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Transnational Institute Series. Almost fifty years after its establishment, and a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War for which it was constructed, there are a number of aspects of Pine Gap that need urgent and deep debate in Australia. But let me confine myself here to three. The response from the Defence Department to the letter to the UN Special Rapporteur was carefully framed and evasive, saying only:. All such activities are conducted in strict accordance with Australian law. The Australian government needs to explain the manner and extent to which Pine Gap is actually involved.
It then needs to explain what knowledge it has of these matters.
And then, it needs to ensure that any activities conducted at Pine Gap or any other facility are brought into line with international law. Either way, the United States would need to expand rapidly the already substantial redundancies built into some, though not all of the systems of which Pine Gap is so vital a part, or to move to relocate the facility within a reasonable but not indefinite period.
The second issue brings us to the heart of the justifications offered by Australian governments for hosting Pine Gap. The satellites controlled by and downlinking data to Pine Gap captured this telemetry from missiles traversing the eastern hemisphere, processing and analysing it, and sending it on to Washington. With the achievement of the early nuclear arms control agreements, this capacity became essential to the willingness of the United States to enter into such agreements with the Soviet Union, because it ensured detection of any deception or cheating by the Soviet Union with its subsequent missile development.
If you want stable nuclear deterrence, then you need verifiable arms control agreements, and so you have to accept Pine Gap.
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The first is that the Cold War has ended. The Soviet Union has gone. The United States and China do have a nuclear deterrence relationship, but it is of a quite different nature — anything but balanced, with what the Chinese rightly call their minimum means of retaliation, and the US maintaining its massive nuclear superiority. There are worrying aspects of this relationship, but the point here is that compared with the US-Soviet balance, China is in a vastly weaker position regarding the United States, all the more so with its deterrent force almost equally concerned with India and Russia.
I could also add the obvious systemic difference with the Cold War — notably the economic coupling of China, Australia and the United States. This economic interdependence does not of itself, as liberal theorists would have us believe, render war impossible, but it does mean that we are facing a situation more complex and unprecedented than the Cold War structure of containment and exclusive economic blocs. The Australian government insists it supports nuclear disarmament, and so would logically want both two countries to limit their nuclear weapons.
Moreover all three share that interest with the 30 plus countries that have substantial ballistic missile capacities — and their neighbours. Australia wants North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, and Pine Gap certainly is involved in intercepting telemetry from DPRK missile tests, as well those in India and Pakistan.
It is time we started asking about the utility of the information Pine Gap collects on such matters for the wider human interest — including the or so countries that are not nuclear weapons states but would be deeply affected by nuclear use.
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My own position is that while there are some important gaps in our technical knowledge of Pine Gap and the global US intelligence systems of which it is technologically and organisationally a crucial part, there is much that we do know that permits us to make even preliminary judgments on these questions, and which should set the direction of urgent policy development by a new generation of Australian and international researchers.
Let me finish by re-connecting these comments on the bases with the national discussion concerning the alliance between Australia and the United States, thinking in broad terms about what Australia should and should not be doing. We should not rush to deepen the already extensive military and intelligence cooperation with Japan through a comprehensive defence treaty of mutual defence. We should not repeat the errors of unthinking participation in the United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of which served Australian strategic interests, and both of which have ended, after huge expenditures of blood and treasure and enormous toll in Afghan and Iraqi life, as enormous political failures.
As many argued rightly at the time, the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction on which the Iraq invasion was based was both wrong and falsified. What has not yet been fully absorbed from the Iraq lesson, and which is being occluded again in the case of Syria, is the profound dysfunctionality of the world order that permits some countries to possess nuclear weapons but insists, even at the precise instance of initiating aggressive wars, that other countries may not be permitted to do so.
Much of what I have said about the place of United States military and intelligence bases in Australia points to the need for a re-balancing of the American alliance. In recent years, the combination of Australian enthusiasm for US wars and expanded American role definition for niche allies, with the mantras of interoperability and shared global strategic interests has pushed the alliance into a misplaced hyper-integration.
Re-balancing will involve once again assessing the strategic grand bargain made on behalf of Australians by their governments, without public debate and acknowledgment, under which US military and intelligence facilities, with their concomitant strategic dangers and political costs. These have been accepted in return for Australian access to higher levels of US military technology than comparable allies such as Japan, access to intelligence otherwise likely to be denied, and a seat at the table where decisions are made in Washington.
Whether that seat comes with a speaking role, whether that intelligence is necessary and irreplaceable, and whether that military technology is necessary and only available from the United States are part of the assessment of the appropriate point of balance for the alliance as a whole.
The primary requirement is a fundamental debate about defence and the security of Australia, where key issues are the identification of both Australian national interests and Australians sharing of global human interests.
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The four most dismaying aspects of security debates in this country in recent decades have been. This should be accompanied by a broad and undoubtedly troubling discussion of our relationship to possible conflict between the United States and China, and specifically why the default setting of Australian defence policy is against China.
This is by no means to advocate anything like a replacement of one with the other, but rather to begin to explore and tease out the very different elements that have led us to this point, and what might be done to generate a more sustainable national consensus. Australians, more multiculturally diverse than they were half a century ago, remain the cultural children of European settler colonialism, nationally born in the historically anomalous era of Chinese subordination.
As Hugh White has usefully emphasized, Australians find the idea of Asia, including Austral-Asia becoming a Chinese sphere of influence — in fact the civilizational norm — something which is inherently unsettling. Geography means that Indonesia is always a primary candidate for such projections. It is a commonplace now to remark on the distortions and failings of that relationship, which is asymmetric, volatile, uneven, hemmed in by social distance and cultural ignorance, and dominated by government-government connections.
Despite proximity and increasingly shared interests, shared, business linkages are thin, and civil society linkages thinner still. Australian political leaders seem addicted to abrupt and short-sighted policy formulation that either affects Indonesian legitimate interests or depends on Indonesian cooperation — often without even a fig leaf of respectful advance consultation. Geography dictates that Indonesia will always be a core Australian defence concern. In the Sukarno era Australian defence planning about Indonesia was dominated by geo-strategic fears. Yet a great deal has also changed, and it is now clearer than ever before that Australians share many interests with Indonesians.
Australians need to add into their considerations about a re-balancing of the American alliance the question of what will be involved in moving Australia and Indonesia towards a relationship based on shared interests and values. It may well be too early to talk of the two countries forming a security community, where problems and disagreements will be resolved peacefully and cooperatively.
But we can have some confidence we can do better than the present. But the clearly articulated promises of the agreement remain as desirable today as they are unfulfilled, with aims to:. In the longer run a bilateral or multilateral security community, built on an understanding of shared problems and an imperative of genuinely understood shared need for cooperative security, is surely what needs to be thought about. What would it take to move Australia and Indonesia to the point where they constitute an at least preliminary or nascent security community?
A suite of difficulties, obstacles, blind spots, and possible missteps come readily to mind, and there is much that has to be talked about, probably with some difficulty, but this may well be the most important task for an Australian community wide debate about a pathway to a defensible Australia.
These are not simply Australian issues — they are rather just the particular inflections of problems of autonomy faced by all US allies and countries hosting US military facilities, but especially by those in Asia and the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. Part of the particularly Australian problem has been the inability to see the world in non-imperial terms. His website can be found here , and he may be reached by email here. My thanks to the Institute and its director, Professor Ruth Wallace, for the invitation to participate in the symposium, and to those participating in the subsequent discussions.
I am grateful, as ever, to Mark Selden for his patient and constructive editing.
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I am also grateful to Malcolm Fraser for stimulating argument and discussion of many of the issues in this paper. Chandler, Jr. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U. Lostumbo et al, Overseas Basing of U. Space Fence facility announced , U. Air Force, 25 September Intelligence analysts who have left government have talked in general terms of the very large quantity and significant quality of intelligence Australia receives from being in the UKUSA Five Eyes club, much if not most of which Australia would not receive in the absence of the agreements to host Pine Gap in particular. Pour publier des articles de Mondialisation.
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Nick Turse: U. Google Earth, December MUOS and WGS ground terminals are located in the upper left arm of the facility Under two agreements signed in , Kojarena has become closely integrated with US communications systems in two ways. Holt Naval Communications Station, North West Cape But a second new facility to be built at North West Cape is even more important, bringing Australia into the powerful pull of US determination to establish what it formally calls dominance in space. VLF antennas at Harold E. To cut a long story short, several aspects are highly relevant to our concerns here: Pine Gap, and the wider US global signals intelligence system of which it is a part, now integrates surveillance and monitoring of global internet and email traffic and mobile telephone use.
Pine Gap undoubtedly has a major role in providing signals intelligence in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This has now extended to US counter-terrorism operations, including the provision of data facilitating drone strike targeting in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen in close to real time. Redefining Australian National Interests and Global Human Interests The primary requirement is a fundamental debate about defence and the security of Australia, where key issues are the identification of both Australian national interests and Australians sharing of global human interests.
Related The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against US Military Posts (Transnational Institute)
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