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Should Australia Have Closer Relations with NATO?

09 Sep 2014
AIIA Fellows responding to the burning question of the week

Expert Panel-Fellows of the AIIA

HilaryCharlesworthHilary Charlesworth FAIIA-Professor, ANU; Director of Centre for International Governance and JusticeProfessorJocelynCheyAMJocelyn Chey AM FAIIA-Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; former Consul-General in Hong KongJamesCottonJames Cotton FAIIA-Emeritus Professor at the University of NSWRawdonDalrympleRawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIA-Former Visiting Professor, University of Sydney; Chairman of ASEAN Focus Group LtdGraemeDobellGraeme Dobell FAIIA-Journalist Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy InstituteErikaFellerErika Feller FAIIA-Former UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection
Janet_HuntJanet Hunt FAIIA-Former Head of the Australian Council for Overseas AidJamesIngramAOJames Ingram AO FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Head of the UN World Food ProgramJohnMcCarthyAOJohn McCarthy AO FAIIA-Former Ambassador to Japan, Indonesia, the United States, Thailand, Mexico and VietnamRobertO’NeillRobert O’Neill FAIIA– Former Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford UniversityGarryWoodardGarry Woodard FAIIA-Former Diplomat and Senior Fellow, University of MelbourneRichardWoolcottACRichard Woolcott FAIIA-Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


Question: Should Australia Have Closer Relations with NATO?

Robert O’Neill FAIIA
It would be very difficult for Australia to have closer relations with NATO that were at all meaningful. NATO is a regional organisation, not a global one. It has been very reluctant to step outside the narrowly defined NATO Area since it was established in 1949. Until the conflict in Afghanistan, it had no track record of intervention abroad, and its military power for doing so is modest. While it might be exciting for Australian leaders who have not had much experience in relating to NATO to imagine Australia as a power that NATO members all take seriously and want to work with, we would be better advised to have modest expectations of any future NATO-Australian links.
John McCarthy AO FAIIA
Australia should have closer relations only in a strictly technical/operational sense or in the context of strategies in which we are involved or will be involved (e.g. in Iraq or Afghanistan). We should not become members or associate members of NATO. We are not a North Atlantic country. We should not become involved in the Ukraine.
Richard Woolcott FAIIA
My answer is a definite “No”. bjhjklljbhkhujkjhgijkljhuiolkjhhuiokljhuiouljkjguilkojlkgu;jbgkuhiojkiljmjkhlkjjhijkl;njkjlknkjl;mkjlkml
Rawdon Dalrymple AO FAIIA
It would be good to have closer relations with NATO if it provides enhanced access to advanced technology, weaponry, etc. but not if it means getting involved in wars in the Balkans and the like.
Garry Woodard FAIIA
It seemed logical to Menzies and Casey that the Cold War Australia, and from 1951 ANZUS, should have a link to NATO, and a quadripartite directorate for Asian security. However they lacked the clout to achieve either without American support.In the Laos crises of 1959 and 1961, Australia (as in 1941) chose the US as its essential security partner, and so it has been for 65 years (with minor experiments in the Whitlam years which were judged as negative). This feralty has not gone unappreciated: Eisenhower told LBJ in 1965 that it was sufficient for the US to have its conscience and the support of the Australians. Bush, in his famous reference to the mosh-pit, expressed appreciation to Howard for his strong support. In proselytising ‘the war on terror’ American policy statement singled out Australia as a (or the) key ally. This has changed.A closer Australian link with NATO may be the intelligent anticipation of change, but there is no certainty that it will prove congenial to the Abbott government or enlarge its options or serve Australia’s priorities.



Past Questions


July 25, 2014
Are Expectations of Australia’s International Influence Unrealistic?

July 1, 2014
Is Australia Powerless to Help its Citizens Abroad?

June 23, 2014
What are Australia’s Responsibilities in Iraq?

June 10, 2014
Is China Destabilising Asia?

May 9, 2014
Is the US a Dangerous Ally for Australia?

April 28, 2014
Did you find Bob Carr’s ‘Diary of a Foreign Minister’ enlightening?

April 14, 2014
Is Australia’s economic diplomacy succeeding?

April 04, 2014
Is Japan Australia’s best friend in Asia?

March 24, 2014
Three years on, has enough been done on Syria?


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