ASPI suggests

The world

NATO members met in London this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary and discuss the increasing number of challenges they face. But instead of projecting an image of unity and strength, global leaders squabbled and gossiped. Tom McTague argues in The Atlantic that while NATO embodies the core values of the West, the organisation and those values no longer overlap. He asks how Australia, New Zealand and Japan might fit in a revised NATO framework.

With that in mind, see this article by the German Marshall Fund which argues the organisation must endure, even if the London meeting was the first nail in NATO’s coffin. Across at The National Interest, Daniel DePetris examines French President Emmanuel Macron’s question of whether NATO can shift its mandate from deterring Russia to defeating terrorism.

The meeting highlighted the widening rifts between key NATO partners, notably between France and the US, Turkey and the broader alliance, and US President Donald Trump and almost everyone. Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems has caused strains with the US and NATO; however, the Center for Strategic and International Studies claims it’s a relationship worth saving, particularly due to the country’s geostrategic location. As for Trump, calling some NATO members ‘delinquent’ was only the start of his contribution to the meeting. Foreign Policy has an interesting article illustrating NATO funding by country that proves the US leader isn’t solely responsible for the recent lift in defence spending by alliance members.

Australia’s China policy has been the subject of substantial debate for several years, but recent events have reinvigorated it. The debate, John Kehoe notes in the Australian Financial Review, shows a substantial divide among Canberra’s strategic and economic policymakers. Graeme Dobell talks about the ‘new normal’ in this provocative piece in The Strategist. This Canberra Times article by ASPI’s Michael Shoebridge calls for greater interagency cohesion within government ranks to deal with a revisionist China. On the broad sweep of bilateral relations, Peter Hartcher’s new Quarterly Essay, Red flag: waking up to China’s challenge, is an essential long read.

The voting process for the Bougainville referendum, which was spread across 829 locations in three countries, has almost concluded. Ballot boxes will remain sealed until postal voting ends tomorrow. It will be some weeks before the final result is known. People in the capital Buka are in high spirits, according to The Interpreter, although questions remain about the economic stability of the autonomous region and whether Bougainville has the necessary public administration skills that would be needed to establish a new country if it does eventually achieve independence. Foreign Brief has a great explainer on the referendum and what to expect next.

Papua New Guinea’s latest budget report confirms that Australia’s recent $440 million loan ‘replaces’ a proposed loan from China. The ABC has the details. This ASPI report highlights the growing challenges of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, from external influences to climate change. And see the Washington Post for the latest developments in the South China Sea.

Across to another part of the Indo-Pacific, Japan and India held their inaugural  ‘2+2’ meeting of defence and foreign ministers last week. This Foreign Policy article lays out a great roadmap for the future of bilateral relations between the two countries. On a related note, this article in The Diplomat presents an interesting argument outlining the significance of a new counterterrorism exercise conducted by the Quad countries.

Tech geek

If you like science fiction and are interested in military affairs, the Australian Defence College has a writing contest on future warfare for its journal, The Forge, for anyone who wants to be the next John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman or Peter Hamilton. The deadline is 1 March.

For those into maps, there’s a new tool out to quickly create military maps to show campaign plans and tactical actions.

CSIS has released an important report on the future of the US Air Force. The study finds that, in the face of increasing threats, the branch is spending more to get less operational capability. It argues that more emphasis should be placed on survivable long-range platforms, including bombers, given the emerging threat environment. It also calls for a shift away from platform-centric to payload-centric planning.

There’s a great piece in War on the Rocks on the future of military technology and the nature of warfare in the context of lessons gleaned from previous long-term forecasts. The WOTR staff have also compiled their holiday reading list.

Perhaps the coolest looking warship afloat is Sweden’s Visby-class corvette. The Drive has an article that looks at just how stealthy this platform is. And Strategy Page has an interesting article on the challenge facing the US Navy in sustaining its production of Virginia-class submarines.

Moving into space, the Council on Foreign Relations has a podcast on how to manage space junk, a graphical simulation of the problem, and a new tool which shows near misses between satellites and space junk in real time.

This week in history

Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, on 1 December 1955. Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott in what proved to be a significant chapter in the American civil rights movement.


For the 25 best news photographs of the year, head across to The Atlantic.

In the shadow of the 70th anniversary of NATO, Al Jazeera’s Inside Story investigates what will happen if member states can’t settle their differences. [24.45]


The Interpreter discusses Chinese influence in the Pacific before looking at the probability of and risks that would be posed by a Chinese naval base in the region. [34.59]

For a deep dive into what Trump’s potential impeachment means for US foreign policy and national security, listen to this episode of the National Security Podcast. [57.01]


Canberra, 7 December, 10 am – 3.45 pm, ASPI: ‘Indigi-cyber camp for kids’. Register here.

Sydney, 7 December, 2–3 pm, University of Sydney: ‘Troy: fact or fiction?’ Register here.