ANZUS and Australia’s Security

by Allan Behm

The ANZUS treaty has not passed its use-by date. Why? Because it never had one.

While, at the time it was negotiated and signed, it had political and strategic moment, events in Asia and the Pacific quickly eroded its strategic significance – an erosion that was as much aided by the compounding nature of extended Asian decolonisation as it was abetted by carefully constructed ambiguity within the text of the treaty.

The treaty was almost certainly inoperable by the time of the Indonesian-Malaysian Konfrontasi in 1963. President Nixon’s 1969 ‘Guam Doctrine’ and the ascension of Donald Trump to the US Presidency have combined to cement this fact into place. ANZUS retains political utility, not least of all as a rubric for AUSMIN – the Australia US Ministerial talks – and an umbrella for the acquisition of US-sourced defence capabilities, as well as continuing to provide a convenient domestic security blanket that at once mollifies and preserves Australia’s security anxieties.

The ongoing value of ANZUS will be measured much more in the way that Australia goes about identifying and securing its international and security interests than in continuing to pay obeisance at the shrine of a treaty that is now little more than an artefact of Australia’s foreign and strategic policy history.

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