Despite the justifications, Australia’s plan to acquire long-range missiles won’t make the country or the region safer.

In the name of keeping the nation safe, Australia is joining the Asia-Pacific’s accelerating missile race. However, not only will it not keep the nation safe, it will stoke an uncontrolled fire that is engulfing the region’s strategic landscape. The wise response would be to throw everything at firefighting – at garnering international support for a formal arms-control dialogue, a missile moratorium and the creation of a new arms-control architecture to replace the now-defunct INF treaty, the lapsing of which has allowed this fire to spread.

To the contrary, the Morrison government is choosing to feed the flames. It’s the worst of all options – arguably even worse than doing nothing.

The government’s plans to acquire long-range missiles and other advanced weapons systems for use in high-intensity military conflicts were publicly revealed in the release of the 2020 Defence Strategic Update (DSU) on 1 July. The plan, which has received loud support from former Australian defence officials, is likely to involve the purchase of 200 long-range missiles from the United States and the longer-term development of Australia’s own advanced strike systems, potentially including hypersonic weapons. (Although it is not widely known, Australia is capable of developing the latter, following more than a decade of close hypersonics collaboration with the US.)

Three main justifications are given for spending billions of taxpayer dollars on implementing this new plan, at a time when the nation’s resources are stretched thin by the global pandemic.

The first is that the pandemic itself has increased strategic uncertainty and made it necessary for Australia to become more self-reliant. While there may well be some truth in this, it smacks of a post-hoc rationalisation, given that discussion surrounding the DSU preceded the pandemic.

Please click here to read the full “Stoking the fire of Asia-Pacific missile proliferation article originally published at The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute, Adjunct Researcher, Dr Tanya Ogilvie-White