Biden Presidency: ANZUS No Longer Sufficient, Time for Australia’s Security Reset

To mark the swearing-in of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the US, The Australia Institute has released research that shows the Australia, New Zealand and United States Security (ANZUS) Treaty is no longer a sufficient basis for Australia’s security relationship with the US—it is time for a security reset.

The Australia Institute’s International and Security Affairs Program shows that under President Biden, Asia will matter to the US because China matters, and while Australia’s support will be welcome it will not be pivotal, thus it is time for Australia to see ANZUS as it is: an artefact of history.

Key Findings:

  • The ANZUS treaty brings no obligation for either party to actually do anything, other than consult each one and other.
  • In the post-Trump world, Australia needs to do its own thinking, reinvesting in both regional institutions and regional coalition-building.
  • 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.

“There will be no going back to the pre-Trump days. The world has moved on, and the US has moved on, even if Australia remains locked into a dependency mindset with the US.

“Instead of competing for US attention, Australia will need to paddle its own canoe, creating contemporary foundations for agreed rules and identifying new ways of giving expression to shared strategic goals in the Asian region.

“It is the role of 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 would be most effective if it were to place a renewed emphasis on diplomacy and human security.”

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