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Tuesday, 23 October 1973
Page: 2567

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - I intend making a few theoretical points on the very complex issue of power. The Australian Government, in its foreign policy actions and announcements since December 1972, has placed Australia's standing in the international community as one of having accorded to reality. There are initiatives that we well may make and in our enlightened self-interest in dealings with other nations that we will continue to develop and advance. We are not drifting into anyone's orbit and our approach and actions on some recent matters have reflected maturity more than independence. However, in the future for the most part we will find that we are one actor among many and that more importance will be attached to even our minor moves with respect to issues as they arise by others rather than by people in our own country:

In short, I believe that our foreign affairs can now be run more by professionals and that some political moves will be more often postures for diplomats to use in their slow, constant task for negotiation, compromise and pursuit of international harmony. But I do not underrate the purely political moves. The slowness of foreign affairs is demonstrated by the way in which slogans attach to a world condition. If the condition changes quickly there is a long time before the change is perceived by the general community. Of more importance is that a certain stance by a major power or powers dictates events far beyond the time of the policy's currency but this also can be exploited beneficially.

The latest slogan attaching to world conditions is that we have changed from a world strategic situation of bipolarity to one of multipolarity. The accepted version of this is that the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics alone no longer dictate the pattern of events, and that China, the European Economic Community and Japan are now significant in the ordering of world affairs. I am not sure that Japan yet fits into the league of America, Russia and China. At the same time I am of the opinion that forces other than military strength will be of more significance in the future. I do not believe that we have true multipolarity. We are certainly in a period of great flux. I think it can be said that this political flux displays on its diplomatic surface 3 interacting trends at present. Firstly, there is a breaking down of cold war coalitions; secondly, the rise of non-security issues to the top of diplomatic agendas, and thirdly, a diversification of friendships and adversary relations. These surface movements are evidence of very significant economic and social forces which, if successfully exploited by statesmen and diplomats, may change the ingredients of power itself in the future.

Both the United States and the Soviet Union are not as concerned today if smaller countries formerly in their orbit in the 1950s and 1960s move to non-alignment, neutrality or even to other coalitions mainly because military technology has limited the need for forward bases, not only for strategic deterrents but also for combat and reconnaisance. The impact of technology on strategy is of fundamental importance, as I see it. Although Eastern Europe is retained by Russia as a wall, this is more for ideological and political reasons than for military reasons. Smaller nations have been allowed to pursue more pragmatic independent lines in economic negotiations, and freer play has been given to conflicts in this area. When previously protection against a military threat was the main concern, coalitions of nations held and the subordination of special economic, political and cultural interests to the requirements of common defence was readily accepted. Although these requirements have not passed they are and have been breaking up for a considerable time, and I even see this process extending to the Warsaw Pact countries in the future.

The disintegration of global bipolarity has allowed greater interchange between countries formerly in the common defence bloc as before the superpower was always heavily involved. Previously non-aligned countries such as India and Indonesia played the field without the hope of the long-run success that they now have. Thus more and more divergencies in world view or differences in social systems are insufficient to bar cordial relations among countries. If these tendencies continue to mature along the lines stated, an international system whose characteristics are grossly different not only from the bipolar world but also from previous balance of power relations could emerge in the 1980s. It is possible, but always recognising the possibility of unpredictable contingencies at the same time, that the nature of international power itself will change. If power is defined as the capacity of a country to influence other countries to accede to its objectives, then in a system characterised by multiple and cross-cutting coalitions formed around a variety of issues, mainly economic, the political currency of international power will be promissory notes on the lines of a wheeling and dealing operation - 'We will support you on this issue if you support us on that'. The power maximising country would be the one that could most successfully negotiate a situation where its pledges always would be honoured and valued. But such a system would allow poorer countries to have increased bargaining strength in terms of their own ability to form coalitions.

Although hitherto power has been in the form of promises to apply or withhold military capabilities - this still would be paramount in vital security issues - this will have little utility compared with other forms of power, even a negative effect, in bargaining over non-security issues. The threat of the use of military power may debase one's bargaining currency.

Although America and Russia still will be best placed to be the most powerful, due to their control of resources, it will be constructive co-operation with smaller countries that will win them more votes in global and regional forums. The European Economic Community could well emerge as an equally powerful unit due to its techno-economic capability, cultural ties, geography and diplomatic skills. For example, the EEC can form a better bridge with the Eastern European countries and is well placed to develop its former colonies in Africa. Japan will remain behind the bigger three as it is resource dependent but the gaining of military capability will not help it. In fact, Japan is maximising power in future terms as I see them by skilled resource diplomacy. Japan has not the advantages of the European Economic Community in terms of historic community ties. To escalate a dispute over economic matters would surely alienate a larger number of her suppliers.

China also will have to rely on skilful diplomacy rather than an exchange of material assets. It may be able to champion third world countries and be their nuclear leader, but the limits of this will be the degree to which the other 4 great power blocs provide assistance to them. China can be expected to try to drive wedges between East Europe and the USSR for world communist leadership. But China will never be a large enough market or source of products to exceed most other regional groupings which will arise. I do not think that we will have a five sided balance of power, because the usable kinds of power are not commensurate. China and Russia pose the only serious military threat to world stability at present. In nonmilitary terms, the USSR and the Comecon countries are more in need of commerce than vice versa. Yet socialist countries may be able to manouvre more quickly in many commercial matters. There will be an enormous need to settle questions of access to space, ocean environments and ecological standards.

So rather than multi-polarity which implies hegemony, I believe we shall see a full blown system of multiple interdependence where power is exercised largely in the form of constructive exchanges of valued resources. The threat to this proposition, of course, is still the flashpoints present in the world's trouble spots, for instance, the United States of America in South East Asia, the USSR in Czechoslovakia and the Middle East - all of which are well known to us. Great responsibility rests on the

United States and the USSR to exercise self restraint in their future demands, otherwise Japan, India, Brazil and other countries will go nuclear. The wealthiest countries will have to refrain from establishing competitive spheres of economic dominance in the countries that they will influence. Leading economic countries will have to allow more interdependence to develop amongst lesser countries. The world's rich will have to do a little more about the world's poor and new sets of international laws on environment and conservation issues will be needed.

All that I have said sounds rather idealistic. But the stark alternatives and conditions to which I referred earlier give some reason for hope. If we cannot break away from the anachronistic habits of the past 300 years of international politics all we face is more bloody wars with the final conflict merely forestalled for 20 years. It should be obvious from what I have said that Australia has a place in the world community where it can act constructively without assigning itself a role which becomes fixed. We are now exercising our diplomatic skills in attempting to form new coalitions. We are aware of the resource diplomacy game and our mutual interdependence with Japan. We are trying to extend more aid to developing countries. We are taking a lot more notice of the use and benefits of the United Nations. We are now in a better position to influence the United States of America, as a sympathetic and constructively critical friend. We simply do not want the United States to kill people in our region for the sake of our own too easily developed sense of reactionary ethno-centricity. It is for those reasons that I am so hopeful for the continuing success of our foreign affairs, our policy initiatives and Australia's future in a hopefully more peaceful world.

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