Monday 16 Sep 2019 | 04:45 | SYDNEY
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Defence & Security

The strategic order and the nature of conflict are changing. Security competition between nations and military strategy are growing in complexity even as new transnational challenges deepen. The Lowy Institute’s experts in security and defence look at changing strategic relations, security architecture, nuclear strategy, military capabilities and defence and intelligence policy.

Pressure upon pressure builds around Kashmir

The political talk in South Asia at this moment is reminiscent of the 1990s. The Taliban are returning to Afghanistan and conflict is escalating between India and Pakistan in a seething Kashmir region. There is even debate on the potential use of nuclear weapons amid India-Pakistan crises ­–

Secrets and laws

Since the Australian Federal Police raids on the offices of the ABC and the home of News Corporation journalist Annika Smethurst, there has been an understandable debate on the tensions between national security and press freedom. This has extended to questions around whistle-blowing and

Suspicion creeps into the Five Eyes

The world’s oldest intelligence partnership turned 73 this year. Traditionally, trust amongst spies is a rare commodity, but the UKUSA Agreement of 1946 (commonly known as the “Five Eyes”) has more than stood the test of time. Forged under the pressure of the Second World War, the Five Eyes

Gender-based violence and the Arms Trade Treaty

This week, the 104 states parties to the Arms Trade Treaty are meeting in Geneva to discuss the world’s only international agreement on the sale or transfer of conventional weapons. This covers everything from small arms and light weapons to battle tanks, attack helicopters and warships,

Australia in the Gulf: Will we make a difference?

Australia’s commitment to the US-led coalition to provide maritime security for the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf will be one maritime surveillance aircraft, to start operations later this year, and one frigate from early 2020. Military personnel will also help staff a coalition

The reluctant coalition

The Australian government’s announcement today that it will contribute assets to a maritime coalition force in the Persian Gulf comes as no surprise, given the very public way the US request was delivered in Sydney at the recent AUSMIN meeting. Washington doesn’t make those type of requests

It’s time for a “Quad” of coast guards

The so-called Quad group of Indo-Pacific maritime democracies – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – is a valuable grouping, although it is still underutilised in many ways. One of the most effective ways that these countries could work together to enhance maritime security in the

US foreign policy: restraint without retrenchment

US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War has come under growing criticism for its expansive, even aggressive, character. Despite its name, “liberal hegemony” often seems illiberal, belligerent, even militaristic. The US has used force regularly over the last 30 years, often with dubious

The curious case of Hamza bin Laden’s death

This week at least two US officials have anonymously confirmed to US news outlets that Hamza bin Laden, the son of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was killed in a targeted operation. It is clear that counterterrorism and intelligence officials from around the world have been tracking him for

Gender: workforce transformation in Defence

The comprehensive analysis in the Lowy Institute report, Foreign Territory: Women in International Relations reinforces the already compelling case for why gender diversity matters, and from a Department of Defence perspective, as one of the main areas of the bureaucracy examined in the report, the

China’s head-spinning defence white paper

Readers of the white paper China’s National Defence in the New Era can be forgiven for their headaches as they move from one conflicting statement to another in Beijing’s latest effort to help “the international community better understand China’s national defence”. This best of times/

The changing face of violent extremism

The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka killed 258 people, including two Australians among 46 foreign nationals, and injured 500 more. Its perpetrators according to Sri Lankan State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene were “well-educated and come from the middle or upper-middle class”, and were “

‪ISIS: women’s work?

Should domestic labour be valued the same as work outside the home? What is the contribution of a stay at home wife and mother? How can we evaluate emotional labour when it often goes unseen? No, these are not topic questions during a “Lean In” circle. These are questions that many courts are

The burden of friendship: Germany, Trump and NATO

“Burden sharing” has long been a totemic term in discussions about NATO. Behind the happy paeans to shared values and mutual security interests uttered publicly by national leaders has always stood the hard reality of American power and Europe’s complete dependency upon it. Yet under the

Cambodia: the regime’s base survival instinct on display

Rumours of a Chinese military presence in Cambodia have again resurfaced following claims from a senior Pentagon official that Cambodia intends to host Chinese military assets. This week it was reported that Cambodia’s Defence Ministry declined a US offer to refurbish a training facility and

Book review: Hugh White’s How to Defend Australia

Book Review: How to Defend Australia, by Hugh White (La Trobe University Press, 2019) Defence commentator Hugh White never shouts from the rooftops, and his new book How to Defend Australia is written in the same measured tone that has long driven his more strident critics crazy. Yet if White

National security: Australians and their elites

It may be distasteful to some, but there is no escaping the need for political elites. The trick, particularly in a democracy, is for those elites to carry a sense of legitimacy. Australians are disconnected from politics, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they differ from politicians in their

The limits of unilateral action against Iran

As Washington is finding, maximum pressure campaigns have their own limitations, even with the most coherent and experienced foreign policy teams. But with ​the Commander-in-Chief sending mixed messages (overnight Donald Trump described the alleged Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the

Maybe Australia should donate a warship to Sri Lanka

The Royal Australian Navy is about to take two highly capable guided missile frigates out of service. But they are not just surplus equipment, but they are important strategic assets that Australia can use for continuing strategic benefits. We should think seriously about giving them to our

A sea ride with Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavour

When the Australian Defence Force first dispatched its flotilla known as the “Indo-Pacific Endeavour”, the then Defence minister Christopher Pyne touted the regional drills as Australia’s “premier international engagement activity” designed to “enhance partnerships”. But what lies

Superpower scrutiny at Shangri-La

For the past two years, the highlight of the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was the keynote speech by the sadly departed former US defence secretary Jim Mattis. This year the task of speaking on behalf of America to the leading forum of Asian defence

The relativity of the death penalty

Opposition to the death penalty has a long and quite public history in Australia. Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug smugglers received support from artists, singers, actors, media personalities and sports stars, while a crowd of about a thousand people

The clock is ticking on tensions with Iran

Washington’s attempts to isolate Iran economically and politically rely largely on whether it can get Tehran to opt out of the 2015 nuclear deal. As long as the Trump administration is the only signatory to withdraw from what is known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),

Australia struggles for clarity on the South China Sea

The Lowy Institute’s Richard McGregor has noted the absence of China discussion in Australia’s current election campaign, a state of affairs which prompted his colleague Sam Roggeveen to observe that “Bipartisanship on China is becoming a form of collusion”. Given that the

Myanmar: pariah status no bar to defence modernisation

It has been more than two years since military “clearance operations” against Myanmar’s Rohingyas began in October 2016. Since then, the international community has relied on public criticism, unilateral sanctions and a range of measures in the United Nations and International Criminal Court

Strategic trends across the Indo-Pacific region

Much has been written in recent years about the reorientation of US policy to the Indo-Pacific region in response to China’s expanding economic and strategic footprint. What is less clear, however, is how the region itself is responding to the new era of strategic competition proclaimed by

North Korea’s uranium and prospects of a stealthier bomb

Verifying North Korea’s nuclear stockpile will be a critical part of any future disarmament negotiations. As past experience with other nations demonstrates, it is also a tricky process. North Korea will be expected to supply an inventory of their weapons stockpile, its fissile material and the

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