Some weeks ago I commented on an article by British scholar/economistDr. Andrew Lilico, in which he proposed a CANZUK free trade and military grouping. I suggested that the military group idea is “fascinating but it must be understood that organizations involving the four countries plus the USA already exist and work well … once again the challenge is to expand them, somewhat, to include India and Singapore, at least, without, ever, getting too formal.“
I also mentioned that the four CANZUK countries are already “united” in several important military planning and standarization groups like AUSCANZUKUS, the naval Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) interoperability organization, ABCA Armies and the CCEB (Combined Communications Electronics Board) and, of course, the “five eyes” countries that share intelligence and cause so much angst for so many left-wing social justice warriors who see threats and villains around every corner and behind every tree.
The small “five eyes” or AUSCANZUKUS community is THE global leader in command, control and communications, including, especially, interoperability which involves communications security and cryptography and radio frequency management. NATO almost always follows the ABCA and NZ lead, not the other way around. Equally, the ABCA Armies programme often leads NATO in materiel standarization just because it is, usually, easier for five countries to agree to a munitions calibre or the correct size for a towing eye (so that a truck from country A can tow a howitzer from country B) than it is for 25 to reach the same agreement.
Dr. Lilico pointed out that the four CANZUK countries “would obviously constitute a big global player. Between them they would control a surface area of more than 18 million square kilometres, the largest in the world, exceeding even Russia’s 17 million … Their combined population, at 128 million, would be the world’s 10thlargest, just ahead of Japan. Their combined military spending of around US$110 billion would be the world’s third largest, behind the U.S. and China but well ahead of Russia.” But it is important to remember that, except for, sometimes, Australia and New Zealand, defence procurement is not coordinated because too many local, parochial interests make international procurement coordination nearly impossible ~ even when operational requirements and equipment “life cycles”are very similar. Even coordinating operations can be hard: all four countries were in ISAF, the allied force in Afghanistan, and I understand that military planners tried to propose some coordination and cooperation but national political/policy considerations and NATO and US interests prevented anything much coming from it. That is likely to remain the case. While, in my opinion, there is plenty of room for cooperation between the four countries, the money involved $(S)110 billion is too much to not attract the attention of the USA and EU members.
The Military coordination and consultations should be continued … on their current informal basis.
The Australian-Canadian-New Zealand-United Kingdom and United States pacts are very, very different from NATO. They are essentially military, agreed at chiefs of staff level, and, therefore, are free from too much political and even strategic policy control: they are, in other words, operational bodies. NATO, on the other hand, is essentially a political body, it is a formal alliance, governed by treaty and this makes it very good at some things but, as we saw in Afghanistan it also provides political cover for countries that wanted to “be seen, and heard” without taking many risks; they were able to join ISAF and then hide behind thick walls of national caveats while other, like Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark and America took risk and the concomitant heavy casualties. The four or five nation group is also mindful of the fate of SEATO (the South East Asian Treaty Organization) which was disbanded (collapsed might be too strong a word) because Asia is different from Europe and, as Sir James Cable, a British diplomat and naval strategist, said, SEATO was “a fig leaf for the nakedness of American policy”, and the Manila Pact provided only a “zoo of paper tigers.”
What is needed to make better use of CANZUK is to:
- Expand it by adding, gradually and very informally Singapore, first, then India and, perhaps, eventually, Denmark, Fiji, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Norway Malaysia, the Philippines and South Africa; and
- Add a political dimension to it by having irregular, informal ministerial discussions at the defence minister, foreign minister and even, now and agin, prime ministerial level. This, not at the uniformed military level, is where some, limited cooperation on defence procurement might be managed.
I stress the informality aspect because the geo-political and strategic situations that face e.g. Australia, India, New Zealand and Singapore are quite different from those facing Britain and Canada and even different from those facing America. The formality of treaties might make cooperation impossible for some countries, like Singapore, that would be very useful members of such a grouping.
What “such grouping?”
Notwithstanding what Dr Lilico and other might think we should not be trying to restore the Anglosphere or even the 1st Commonwealth Division of the Korean War, but we should be trying to make the best use of the military skills and knowledge that reside in several modern, sophisticated countries with varying military cultures and experiences that are, generally, based on one foundation. We should be looking at a global arrangement that will have members in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific. It should never be allowed to get too large (15 seems a reasonable upper limit to me) nor too formal. It should be military and focused on the operational level. It should have a political/policy element to address cooperation in civil matters like defence plans and procurement but that should not be allowed to drive the military standarization, interoperability and operational issues. It should welcome American participation, in an informal basis.
My sense is that Putin and Russia can be deterred (contained) by a fairly simple, but robust, show of force in Eastern Europe, and that China can also be contained by taking reasonable steps to accommodate its ambitions and bring it into the global family of free(er) trading nations. I think the operational military problems are likely to be in the “third world” and are unlikely to be solved by baby-blue beret wearing UN peacekeepers. My guess is that the UN will, again, as it did in the Balkans, look for a “contractor.” I also believe that NATO is not the best choice for that task, although, right now, it is the only one. The CANZUK(+) grouping might be a better “contractor” for the United Nations.