ANZUS Treaty an ‘Artefact of History’ in Coronavirus World

A discussion paper, released by The Australia Institute’s International & Security Affairs Program today highlights that the ANZUS Treaty, long seen as the cornerstone of the alliance with the United States, as being largely irrelevant to security in the pandemic era.

The annual Australia-US Ministerial (AUSMIN) talks are taking place this week on July 27th & 28th, with Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds flying to meet with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper in the United States.

Key Findings:

  • The ANZUS Treaty brings no obligation for either party to actually do anything, other than consult each other.
  • Human security – whether from pandemics or climate change – is now front and centre in the public security mind. Yet the AUSMIN meetings remain focus on traditional security issues involving the armed forces and intelligence services.
    • If AUSMIN concentrates simply on the military and economic containment of China, without recognising that China is central to the resolution of both pandemic and climate change issues, a major opportunity for progress will be lost.
  • History shows that Australian governments place enormous faith  in a Treaty that most US administrations barely know  exists.
    • President Kennedy told Former Prime Minister Harold Holt that the US would not go to war with Indonesia in the 60s to support Australian and British troops in Malaysia. The same is true today in any potential conflict Australia might find itself in.

“ANZUS so dominates government discourse on Australia’s relations with the US, that it has come largely to define the relationship,” said Allan Behm, head of The Australia Institute International & Security Affairs Program.

“The challenge at this AUSMIN meeting is to look beyond the ANZUS Treaty and cooperation between our defence forces.

“It is the role of an active, engaged and properly endowed diplomacy to build the kind of world we would like to live in, while we deal with the world in which we actually live.

“Human security – whether from pandemics or climate change effects such as bushfires – is now front and centre in the public security mind. Australia’s security policy needs to focus on diplomacy and human security.

 “It’s time we see ANZUS as it is, an artefact of history.”

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