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Our Region (Spotlight Brief 5/21)

The content in this article is an extract of Spotlight Brief 5/21.

An officer from the New Caledonian Armed Forces and an Australian Army soldier signal the end of live firing during Exercise Hydra 2019 at Greenbank Training Area, Queensland, Australia.

Military Modernisation in Southeast Asia in the Indo-Pacific Strategic Context

Defense and Security Analysis – May 21

In this article, Shang-su Wu seeks to explain the relationship between the Indo-Pacific security system and the military modernisation in South-East Asia. While seemingly self-evident, Wu finds this relationship is much more complicated due to the differing national security priorities of each nation, ranging from great power competition through to traditional, non-military national security concerns. Wu finds that across these differing views, the two common, key driving factors are a desire to increase national influence in the region and a desire to deter. This applies to both sides of the modernisation contract; nations that sell capabilities seek these factors as much as those that purchase. From this work, Wu finds that the centre of gravity in preserving the status quo lies with three key nations, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Understanding why these three are linchpins and how these nations interact is critical for understanding Australia’s approach and points the Army can support its partners.


‘Money-Saving Approach to Modernizing Arsenals Could Cost SE Asian Nations’, BenarNews, 12 May 21

‘What’s impeding Indonesia’s Military Ambitions?’, Defense News, 10 May 21

‘Asian Military Spending: A Sign of Worsening Security Environment,’ Observer Research Foundation, 04 Mar 21

‘How is ASEAN Military Faring in Recent Global FirePower Ranking?’ The Online Citizen, 25 Jan 21

‘Understanding Vietnam’s Military Modernization Efforts,’ The Diplomat, 25 Nov 20

Burden Sharing: The US, Australia and New Zealand Alliances in the Pacific Islands

International Affairs – Jul 21

Joanne Wallis and Anna Powles argue it is time to reconsider how governments conceive alliance management and burden sharing between states. They suggest the geostrategic environment has generated a greater need for non-military contributions to alliance partnerships. By way of example, they highlight the relationship between the US, Australia, and New Zealand when working with the Pacific Islands. The US can be relied upon for ‘hard power,’ particularly military capability and economic might. As a middle power, Australia has a combination of both hard power and ‘soft power,’ that is, persuasive tools such as cultural, institutional, and other intangible mechanisms. Despite being a small state, New Zealand’s history, geography and demography have strengthened its sense of identity with the region, so it has more soft power than either the US or Australia. Wallis and Powles posit that each respective contribution is valuable, and that the latter two are often under-appreciated in discussions of burden sharing.


‘America’s Strategy in Oceania: Time for a Better Approach’, War on the Rocks, 19 Jul 21

‘The Peaks and Troughs of ANZUS at 70,’ The Strategist, 27 Apr 21

‘The Americans are Coming,’ Inside Story, 15 Apr 21

‘The Kangaroo and the Kiwi: Growing Divergence between Cross-Tasman Allies,’ Young Australians in International Affairs, 03 Apr 21

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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