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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2442

(Question No. 1552)


Senator Sanders asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 28 November 1986:

I refer to an article in the June 1986 Proceedings of the Naval Institute by Rear Admiral William Pendley, of the Office of the US Chief of Naval Operations.

(1) In the article, Pendley states that ``. . . by altering . . . the nuclear balance . . . [the Maritime Strategy] seeks to make escalation unattractive to the Soviets.'' Has the Government assessed whether altering the nuclear balance during a conventional war enhances stability; if so, what were its conclusions.

(2) Pendley states that ``Pacific operations are directly relevant to a European war''. Does this mean that the US alliance directly commits Australia to the defence of Europe.

(3) Is Australian involvement in the defence of Europe consistent with the terms of the ANZUS treaty.

(4) Has the Government assessed whether the Maritime Strategy's plan for horizontal escalation, in which a local war is spread to global proportions, enhances stability. If so, what were its conclusions.

(5) Pendley states that the US Navy's role is ``controlling the sea, projecting power ashore, and bringing pressure on the Soviet Union''. Has the Government assessed whether this strategy is likely to lead to an increased Soviet naval presence throughout the Pacific Ocean, and whether this will increase the ability of the US or the USSR to engage in gunboat diplomacy in the region, including direct attacks on Third World states similar to the US attack on Libya this year; if so, what were its conclusions.

(6) Has the Government assessed whether the exclusion of the naval forces of all nuclear-armed nations from the Pacific would be a greater guarantor of regional and global security than the Maritime strategy and the likely Soviet response; if so, what were its conclusions.

(7) Pendley states that all US friends and allies ``contributed to [the] development'' of the Maritime Strategy; ``all have forces necessary to implement it; and all have forces which require its implementation in order to be effectively employed.'' What role has Australia played in the Strategy's development.

(8) What Australian forces are necessary to implement it.

(9) Which of our forces require its implementation in order to be effectively employed.

(10) Given that the Dibb Review concluded that ``there is no requirement for Australia to become involved in the United States contingency planning for global war'', and that the US bases, warship visits and B-52 staging operations are a ``sufficient . . . contribution to the Alliance'', what role in the Strategy do the bases, warships and B-52s play.

(11) Will the forthcoming Defence White Paper detail the role of our defence forces in support of the Maritime Strategy; if not, why not.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The article by Rear Admiral Pendley in Navy Proceedings, the journal of the US Naval Institute, in June 1986, is one of several discussing the Maritime Strategy Supplement of the journal which was published in January 1986.

In the Supplement, Admiral J. D. Watkins, former US Chief of Naval Operations, explained the background to the development of the US Navy's Maritime Strategy and its objectives. The Maritime Strategy was developed by the US Navy in response to the growth in Soviet naval capabilities in recent years. As explained by Admiral Watkins, if conflict with the West occurred the probable centrepiece of Soviet strategy would be to concentrate on seeking a quick and decisive victory in Europe. An important element of the USN's Maritime Strategy is to deter superpower conflict by demonstrating that the USSR would face the prospect of prolonged global conflict and that it would not therefore be able to concentrate on a single theatre such as Europe where the USSR would be able to use its superiority in ground forces to greatest advantage.

The Maritime Strategy is not a detailed war plan but instead provides the USN with a framework in which to develop the capabilities and doctrine necessary to maintain a credible deterrent against superpower conflict. Outside the European theatre, its focus is primarily on limiting Soviet naval activity and Soviet ability to project power in the North Pacific.

(1) The Maritime Strategy reflects the USN's concern that Soviet doctrine places a high priority on changing `the nuclear correlation of forces' during a conventional conflict by destroying Western theatre-based nuclear assets. By demonstrating its preparedness to attack Soviet theatre based nuclear forces with conventional weapons, the USN's Maritime Strategy is intended to prevent a negative change in the nuclear balance.

All this is posited on the failure of peacetime efforts to deter superpower conflict. `Stability', in circumstances of such conflict can only be enhanced by measures which seek to avoid escalation of conflict to nuclear war and to promote an end to hostilities. On the assumption that Soviet strategy would in fact be aimed at altering the correlation of nuclear forces during a conventional phase of conflict-and this is a reasonable assumption to make in view of published Soviet literature on the subject-implementation of the US Maritime Strategy could contribute to the avoidance of nuclear war by reducing the attractiveness of nuclear escalation to the USSR.

At the same time it has to be recognised that if either side were highly successful in its efforts to destroy the other's nuclear assets by conventional means, a situation might arise in which the latter nation might choose to launch its remaining nuclear weapons before these too were destroyed.

(2) and (3) Australia's alliance with the US does not commit Australia to the defence of Europe. In the unlikely circumstance of global war, Australia's primary defence responsibilities would be to protect our own interests and those of our friends and allies within our region. After attending to the priority requirements of our own area, Australia would then consider contributions further afield.

(4) See the prefatory comments and answer to part (1) above.

(5) In the Pacific, the Maritime Strategy relates primarily to the containment of Soviet naval forces close to their home bases in the North Pacific. It assumes that a critical role for the Soviet Navy would be the protection of Soviet territory and ballistic missile submarines in that area. It does not imply an increased Soviet naval presence throughout the Pacific Ocean nor an increase in gunboat diplomacy in the region.

(6) A balanced reduction in the naval forces of nuclear nations in the Pacific would contribute to regional and global stability provided that it did not undermine other aspects of the strategic balance between the superpowers or between regional nations.

(7), (8) and (9) Australia has not been directly involved in the development of the USN's Maritime Strategy nor are Australian forces committed or vital to its implementation.

(10) As explained by Admiral Watkins in the article referred to above, the Maritime Strategy `does not purport to be a detailed war plan'. Moreover, our defence cooperation with the US in the operations of the joint Australia-US defence facilities, visits to Australian ports by US ships, and staging operations through Australia by USAF B52 aircraft-is not pursued as part of the Maritime Strategy as such but as part of our own effort to contribute to the maintenance of international security and the deterrence of superpower conflict.

(11) No. See answer to (7), (8) and (9) above.