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Posted March 31, 2022

Sean Ring

By Sean Ring

Peace in Ukraine, War in the Pacific?

  • Russians are vilified for being Russians over the Ukraine conflict.
  • But Australia faces an existential threat in the Pacific.
  • Theres a new sheriff in town at the request of this little-known country.

Happy Thursday!

Were out of here today, so a quick bit of house cleaning.

First, Id usually do the monthly asset class report on the first business day of every month, which is tomorrow.

But because Ill be flying and then settling in Rome, Ill have that for you on Monday morning.

Tomorrows Rude will be written in advance to make sure you get your daily service while I get settled.

In the meantime, lets look at the Pacific region, which is experiencing a bit of a political and security kerfuffle.

The Lay of the Land

Whats the first thing that pops into your head when you read, South Pacific?

Its probably palm trees, coconuts, peace, serenity, and scantily-clad native girls hypnotically swinging their hips.

You may even remember the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific, whether youve seen it or not. (I havent.)

And who can blame you?

Thats what most westerners think because thats what our media fed us all these years.

Its similar to how most westerners think Asia is a serene place where everyone practices yoga and ancestor worship.

In both cases, nothing can be further from the truth.

Lets try another word: Guadalcanal.

I bet you saw something entirely different.

Im no World War II buff, but even I see naval battles, Japanese troops, and an allied victory.

Quite the contrast.

Guadalcanal is the largest island of the Solomon Islands, a sovereign country in Oceania just northeast of Australia.

Australia as Sheriff

Australia struts around the South Pacific like the arrogant peacock it is.

The Australian Defense Force is technologically sophisticated but pretty small.

Although the ADF's 58,206 full-time active-duty personnel and 29,560 active reservists as of 2020 make it the largest military in Oceania, its smaller than most Asian military forces.

Nevertheless, the ADF has a significant budget deploys forces in multiple locations outside Australia.

It also helps to have the United States military-industrial complex behind it.

Since the end of World War II, which cost the lives of over 27,000 Aussies - not a small number considering its population at the time - Australia has been at the forefront of Pacific security.

The security of Australia's immediate sphere of influence, which includes Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the South Pacific, is the second most crucial defense priority.

Sensibly, the first is its ability to defend Australia from a direct military attack.

So you can imagine the outrage in Australia when the Solomon Islands asked China to engage in a security agreement.

Solomon Islands - Where Are They?

To understand the situation, lets get a look at a map.

The Solomons are circled in red.

Credit: Google Maps

Lets zoom out, so we can see more of Asia:

Credit: Google Maps

Now that weve got our ball bearings, have a look at this headline:

Credit: news.com.au

To be clear, Frank Chung, a reputable journalist Ive mentioned before in this newsletter, isnt advocating war.

Nor is the Australian government looking for a fight yet.

From Chungs article (bolds mine):

David Llewellyn-Smith, founding publisher of MacroBusiness and former owner of leading Asia Pacific foreign affairs journal The Diplomat, says this is Australias Cuban missile crisis and chillingly warns a Chinese naval base in the Solomons would be the effective end of our sovereignty and democracy.

In the 1962 crisis, the world came to the brink of Armageddon when the Soviet Union deployed nuclear missiles to Cuba on Americas southern doorstep.

Prompting the warning is a leaked draft framework agreement between China and the Solomon Islands, which surfaced online on Thursday.

Under the agreement, which has sent shockwaves through Canberra, China would gain a port for its navy less than 2000 kilometres from Australias shoreline.

China will have parked an enormous stationary aircraft carrier within direct striking distance of every eastern Australian city, Llewellyn-Smith wrote in a provocative piece on Friday.

There is no way that Australia can allow this deal to proceed. If it must, the nation should invade and capture Guadalcanal such that we engineer regime change in Honiara. There are other soft power levers to pull first and we should pull them forcefully. But we should also immediately begin amassing an amphibious invasion force to add pressure.

Let me reiterate that this isnt official government policy.

But to think an invasion wont happen is another matter entirely.

Lest you think Llewellyn-Smith is a lunatic, heres what Australian National Uunivesity National Security College head Rory Medcalf said:

Because if you read the document, it literally is an open door to a Chinese military presence in the Solomon Islands with authorisation to use force.

There are no caveats about levels of force or authorisation to use force. So there is a grey zone there, and I would read that grey zone as pretty damn dangerous.

And Queen Jacinda of the Country With No Military chimed in, carefully echoing Australia's phrasing on the new security pact between China and Solomon Islands, using the same "Pacific family" and our backyard.

What does your backyard mean?

Is that a (GASP!) sphere of influence?

If so, does that phrasing only apply to our allied nations?

Because all this sounds incredibly familiar to me.

Lets have a look at a map I posted a few weeks ago:

This is the shared Russia/Ukraine border.

If you look up again at the maps of Asia and compare them to this one, its kind of funny, isnt it?

Russia gets diplomatically isolated, financially cut off, and ostracized from other countries for concerns it rightly has on its own borders.

For reference, see Victoria Nuland and her lovely little biolabs. Or Hunters laptop, if were ever allowed to see the contents that were miraculously verified and vindicated the New York Post, the new paper of record in the US (ok, maybe not).

Yet, Australian commentators openly talk about invaded an archipelago 2,000 kms away in the name of national security.

Will the Biden Administration embrace and back this potential invasion as a blow struck for the world democracies?

Or will the US be on the wrong side of "great battle for freedom: a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force, as the President said in Poland?

Wrap Up

While Im gobsmacked at the rhetoric, serious questions are raised and need to be answered.

If China intends to build bases within striking distance of Australia, should Australia preemptively strike?

If Australia doesnt and China builds those bases, did Australia make an enormous mistake by not invading in the name of peace, non-aggression, and the Solomons right to self-determination?

Does the US back an ally it needs to help it police the Pacific via AUKUS and the Quad?

Or does the US choose not to tangle with China, maybe ever?

I dont have ready answers to those questions.

But I wouldnt be surprised to see some action in the Pacific sometime soon.

Until tomorrow.

All the best,

Sean

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