And trouble in the East as well …

Tyrants prefer to move when their enemies are weak, divided or both.  So no surprise to see Russia’s Vladimir Putin fresh from his triumph in coercing Moldova, to stirring up trouble in the Balkans, supporting Belarus’s migrant-based diplomacy, blackmailing the EU over energy supplies this winter, and ratcheting up the threat of military action against Ukraine.

Well, that’s the view from the London-based Daily Telegraph, which points out that Putin has been sending clear and consistent messages, (punctuated by use of force in Georgia, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine):

Continue reading “And trouble in the East as well …”

Trouble on the North West frontier

It was back in 1982, when then-President Ronald Reagan said “freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history”.

Remind me again when that stopped being policy.

Certainly, there was a case for soft-pedalling the rhetoric and crossing fingers when Deng Xiaoping’s China was obediently joining the world economy and making pacific agreements on Hong Kong.

Continue reading “Trouble on the North West frontier”

NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too

Both the RNZAF and RNZN are deeply engaged in Bersama Gold 2021, an exercise under the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) linking Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom and now under way in the waters between Malaysia and Singapore.

In one of the biggest deployments in recent times, the RNZAF has sent a P-3K2 Orion and the navy the fleet replenishment ship HMNZ Aotearoa and the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha. The latter will join the exercise after completing a week of sailing with the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 21 in the South China Sea.

Our contacts are coy about whether this might involve Te Kaha in a transit of the Taiwan Straits with the carrier strike group.

The FPDA is an arrangement in which all five countries agree to consult one another on measures taken separately or together in response to any attack or threat of attack to Malaysia or Singapore. Under the FPDA several exercises have been held since the formation of the agreement in 1971.

The ongoing Bersama Gold 2021 exercise is an enlarged biennial Bersama Shield exercise but  was renamed to Gold to reflect the 50th anniversary of the FPDA. Continue reading “NZ forces take part in Five Power exercise in S.E.Asia – Henare may head for Malaysia soon, too”

AUKUS – it’s all very well expressing our moral repugnance but that won’t halt China’s bullying

“AUKUS  logic  is  morally  repugnant,  and NZ  must  resist  it”  ran the  headline  over a leader- page  feature  in the  Dominion-Post recently.

In  the article beneath that advice, Thomas  Nash, co-director of the independent  think-tank, New Zealand Alternative,  argued the  AUKUS  alliance  between Australia, the  United Kingdom  and the United  States has  triggered a  dangerous line  in commentary  questioning this country’s nuclear-free  status.

Nash  says  many of the opinion writers appear to prioritise  a  militarist  worldview  but  he  contends if we  are to  enjoy a  peaceful  future, we should  do the  exact  opposite  “and  forge closer  relations  that  share our  anti-nuclear  values”.

NZ should resist  pressure to  fall  into line with  the military  power  of the  US, the  UK and  Australia.

Instead of focusing  our  diplomatic  and  security  efforts on the  Five  Eyes, he argues, we should strengthen our  relationships  in Asean  countries, Latin America,  and in our neighbouring nuclear-free Pacific  Islands. Continue reading “AUKUS – it’s all very well expressing our moral repugnance but that won’t halt China’s bullying”

Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach

Defence strategists have begun considering how AUKUS, the Australia-US-UK nuclear submarine project, will ultimately impact on New Zealand.  In broad terms, it effectively welds Canberra tightly to the US in strategic and political affairs.

But there are  questions whether the deal might run foul of the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Wellington and Canberra are linked by closer defence relations. A joint statement issued in 2018 says:

As close neighbours and allies, we have a mutual commitment to support each other’s security, closely coordinate our efforts in the South Pacific, and maintain a shared focus on the security and stability of our broader region. The formal expression of our alliance and security partnership is found in the 1944 Canberra Pact, ANZUS Treaty and through Australia – New Zealand Closer Defence Relations instigated in 1991. Continue reading “Nuclear submarine pact raises defence questions for NZ as Aussies get closer to the US and extend their global reach”

Our air defences are down – only some RNZAF aircraft can reach for the sky as Orions are retired

There are sad faces around Whenuapai today as the RNZAF retires the first of its five Lockheed Orions.

The aircraft is flying to Woodbourne for breaking and parting – essentially for spares.

The Orions came into service in 1966 and have become a familiar presence in the south Pacific, saving countless missing fishermen and yacht crews.

The first of four Boeing P-8A Poseidons is due in NZ in 2023 to replace the old Lockheeds.

Our contacts are also lamenting the current state of the air force’s transport. We understand only two of  five Lockheed Hercules are currently airworthy while the service is down to only one Boeing 757 – the other one is in for engineering work and engine installation.

No 40 Squadron hopes there won’t be a sudden demand for air transport, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Old hands put the current state of decay down to decades of inattention and under-funding by successive governments.

New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate

The immediate reaction in the UK to the AUKUS announcement was focused less on the UK’s new commitment and more on the lamentations of French politicians at the loss of a $90 billion Australian submarine deal.  It was left to former PM Theresa May to probe unsuccessfully the extent of Britain’s obligation to defend Taiwan.

Chuckles aside, you might think that anything which outrages France and China has something going for it.  

Continue reading “New Zealand’s absence from AUKUS is very much part of the debate”

Ardern govt surprised by news of Aussie decision to buy nuclear subs and form new security partnership

What do you do when your neighbour goes nuclear?

The Ardern  government will be tackling that question after being taken aback by news the Australians are to buy US nuclear attack submarines and will form a new trilateral security partnership to be called AUKUS.

Our Beehive connections tell us PM Jacinda Ardern was briefed by Australian PM Scott Morrison last night.

We are tempted to say these developments confirm how far NZ has slipped off the map in terms of a regional defence power. Our contacts say the Beehive is still grappling with how come NZ wasn’t consulted about the new security partnership – or even invited.

Canberra will acquire several Virginia Class nuclear attack submarines. A $A90 billion plan to buy French nuclear submarines and convert them to diesel-electric power will be abandoned. Continue reading “Ardern govt surprised by news of Aussie decision to buy nuclear subs and form new security partnership”

Aussie ministers head overseas on defence and security mission – their Kiwi counterparts seem to prefer foreign affairs via Zoom

Australia’s defense and foreign affairs ministers have begun a four-nation tour to press economic and security relationships within the Asia-Pacific region as tensions rise with China.

Peter Dutton and Marise Payne are visiting Indonesia, India and South Korea and will  end their travels in the United States.  In Washington DC they hope to conclude a raft of major defence and strategic agreements, including the provision of new missile technology.

This raises the question of New Zealand’s Defence Minister, Peeni Henare, and his handling of those sorts of issues.  Apart from issuing the occasional media statement, he seems to be missing in action.

True, he does have other portfolios – Minister of Whanau Ora and associate minister of Health, Housing and Tourism.  Beehive insiders say he seems to pay little attention to the Defence portfolio.

As with his mentor, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, he is said to be reluctant to travel.  This  seems at odds with the demands of both portfolios because each of them requires a network of personal contacts, which is impossible to sustain by Zoom. Continue reading “Aussie ministers head overseas on defence and security mission – their Kiwi counterparts seem to prefer foreign affairs via Zoom”

From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission

It’s out of the Covid frying pan in Auckland and into the fire of Afghanistan for a  Defence Force deployment charged with evacuating Kiwi nationals and Afghan allies from that benighted country.

We learned of this from a Stuff account of the PM’s 1pm Covid-19 press conference, when she said Cabinet had approved up to 80 personnel to support the international response.

According to Stuff, an Air Force C130 Hercules departed Auckland at about 10.20am today, carrying some of the contingent. Continue reading “From Covid lockdown to Kabul – Hercules takes off on evacuation mission”