ASPI suggests

The world

US President Donald Trump has lifted sanctions on Turkey following a promise that it would cease fighting in northern Syria. Vox argues that Trump’s stance on Syria is the clearest articulation of his foreign policy so far—only fight wars in which the US has an interest or a clear path to victory. Meanwhile, War on the Rocks suggests that, while Trump made the right decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, it demonstrates his belief that alliances are a means not an end. Over at The Atlantic, Kathy Gilsinan says that Trump’s ‘sloppy’ success in Syria is unlikely to last.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s latest foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation has caused quite a stir, mainly for his remark that the purpose of the Quad is to keep China in its ‘proper place’. Iain Henry writes in The Interpreter that Pompeo’s airing of views presents an opportunity for some plain speaking on the purpose of the Quad to ensure all nations are on the same page. Also, read this Foreign Policy piece on the takeaways from US Vice President Mike Pence’s most recent speech on China.

Victorian Premiere Daniel Andrews’s renewed endorsement of the Belt and Road Initiative is a cause for some concern. Read this piece in The Strategist by ASPI’s Michael Shoebridge to gain a clearer understanding of the strategic implications of Victoria’s latest move.

Speculation about China’s leasing of the island of Tulagi from Solomon Islands has been circulating for over a week now. See the original New York Times article that broke the story late last week. This article in The Interpreter raises doubts over whether the Chinese company could actually lease an entire island and highlights the perils of China’s attempting to do so. On a related note, the Lowy Institute has published a report that uses a data-driven approach to assess Beijing’s ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ in the South Pacific.

Indian foreign policy wonks are in for a treat this weekend. The Center for a New American Security published a great report looking at India’s asymmetric power differential with China. Dhruva Jaishankar’s latest Brookings paper provides a 360-degree overview of India’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Listen to this insightful conversation between Jeff Smith, Tanvi Madan and Nitin Gokhale on current US–China–India dynamics. And while we’re on the topic, don’t forget to check out this stellar article in Foreign Affairs urging the US to continue with its policy of ‘strategic altruism’ vis-á-vis India.

The ABC’s ‘Australia Talks’ quiz has produced a pair of shocking results: 68% of men who responded to the survey don’t call themselves feminists, and 42% of men believe that men and women are treated equally in Australia. Those numbers brought to mind last year’s Gender equality at work report, which points out that there are more men named Andrew at the helm of ASX 200 companies than women CEOs. So it’s not clear why the ABC statistics weren’t lower and higher, respectively. This great long read in National Geographic is a timely reminder of the struggles of obtaining gender equality and the barriers that are yet to be overcome.

Speaking of equality, the necessity of women’s participation in peacekeeping was highlighted in a speech given by the UN deputy secretary-general in Addis Ababa earlier this week. Amina Mohamed presented the evidence that female participation produces more inclusive, effective and durable peace. Those observations are echoed in this Financial Times piece on the importance of increasing the number of female peacekeepers and placing them in leadership roles, which, according to the UN, makes local populations feel safer and has been shown to reduce conflict. And see this article in IOL which follows the experiences of the only female commander on the African continent, Lieutenant Colonel Tiisetso Sekgobela.

Tech geek

Naval Group has announced that Jeumont Electric will design the main electric propulsion equipment for Australia’s Attack-class submarines, and a subsidiary will be established in Australia. The first sheet of the French navy’s new defence and intervention frigate was cut at Naval Group’s site in Lorient. Delivery of the first ship is expected in 2023. France’s defence minister, Florence Parly, said the new frigates will incorporate a four-panel, 360-degree radar system; Aster missiles; and towed sonar, and will be able to deploy both a helicopter and a drone at the same time.

The UK Ministry of Defence announced that the operational handover of HMS Audacious to the Royal Navy will be delayed due to ‘emergent technical issues’. It’s not the first time the Astute-class nuclear submarine program has been delayed. In 2012, The Guardian revealed that the program had been plagued by design and construction flaws.

Airbus has confirmed that there have been compatibility issues affecting mid-air refuelling between the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport and F-15 fighter aircraft. Changes have been made to the software that controls the A330 tanker boom because of the F-15’s receptacle design. As Australia was the first country to operate the MRTT, it’s likely that it will seek to update the software on its aircraft so that it can refuel US and Singaporean F-15s.

In other news, Taiwan is reportedly building a fleet of kamikaze drones to defend itself against China, which has released wind tunnel imagery of a two-stage-to-orbit space launch system. The US is working towards integrating US Marines into British carrier operations, and a US$35 microcomputer is reported to have achieved a higher level of performance than a professional fighter pilot.

This week in history

This week in 2011, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s dictator of 42 years, was found hiding in a culvert and killed shortly after by forces of the National Transitional Council. Now, eight years on, Libya is still in the midst of a horrible civil war. The ABC takes a look at what went wrong.


Al Jazeera’s The Bottom Line investigates what Trump’s impeachment is actually about and where it’s heading. [26.29]

The Atlantic has published a photo series of the often violent demonstrations that have been erupting across Chile.


Always worth a listen is the Kings College podcast, which this week focuses on feminism in international relations and security. [44:50]

CSIS interviews Steve Hadley, US President George W. Bush’s assistant for national security affairs, who discusses his journey to the White House as well as the contemporary challenges between Washington and Beijing. [27.58]


Melbourne, 28 October, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Dilemmas in counter-terrorism decision making’. Tickets here ($30).

Canberra, 31 October, 5.30–7.30pm, ASPI: Launch: Sticking to our guns by Chris Masters. Register here.