September 25: Australia’s Response to US Re-engagement in Asia: A Tale of Two Pivots

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September 25, 2012: Mark Thomson
(Click to enlarge) Dr. Mark Thomson pauses for a question at the East-West Center in Washington.
(Click to enlarge) Dr. Mark Thomson pauses for a question at the East-West Center in Washington.

Australia’s Response to US Re-engagement in Asia: A Tale of Two Pivots

WASHINGTON, DC (September 25, 2012) – The US ‘pivot’ to Asia has received wholehearted support from both sides of Australian politics—hardly surprising for a country whose prosperity and security has benefited greatly from US involvement in the region since WWII. However challenges lie ahead. Australia is yet to develop a clear concept for balancing its economic ties to China with its strategic partnership with the United States. It also remains to be seen how Australia will meet rising US expectations for its allies in Asia—especially after the drastic cuts to the Australian defense budget earlier this year.

In this seminar, Mark Thomson explained explained the political, economic, and strategic factors shaping current Australian defense policy. He argued that while the perceived conflict between Australia’s economic and strategic interests is based upon a misconception, the domestic anxieties about Australia’s place in Asia will persist. As for the trajectory of Australian military power, he posited that the recent cuts to defense investment are unlikely to be reversed absent a strategic shock. Consequently, Australia will almost certainly find itself looking for creative ways to contribute to regional security on the cheap.

The seminar concluded with Dr. Thomson proposing that Australia is likely to execute a pivot of its own towards Southeast Asia—both as a natural response to the growing importance of the region, and as an efficient way to contribute to US mediated stability in Asia as a whole.

Dr. Mark Thomson is a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra. His research interests include defense economics, Asian security and Australian defense policy. Prior to joining ASPI, he worked for the Australian Department of Defense where he held a variety of positions, including political-military adviser to the INTERFET Commander in East Timor in 1999. In 2008 and 2009, Mark was a ministerial advisor during the development of the Australian Government’s 2009 Defense White Paper.

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