By ERWN CHLANDA
If the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has any impact on the defence relationships between Australia and the United States, then this could have a significant impact on the economy and on employment in Alice Springs.
This was stated by Mayor Damien Ryan when asked to comment on the outcome of the American election today, given that he is the mayor of the town that hosts Pine Gap, which is described as one the the USA’s most important overseas military assets.
The town council’s current policy about Pine Gap is that it “supports the retention of the American / Australian Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, and acknowledges the importance of this Facility for the defence of Australian territory and for the economic and social benefit of Alice Springs”.
UPDATE November 10, 10:30am
“For the first time in seven decades, a leading US presidential candidate is fundamentally questioning the usefulness of America’s overseas alliances and forward military presence, calling into question some enduring tenets of US grand strategy.”
So wrote three senior global security experts earlier this year.
Today that candidate is the president elect of the United States and the policies shaped by his views may have a fundamental impact on Alice Springs, home to the US spy base Pine Gap (photo by Kristian Laemmle- Ruff), one of the States’ major overseas military assets. It is also the town’s second-biggest employer.
Mayor Damien Ryan (below, left) drew attention to these possible consequences yesterday as Donald Trump was making his first triumphant public appearance following his landslide election win which – as did Brexit – took the world by surprise.
What’s more, Mr Trump won’t have to contend with a hostile Congress with turned much his of predecessor’s “yes, we can” agenda into pipe dreams.
This is what Kathleen H. Hicks, Michael J. Green and Heather A. Conley in April wrote in Foreign Policy Magazine under the heading “Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand the Value of US Bases Overseas”:-
“As this debate unsettles our allies in Europe, Asia, and beyond, the American people are asking: Have we been getting a bad international deal all these years?
“Donald Trump, the candidate most critical of America’s alliance relationships [alleges some partners] cheated the United States in economic relations while free-riding on our mutual security treaty.
“Without reviewing here the history of Asian security dynamics, it is safe to summarize that such an approach could create significant conflict challenges in Asia that would threaten global economic stability.
“Asia is now home to two thirds of total global economic growth; some 40 percent of US trade goods pass through the region.
“Despite claims by Trump and others to the contrary, the agreements the United States has negotiated with countries such as Germany, Japan, and South Korea to base our forces there are advantageous.”
The alternatives to forward basing are financially and strategically challenging, says Foreign Policy Magazine.
Finding room to base US forces currently in Japan, South Korea, and Europe, about 114,000 personnel, inside US territory would force the United States to absorb the costs entirely.
As is the case with Australia, the host countries absorb part of that cost.
“Even if host-nation support does not fully cover the costs of US overseas basing, a forward American military presence is economically beneficial.
“An alternative is to cut all forward force structure from [America’s] military altogether, a strategically naive approach given current and projected challenges.
“At a time when North Korea is conducting wargames for nuclear attacks on Washington and the Islamic State is planning terrorist attacks on the [American] homeland, does it make sense for us to publicly throw into doubt our entire system of alliances and forward bases?” says Foreign Policy Magazine.
“As Russia changes borders by force, China asserts itself militarily in the South China Sea, and the Islamic State unleashes violence around the globe, many allies are increasing their defense spending and cooperating more closely with the United States.
“Washington must reward their efforts, not leave them in the lurch.”
By ERWN CHLANDA