The Pacific Defense Environment in Flux: An Australian Nuclear Option?


2014-02-04 We have launched a forum on the second nuclear age, with Paul Bracken as the guest editor.

In a piece by Australian analyst Christine Leah, the pressure on Australia to re-consider its nuclear option is discussed.


Things are changing again in Asia – in a dramatic way.

And the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. force posture seems to be diminishing just as the major Asian powers become more assertive.

In a context of rapidly shifting geopolitical relativities, Australia may soon have to reconsider its attitudes towards deterrence – including by nuclear weapons.

U.S. extended nuclear deterrence has never really been “tested” for Australia. During the Cold War successive Australian governments concluded that a major attack (conventional or nuclear) against Downunder was unlikely to occur outside the context of a general world war.

In other words, there were no plausible threats to Australia that would not also threaten the United States.

As such, the credibility of US nuclear deterrence only ever had to be measured against the PRC and USSR.

But the geopolitical situation in the Asia-Pacific has already undergone dramatic change.

There are now several major military powers jockeying for their share of prestige, power, territory, and military influence in the region.

And Australia doesn’t quite know how to live in a region that isn’t dominated by the Western maritime power of the day.

For the complete article see the following:

Christine Leah is a Stanton Post-doctoral fellow at MIT and the author of  “Australia and Nuclear Strategy”, which is her PhD dissertation and being prepared for publication.

Editor’s Note: It is not widely realized but Australia is buying and developing the youngest and most modern Air Force among the global democracies.