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Strategic Assessment (Quarter 3, 2021)

Port Services personnel wait in preparation as Collins Class Submarine HMAS Sheean comes alongside Diamantina Pier at Fleet Base West after being deployed for five months.


The fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August, and the announcement of the Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership in September, mark the third quarter (Q3) 2021 Strategic Assessment as covering the most significant strategic developments since these assessments began. Despite the extensive recent commentary about the end of the West’s campaign in Afghanistan and the beginning of an important new strategic partnership, there is still a great deal of unknown detail about what each will ultimately mean. Accordingly this assessment errs on the side of caution with respect to detailing what is known fact, rather than narrating speculation and opinion. In time, as further information emerges and detailed objective analysis is possible, these topics will be subject to further examination.

While there is considerable strategic novelty in this Q3 Strategic Assessment, the COVID-19 pandemic remains the subject of ongoing analysis.
Australia continues to battle the emergence of the Delta strain of the virus, with record case numbers informing lockdowns in some places of hitherto unprecedented length. Globally the Delta strain and other variants are also increasingly problematic. This is challenging formerly optimistic forecasts. There is a developing realisation among public officials that the impacts of the pandemic will certainly continue well beyond the deployment of vaccines.

The ongoing nexus between the pandemic and the economy remains under review. This assessment covers recent Reserve Bank of Australia thinking on the subject. Related to economics, the paper also looks at the growing cyber phenomenon of ransomware attacks.

Apart from AUKUS, this assessment also details the release of other nations’ national policy statements regarding strategy and security. It examines those of Japan and Russia, highlighting again the perennial importance to Australia of understanding the geopolitics and power relativities of the Indo-Pacific region. Finally, the war in Afghanistan may be over but rebellion, insurrection and terrorism endure. This assessment briefly examines some of these issues in areas as disparate as Latin America, the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa.

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