U.S.-Australia Alliance Never More Important, Gates, Clinton Write

MELBOURNE, Aus­tralia, Nov. 8, 2010 — Asia’s secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment presents a new and com­plex mix of chal­lenges that make the U.S.-Australia alliance as crit­i­cal today as any time in its his­to­ry, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton wrote in a joint­ly by-lined opin­ion arti­cle pub­lished in an Aus­tralian news­pa­per today.

“The diplo­mat­ic, mil­i­tary, and eco­nom­ic ties between our two coun­tries have nev­er been more impor­tant – to the secu­ri­ty and well-being not just of our own cit­i­zens, but region­al­ly and glob­al­ly as well,” they wrote in the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald in advance of the 25th anniver­sary Aus­tralia-Unit­ed States Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­sul­ta­tions here.

Dur­ing the Nov. 8 sum­mit, Gates, Clin­ton and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with their Aus­tralian hosts, For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and Defense Min­is­ter Stephen Smith, to chart the way for­ward for their long­stand­ing alliance as it works to shape a more sta­ble, pros­per­ous region in light of cur­rent and emerg­ing threats and chal­lenges.

“Today’s secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment in Asia presents a new and com­plex mix of secu­ri­ty chal­lenges: the emer­gence of ris­ing pow­ers; the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dan­ger­ous weapons and mate­ri­als; the age-old scourge of pira­cy; and the threat of vio­lent extrem­ism,” the sec­re­taries wrote.

“As a Pacif­ic nation, the Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to meet­ing these chal­lenges and defend­ing our inter­ests in Asia,” they con­tin­ued. “Much as it has for the past cen­tu­ry, America’s future will con­tin­ue to be tied to Asia’s suc­cess.”

This, they explained, is why the Unit­ed States is strength­en­ing its defense pres­ence and pos­ture in the Pacif­ic, includ­ing mod­ern­iz­ing base arrange­ments and air, naval and mis­sile defense capa­bil­i­ties. At the same time, the Unit­ed States is for­ward-deploy­ing oth­er ele­ments of its nation­al pow­er: diplo­mats and devel­op­ment experts who are work­ing through­out the region to bol­ster rela­tion­ships key to long-term secu­ri­ty.

Gates and Clin­ton not­ed the chal­lenges the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia share beyond their imme­di­ate hori­zons, in Afghanistan. They praised Aus­tralia which “is once more punch­ing well above its weight” as the largest non-NATO con­trib­u­tor of com­bat troops, with the lead role in help­ing the Afghan army and police in Uruz­gan province build capac­i­ty.

“We rec­og­nize, as do our allies and part­ners, that the road ahead in Afghanistan will not be easy – or short,” the sec­re­taries said.

They not­ed with agree­ment Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Julia Gillard’s recent state­ment that even after the Afghan gov­ern­ment starts tak­ing the secu­ri­ty lead for some provinces next sum­mer, the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty will remain engaged in Afghanistan for years to come to com­bat vio­lent extrem­ist net­works, strength­en the rule of law, and pro­mote eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment.

“This com­mit­ment is essen­tial to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for vio­lent extrem­ists of glob­al reach,” Gates and Clin­ton wrote.

Mean­while, the sec­re­taries not­ed that the U.S.-Australian alliance con­tin­ues to adapt to bet­ter address age-old chal­lenges and con­front new ones – a sub­ject to be addressed dur­ing the sum­mit.

Gates and Clin­ton not­ed improved col­lab­o­ra­tion in coun­ter­pira­cy, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and dis­as­ter response, among oth­er areas. Today, they and their Aus­tralian hosts will sign a new Space Sit­u­a­tion­al Aware­ness Part­ner­ship State­ment of Prin­ci­ples that will pro­mote clos­er coop­er­a­tion on intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance.

“The U.S. mil­i­tary part­ner­ship with Aus­tralia will con­tin­ue to play a vital role, defend­ing against cur­rent threats while also prepar­ing for those on or beyond the hori­zon,” the sec­re­taries wrote.

But the impor­tance of the alliance, they said, extends beyond mil­i­tary pow­er. It includes all ele­ments of nation­al pow­er and inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion need­ed to fos­ter a sta­ble, pros­per­ous region gov­erned by inter­na­tion­al norms and rule of law, they not­ed.

Gates and Clin­ton empha­sized the need to work mul­ti­lat­er­al­ly as well as bilat­er­al­ly, build­ing part­ners through­out the region and help­ing enhance their capa­bil­i­ties so they can work col­lec­tive­ly to tack­le region­al chal­lenges.

The sec­re­taries called the min­is­te­r­i­al an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on the alliance’s strength and resilien­cy through its his­to­ry and to help shape it for what’s ahead.

“Draw­ing wis­dom and inspi­ra­tion from what we have achieved togeth­er, the U.S. and Aus­tralia stand ready to con­front the chal­lenges of this new cen­tu­ry, just as we over­come the threats and obsta­cles of the last,” they wrote.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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