The view from Australia on its alliance with the US

Allan Sarago-Ah Kee, Analyst at Abt Global

In April 2024 I participated in a study tour to Washington DC, accompanied by emerging leaders from Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia and India, and organised by the Perth USAsia Centre. The aim: to understand the US-Australia alliance, and the diverse perspectives on that alliance from across the Indo-Pacific. 

The mission offered a remarkable platform for regional stakeholders to immerse themselves in the complex dynamics shaping the Indo-Pacific. The trip shed light on the evolving relationship between Australia and the US and emphasized the strategic importance of collaborative engagement in addressing regional challenges. Furthermore, the diverse perspectives shared during the expedition underscored the significance of multilateral dialogue and cooperation in fostering stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. 

US-China competition

The US’ paramount concern remains its strategic competition with China. While recent geopolitical shifts, notably in Ukraine, have diverted attention momentarily, this has prompted the US to reflect upon recalibrating global priorities. Strategic deliberations extend to envisioning joint capabilities, notably in cyberspace, and the imperative of bolstering ally force posture concerning Taiwan. As the Indo-Pacific region becomes increasingly pivotal, there is a growing recognition of the need for robust collaboration among allies to ensure regional stability.  

The potential economic ramifications of escalation between the US and China are enormous. So the US needs fortified logistics and a robust economic and trade policy to effectively counterbalance China’s assertiveness.  

The US also has some lingering apprehensions about the efficacy of frameworks like the Quad in addressing regional challenges. While the Quad provides a valuable platform for dialogue, it members (Japan, India, Australia and the US) recognises that additional mechanisms may be necessary to address the evolving geopolitical landscape comprehensively. Amidst these discussions, there is a broad consensus within the US system on the importance of fostering dialogue and cooperation among regional stakeholders to navigate the complex challenges ahead. 

Australia’s approach to the region: the importance of strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific

For Australia’s part, it seeks strategic equilibrium in the Indo-Pacific, which requires an intricate interplay between geopolitics and military balance.  

Against the backdrop of China’s evolving domestic and foreign policy dynamics, maintaining a delicate balance of power remains a guiding principle in Australia’s approach. Australia is committed to preserving stability through calibrated foreign policy measures and understands the necessity of effective deterrence strategies and collaborative mechanisms to mitigate the risk of escalation.  

The role of First Nations Foreign Policy in the Indo-Pacific

Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the significance of First Nations Foreign Policy and the importance of Indigenous perspectives in shaping foreign policy decisions. First Nations Foreign Policy underscores the depth of bilateral ties between Australia and the US, characterized by shared interests in trade, investment, and environmental stewardship. As the Indo-Pacific continues to evolve, there will be a growing need for inclusive approaches that consider the diverse interests and perspectives of all stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific. 

The importance of multilateralism

As Australia and the US navigate a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape, nuanced diplomacy and robust alliances become imperative. By leveraging shared interests and fostering open dialogue, regional stakeholders can work together to advance mutual objectives and safeguard stability in the Indo-Pacific.  

Strategic recalibration and collaborative engagement are essential to navigating the complexities of the region. Additionally, multilateralism remains significant in addressing emerging challenges and fostering sustainable peace and prosperity in the region. By embracing diverse perspectives and promoting inclusive approaches, stakeholders can build a more resilient Indo-Pacific community, capable of navigating the uncertainties of the future with confidence and coherence.

Allan is a participant in the Perth USAsia Centre’s Program: Next Generation Regional Perspectives on the US-Australia Alliance in the Indo-Pacific.

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