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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.

A flare up in China’s deliberate pattern of aggression

It’s time to be alarmed not just alert. On Sunday, Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles revealed a “very dangerous” intercept by a People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) fighter of an Australian P-8 maritime patrol aircraft took place on 26 May over the South China Sea. The P-8

Ukraine: The view from Warsaw

This week I was in Warsaw listening to experts on regional strategy and security. It was clear that Poland sees itself as Ukraine’s champion. Beyond the immediate emergency response following Russia’s invasion, Poland is acting as Ukraine’s advocate in building support both across NATO and EU

“Black ships”, the Quad and space

At the first in-person leaders’ summit of the Quad in Washington in September last year, the four member countries came forward with an ambitious space agenda. A working group was giving the task of advancing a number of key strategic areas, including the exchange of satellite data with the

A strategy for uncertain times

It seems obvious that the next government will need a national security strategy. In the election campaign foreign policy debate last week Marise Payne and Penny Wong agreed that Australia’s national security environment was more complex than ever and seemed to concur that this demanded a more

AUKUS: More than meets the eye

The clear intention of AUKUS is to tip the military balance in the Indo-Pacific in favour of the United States. The various initiatives in the pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are headlined by cooperation to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia

Chinese bases in the Pacific: A reality check

There was barely concealed panic in Australia when news broke that China had struck a security agreement with Solomon Islands. What if this is really a basing deal that allows China to station military aircraft or warships permanently? Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s emphatic denial on

Iran applies its own maximum pressure in nuclear talks

Negotiations in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal have dragged on through nearly a dozen rounds for more than a year now. The Biden administration’s hopes for a quick restoration of the 2015 agreement, unilaterally abandoned by Donald Trump, have been hampered from the outset. By simply

Not all maritime disputes are built the same

Maritime disputes in Southeast Asia should be viewed less as a single big basket of problems, and more as smaller individual problems with their own corresponding solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And three inter-related policy contexts can help explain why some troubles persist

Does commemorating war really promote peace?

The phrase “lest we forget” expresses a moral judgment that it is irresponsible – if not reprehensible – to allow past wars to fade from collective memory. A familiar argument for this duty to remember is captured by the quip “those who forget history are destined to repeat it”. We need

Solomons security pact: Sogavare, China, and Australia

Labor has described Solomon Islands’ security pact with China as Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the Pacific since the Second World War, but this is hyperbole. Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the region – ever – is its failure to address (at both a national and

Taming troubled waters

While regional countries respond to Covid-19 and the many social and economic consequences, ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea has become even more important due to its role in connecting continents, fostering international trade and ensuring supply chains are not broken. This will

Australian cyber: What’s “Redspice” for?

Canberra is significantly boosting the cyber capabilities of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – the government agency responsible for signals intelligence, support to military operations, cyber warfare and information security. Project Redspice, announced in March, will increase ASD’s

Law of the sea: A contested watershed ruling

When in 2016 the Arbitral Tribunal issued its watershed ruling in the case between the Philippines and China, responses from the international community were lacklustre. The Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative’s “arbitration support tracker” suggests that eight governments have publicly

China’s nine-dash line proves stranger than fiction

Vietnam recently banned the film Uncharted from domestic distribution due to a scene depicting an “illegal image” of China’s infamous “nine-dash line”. This is not the first time popular culture has become embroiled in the politics of the South China Sea. In 2021, the Philippines’

Of maritime security and a rules-based order

Maritime scholars and practitioners often wrestle with the question of what a “desirable” architecture for maritime security should be, and how must it be properly implemented? The issue is complex, because although security is best delivered in collective and cooperative settings, there is

AUKUS can be a good platform for cooperation with India

Someone famous once reputedly quipped “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” So there is a certain echo to the AUKUS arrangement, which brings together Australia, United Kingdom and United States to share vital defence technologies in an effort to stabilise the Indo Pacific

Order at sea: Southeast Asia’s maritime security

However you define good order at sea, it’s hard not to feel rather pessimistic about its future. A host of accounts and reports from popular writers including Ian Urbina or environmental organisations such as Greenpeace and UNESCO suggest plenty of reasons to support the notion that the seas are

Can states have strategic personalities?

In The Interpreter last month, Bec Strating and Joanne Wallis weighed into the debate about Australia’s “strategic personality” and how it should change to respond more effectively to the security challenges the country now faces. If Canberra’s policymakers wanted a personality to

The Gulf’s diversification dilemma

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had posed difficult questions for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and exposed the costs of pursuing a more diversified series of diplomatic, economic and military relationships. The two Gulf states are in effect experiencing the “diversification dilemma

Does the Quad Plus add up?

According to its members, the Quad – a group comprising the United States, Japan, India and Australia – seeks to present an inclusive vision for the Indo-Pacific region, and its members seek to work with a range of countries. Despite this rhetoric, the group hasn’t established any clear

We need to stop talking about the grey zone

The concept of a grey zone in international affairs has gained popularity as analysts have tried to understand how states compete for strategic advantage in a more complex and interdependent world. But war in the Ukraine has underscored how the concept now obscures more than it clarifies. The “

Ukraine war triggers debate on Japan’s nuclear option

In the wake of the Ukraine conflict, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former prime minister and now head of the largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has suggested that Japan consider hosting US nuclear weapons facilities on Japanese soil, similar to some European nations, such as

Squaring the circle in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin proclaimed set of objectives for his newest invasion of Ukraine appear paradoxical. Putin noted Russia’s key aims for Ukraine were a replacement of Volodymyr Zelensky’s “Nazi” government, demilitarisation, rejection of NATO membership, recognition of the separatist states in

What if Trump wins again?

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has seen a return to the political alignments of the 20th century, with the United States as the leader of a grouping of democracies against a Russian dictatorship uneasily partnered with China. But Donald Trump has offered a radically different response,

Russia-Ukraine: Lessons for Australia’s defence

Lesson 1:  The era of state-on-state conflict is still with us The idea that war between nations has become an anachronism over the last 40 years has some statistical support, but evidence from the post-Cold War period of relative peace needs to be weighed against hundreds of years of

Damage limitation and US nuclear strategy

Almost four years ago, I argued in The Interpreter that Vladimir Putin’s decision to pursue a range of weapons specifically designed to defeat America’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system was irrational behaviour, being an expensive solution to a problem which did not exist. In particular

Putin’s choice

Whatever steps Vladimir Putin takes over coming days will be deeply consequential for the security of both Russia and Europe. What does Putin want? Firstly, he wants to bring Ukraine back within Russia’s orbit. This is partly for emotional reasons of national identity and imperial nostalgia:

Indonesia makes a big defence statement

The fuss made over Friday’s Quad meeting in Melbourne is quite out of proportion to the group’s significance. Australians shouldn’t take any comfort from rhetoric about democratic solidarity and common values. The bonds holding together the quadrilateral relationship between the United States

The curious case of Blenheim Reef

A remote sandbank in the middle of the Indian Ocean, known as Blenheim Reef, is hitting the international news. The Mauritian government has sponsored an expedition to the reef to embarrass Britain in their long-running dispute over ownership of the Chagos Archipelago – which is home to the US

Delivering promises will show steel in Quad

The German naval chief, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, lost his job during a visit to Delhi last month. During an interaction where he went woefully off-script, he urged the West to offer “respect” to Russian President Vladimir Putin and keep the focus trained on China, a “not so nice

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