The United States and Australia have had a remarkable first ‘100 Years of Mateship.’ From fighting shoulder to shoulder in the Battle of Hamel in World War I to sharing the front-lines in the Global War on Terror, our two countries’ enduring bond has been forged under fire and defined by courage, commitment, and grit.
This bond was reinforced as President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of ‘unknown’ origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: ‘I try to bail out as much as possible’ after sneezes MORE recently welcomed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to the White House in what was only the second state visit of the Trump presidency. The two world leaders also traveled to Ohio to open Wapakoneta’s new box making factory, underscoring how our nations’ strategic partnership is creating jobs and keeping us safer on both sides of the Pacific. I witnessed firsthand the vitality of this bilateral security and economic relationship during the summer when, as part of my oversight responsibilities on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I returned to Australia. I met with elected officials and defense leaders to discuss our cooperation on joint readiness, regional security and support, cybersecurity, freedom of navigation, and other issues that will only continue to grow in strategic interest for our two nations throughout the 21st century. As we look to the future in an increasingly competitive regional environment, it is clear that the next 100 years of U.S.-Australian “Mateship” will only become more critical to our shared goal of cooperation in the name of freedom.
Australia should be commended for taking the leading role in providing security and support in the region. Recently, Australia completed the laying of undersea cables to bring high-speed internet to their neighbors the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Australia is also providing 19 Guardian-class patrol boats to 12 Pacific Island countries over the next five years under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, which is intended to enhance maritime security cooperation across the South Pacific. I’m encouraged that allies in the Asia-Pacific region are stepping up to purchase front-line U.S. weapon systems for themselves, including Australia’s purchase of advanced American combat systems for their submarines. These efforts highlight not only the critical practical value in increasing combat readiness, information sharing, and tactical cooperation between the Australian and U.S. armed forces, but also underscore Australia’s growing leadership in the region. With a rising China focused on rapid military modernization, U.S. foreign and security policymaking must focus on supporting our strategic bilateral relationship and defense cooperation with Australia. Preparedness is one way we promote peace.
U.S.-Australia intelligence sharing will also be an increasingly valuable investment as the next 100 years are likely to be defined as much by cyberattacks and gray-zone warfare tactics, as traditional conflicts and military posturing. The United States and Australia need to continue to work together, along with other allies, to develop improved cyber capabilities to counter cyber threats in a region of shared strategic interest. During my recent trip, I sat down with the Australian Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, to discuss the U.S.-Australian intelligence sharing relationship, as well as Australia’s ongoing efforts to combat foreign influence. As both of our nations continue to work to prevent foreign interference in our democratic systems, increased cooperation in intelligence gathering will only become more critical in the years to come.
For a peaceful and prosperous future in a competitive regional landscape, both of our countries have a vested interest in maintaining respect for a rules-based international order, including freedom of navigation and neutrality of international waterways. I continue to be concerned about the consequences of growing Russian and Chinese cooperation in the region, as well as the Chinese military’s build-up in the Pacific islands off Australia’s coastline. This is similar to China’s militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea, which was in direct defiance of international tribunals. Continuing to strengthen our network of partnerships in the region will be critical toward upholding an open maritime and deterring aggression and instability. The United States must continue to clearly and unequivocally articulate our support for our allies and our shared commitment to avoiding any one country’s dominance over free trade routes in the Indo-Pacific.
Together, Australia and the United States remain committed to investing in our alliance and working to maintain and promote long-term prosperity, security, and stability in the Pacific over the next 100 years, as we did over the last century. As the ideological battle between democracy and authoritarianism continues in the 21st century, both in this region and around the world, continuing to invest in and strengthen our alliance will only grow more critical.
Wenstrup represents Ohio’s 2nd District and is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.