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Trilateral Defense: What is ANZUS and What is Its Impact on the South Pacific

  • Australia and New Zealand found themselves facing increasing tensions with the rise of communism after the Second World War;
  • Due to controversies related to anti-nuclear policies, New Zealand formally withdrew from the treaty;
  • ANZUS can be considered an embryo for initiatives such as QUAD and AUKUS.

In the context of the post-Second World War, faced with geopolitical tensions in the Pacific region and the formation of NATO by European allies in 1949, Australia and New Zealand found themselves in search of direct security.

The ANZUS Treaty was an innovative and independent response in a post-war scenario, marking the first time that Australia formed a defense alliance without the direct participation of Britain.

Source: Wikipedia

What is ANZUS and how did it come about?

ANZUS is a trilateral security treaty that originally involved Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The acronym “ANZUS” represents the initials of the three participating countries. This treaty was signed on September 1, 1951 in San Francisco, California, and came into force on April 29, 1952.

After World War II, Australia and New Zealand found themselves facing increasing tensions with the rise of communism in China and Korea. Concerned about the possible neglect of Pacific interests by the key European allies who formed NATO in 1949, these nations sought a more direct partnership with the United States to ensure continued security in the Pacific region.

The delicate political scenario led to the proposal and signing of the ANZUS Treaty in 1951, marking the first time that Australia formed a political alliance without the direct participation of Great Britain, causing some tension at the time in the relationship between the two countries. The treaty, in force since 1952, establishes military and defense commitments between Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

It is worth mentioning that, in 1986, New Zealand formally withdrew from the ANZUS treaty, due to controversies related to anti-nuclear policies, when New Zealand proclaimed its country a nuclear weapons-free zone and refused to authorize the visit of submarines powered by US nuclear power to its ports.

What are the objectives of the ANZUS treaty?

The main objective of ANZUS was to promote the security and mutual defense of signatories in the Pacific region.

The treaty states that an armed attack against either party would be considered a threat to the peace and security of the region and therefore an appropriate response would be required, including appropriate measures to restore and maintain security.

Here are some examples of how this structure works:

  • Shared Intelligence: Countries can share intelligence information to address common security threats.
  • Joint Military Exercises: Conducting joint military exercises to improve the interoperability of armed forces and strengthen military ties.
  • Consultation on Security Issues: Maintenance of formal consultation channels between the three countries to discuss security issues in the Pacific region.
  • Diplomacy and Foreign Relations: Coordination of diplomatic efforts on regional and global issues to promote common interests.
  • Cooperation in Peace Operations: Joint participation in peace operations and humanitarian missions under the auspices of international organizations.
  • Defense Capability Development: Collaboration in the modernization and development of defense capabilities, including the acquisition of military technology and security research.
  • Military Training: Offering training opportunities for military personnel in military institutions and academies in partner countries.
  • Humanitarian Disaster Response Operations: Cooperation in response efforts to natural and humanitarian disasters, including mutual assistance in crisis situations.
  • Development of Common Security Strategies: Collaboration in the formulation of regional and global security strategies that benefit the three countries.
  • Cooperation in Scientific and Technological Research: Partnerships in scientific and technological research with applications in defense and security.

How does the Treaty work?

The ANZUS Treaty is made up of eleven articles and actions to address common threats include resources, diplomacy and, if necessary, armed intervention.

Despite having been formally invoked only once, in 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks in New York, the ANZUS alliance indirectly influenced Australia and New Zealand’s commitment to sending troops to fight alongside the Americans in the United States War. Vietnam.

Another example that highlights the importance of the ANZUS alliance occurred during the Gulf War in 1990-1991. Although New Zealand did not directly participate in this operation, both Australia and the United States were active in it, demonstrating the cooperation and coordination between the two countries within the scope of ANZUS.

During the Gulf War, an international coalition led by the United States was formed in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Australia was one of the key members of this coalition, contributing military forces to Operation Desert Storm, which aimed to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Cooperation between the United States and Australia, driven in part by the commitment made under the ANZUS treaty, was evident in several respects:

  • Joint Military Participation: Australian military forces have integrated into US-led operations in the Persian Gulf, including significant contributions of personnel and equipment.
  • Strategic Coordination: There was effective strategic coordination between the military leaders of the two countries, sharing intelligence and resources to achieve the coalition’s objectives.
  • Shared Logistics Base: Logistics bases have been established in Australia to support coalition operations, serving as crucial points for resupply and maintenance.
  • Commitment to Regional Stability: Australia’s active participation in the coalition demonstrated continued commitment to stability and security in the Pacific region, aligned with the principles underlying ANZUS.

Therefore, although New Zealand withdrew from the ANZUS alliance in 1986, this example highlights how cooperation under the treaty was critical in crisis situations and how the principles of the alliance can be applied in joint military operations even today between the United States and Australia.

The impact of ANZUS on geopolitics and regional security

Over the years, questions about the alliance’s contemporary relevance have arisen, especially with the change in US policies towards New Zealand since the 1980s. Although the treaty has not been formally revoked, its practical application has been affected.

Although the treaty continues between the United States and Australia, New Zealand’s participation has been suspended, resulting in the initial trilaterality being reduced to a bilateral relationship between the United States and each of the other two countries.

Despite these issues, ANZUS continues to influence cooperation between Australia, New Zealand and the United States on security issues. Activities such as the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations, intelligence sharing, military exchanges and joint exercises persist, keeping the essence of the alliance alive in practice, even as its original form has evolved over the decades.

As a development of ANZUS, the United States and Australia are currently involved in two other groups that target security in the Indo-Pacific region: QUAD and AUKUS.

QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) is a security initiative between the US, Australia, India and Japan, aiming to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. AUKUS (Australia-United Kingdom-United States Security Partnership) is a trilateral partnership focused on security and defense, notably the development of nuclear submarines, in response to Chinese influence, as well as the Quad.

Additionally, the rotating presence of 2,000 U.S. Marines in Darwin, northern Australia, represents a concerted effort to strengthen the U.S. military presence in the region and address strategic challenges, signaling a collective response to changing geopolitical dynamics in the Indo-Pacific. In practice, the potential containment of China in this region.

Thus, ANZUS can be considered an embryo for these more recent initiatives, highlighting the evolution of strategic collaboration between the United States and Australia to address security challenges in the vast Indo-Pacific region.

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