Shared Interests, Shared Values? The US-Australian Alliance in the Age of Trump

7 February 2017

The United States and Australia have rarely disagreed on issues of strategy in the post-Cold War era. Generally, Australia reliably agrees with Washington’s assessment of threats and risks and supports America’s policy responses. In past examinations of the relationship some Australian analysts warned that a rising China would inevitably upset this happy status quo, while others insisted there was no dilemma and that Australia is not a “conflicted ally.”

The leaked details of President Trump’s phone call with Prime Minister Turnbull have reignited this debate in Australia. Some argue that Australia has little choice but to remain a “dependent ally.” They note the country’s human geography, tradition and regional circumstances dictate fidelity to the alliance, even under an American President willing to harangue and embarrass a long-standing ally. At the other extreme, Australia’s far-left party The Greens have called on Canberra to “junk” the alliance in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on refugees and visas.

Neither of these options is particularly appealing to the average Australian. Domestic support for the US-Australia alliance remains relatively healthy, though it has decreased somewhat in recent years. In 2016, 71% said the alliance is very or fairly important to Australia’s security. This same poll, however, found that 45% of Aussies thought that Australia should “distance itself from the United States if it elects a president like Donald Trump.”

The notion of Australia “distancing itself” from the US is vague; it might involve thinking more critically about where Australia’s interests diverge from America’s. Perhaps surprisingly, this instinct does not come naturally to Australian politicians. Since the end of the Cold War, both of Australia’s major political parties have adopted a reflexive enthusiasm for the alliance with neither wanting to appear “soft” on the matter.

Read the full article by Iain Henry on Lawfare

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