South China Sea, on their way from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam? Without knowing where the challenge occurred (was it inside 12 nautical miles of a

Drones level the battlefield for extremists

In early 2016, I contributed to an Armament Research Services (ARES) report on the use of commercially available drones by non-state actors in contemporary conflicts, including in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine. We predicted that the use of commercial drones, which up until that point had been used

A new high: India–Japan defence links

An unexpected partnership was forged last week at India’s defence exhibition, DefExpo 2018, in Chennai. For some time, India has been in negotiations with Japan to purchase more than a dozen US-2 amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy and Coast Guard. Considered the world’s best amphibious

Getting our maritime security effort right

Australia does not have a coast guard, but does guard its coasts. It has achieved this since 2005 by using the inter-agency operational authority now known as the Maritime Border Command. This authority combines assets from Defence and what is now the Australian Border Force (ABF) under a

The many questions about China’s Vanuatu ambition

What to make of the extraordinary story in Australia’s Fairfax newspapers on Tuesday about reported discussions between China and Vanuatu that could allow the People’s Liberation Army to establish a presence in the South Pacific nation? If true, there would be significant cause for

The exciting prospects of a strong defence industry

The Turnbull government is spending $200 billion over the next decade to build-up our military capabilities, the largest amount in peacetime history. We need those weapons, vehicles, ships, systems, and aircraft to defend our nation and our interests. Capability is our first priority but, unlike

Indonesia: countering a message of hate

After the Bali bombings of 2002, security forces within the Government of Indonesia, like their Western counterparts, worked towards incorporating “ideological” or “soft” approaches into counterterrorism portfolios. This approach later became commonly known as Countering Violent

Sifting evil intent from charities doing good

The nexus between charitable aid and terrorism is a delicate and often difficult subject to discuss, let alone research. Some troubling relationships do exist, but the number of charities involved is small relative to the vast number of organisations doing good work. Although the sums

The resurgence of Al-Qaeda

Nearly seven years after the killing of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda is numerically larger and present in more countries than at any other time in its history. Indeed, the movement now boasts of some 40,000 men under arms, with approximately 10,000–20,000 fighters in Syria; 7000–9000 in

Countering youth radicalisation in Indonesia

A group of ten Muslim students gathered in the shady courtyard of central Jakarta’s Roman Catholic Cathedral are reluctant to pass through its neo-Gothic doorways. Some argue that entering the cathedral would contravene their devotion to Islam and equate to an abandonment of faith.

Australia’s fraught global arms ambitions

Australia’s new defence export strategy to transform the country into a top-10 global arms exporter raises many questions. This indicates that the government does not fully understand – or, at least, is yet to fully explain – the mechanisms behind the international

The myth of Chinese containment

The great debate on the meaning of China’s rise is coming to a close. Where academics once argued over whether the Asian power would be a status quo or systemic challenger, there is growing consensus that China intends to reshape the global system in its image. From its criticism of the US

Time for women to “wage war on war” once more

It is International Women’s Day (IWD). Step away from the pink cupcakes and listen up. IWD is an important opportunity for the wider community to celebrate contributions and gains while also recognising the persistent gender inequality that exists in all countries and contexts. The UN&

China and the military balance

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has launched the 2018 edition of The Military Balance, which tracks the development of military forces around the world. It contains a striking stat about China’s naval development: OK, this is an isolated factoid, but it illustrates a

Indian Ocean base race: India responds

It seems that we are in the middle of a base race across the Indian Ocean. The latest move, reported on Tuesday, involves an agreement to give India access to naval facilities in Oman, close to the Strait of Hormuz. This may be the first step towards a greater Indian naval presence in the

Base race in the Horn of Africa

A race is underway between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Turkey to build naval and military bases right across the Horn of Africa. This threatens to change the naval balance in the north-west Indian Ocean. But it may also presage the beginnings of a new strategic order

Defence export strategy revives old ethical dilemmas

Contra Tim Costello, it is not unethical to sell arms to foreign countries. Indeed, if a state is threatened by aggression, it might be unethical not to help it acquire the means to defend itself. But of course it can be wrong to sell weapons if we think there's a good chance they will be used

China’s new network of Indian Ocean bases

According to recent reports, China may be about to construct a naval and air base near Gwadar, in west Pakistan. This would be China’s second base in the Indian Ocean and indicates that it may be moving fast to establish a network of military bases across the region. China’s first

Asia’s escalating missile race

If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a

Why Australia should consider sharing nuclear weapons

The future looks ominous. There are grim warnings that Australia's strategic situation has worsened dramatically, with major power conflict increasingly likely. Some commentators fret over US withdrawal from the region, which would leave us disturbingly exposed. Others worry that the US is now too

The UN nuclear ban treaty is historic on five counts

Nuclear weapons are the ultimate weapons of war and therefore the ultimate weapons to prevent and avoid war. This two-axis struggle is captured in competing treaties for setting global nuclear norms and policy directions. This also reflects the mantra of realism - amended to include the importance

Pages