“Faith Alone” Not Enough to Prevent War

Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday, United States Lieutenant General Stephen Sklenka, Deputy Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, stated: “I do not think conflict is inevitable … [but] you’re paying me not to live on hope, you’re paying me to be ready”.

China’s president Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to be prepared for kinetic military action by 2027. Conflict is not a certainty, and to paraphrase Sklenka, Xi might not “go for it” in 2027. Nonetheless, “faith alone” is not enough to prevent war.

The United States is invested in Australia because of our shared history and because the stability of our region – the Indo-Pacific – matters in the continuation of a free and prosperous world. The Indo-Pacific is home to 50% of the world’s population, nine (9) of ten (10) of the world’s biggest seaports, and five (5) of the world’s nine (9) nuclear powers.

Sklenka was at pains to describe his love for Australia and the “truly special relationship” our nations share. To this day, the official song of the 1st Marine Division remains Waltzing Matilda – and all current and former members of that division stand at attention when they hear the song. Sklenka stated: “[our countries have] true bonds forged by shared sacrifice, by shared commitment, and shared ideals”. AUKUS is the latest step in this long collaborative history. The alliance is designed to provide contemporary and effective deterrence against unwanted military action in the region, and when the submarines arrive the alliance is projected to have an advanced and unmatched underwater capability.

Importantly, Sklenka highlighted the fact that, even under the AUKUS arrangement, if the US enters a conflict, Australia will not be automatically expected to participate. More than 400 Australian submariners will eventually be expected to serve on board American submarines. Despite this Sklenka said that the US government will not have “kidnapped” these Australian men and women, and Australia’s entry into any future conflict will be a decision for the Australian government alone.

25 May 2024 | Authored by Connor Andreatidis, Consultant, Precision Public Affairs

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