- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

The U.S.-Australia Alliance: A Deepening Partnership in Emerging Asia

Bates Gill


This chapter assesses how Australian security perceptions and priorities mesh with those of the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific and examines the challenges and opportunities ahead for the alliance.

Main Argument

Among the U.S. treaty alliances in Asia, the U.S.-Australia partnership is the closest and least problematic. Both sides appreciate that the strength of the alliance arises not just from the security pact but also from a growing array of common interests and challenges, and the two countries are well positioned to deepen their cooperation. However, challenges lie ahead. These include an expansive regional security environment characterized by rising powers, geopolitical rivalries, budgetary austerity, and increasingly complex nontraditional security problems. In particular, the two countries must grapple with balancing their economic relationships with China against their concerns about its emergence as a more assertive power.

Policy Implications

  • Given their closely shared interests, the U.S. and Australia will deepen their security relationship in the years ahead. This will include a larger U.S. security-related presence at facilities in Australia and closer cooperation on defense procurement projects.
  • As both countries increasingly engage the region with tighter budgets, they will jointly step up collaborations with third parties in areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, antipiracy, counterproliferation, security-force training, military exercises and exchanges, defense procurement, and institution building.
  • With the Australian economy likely to remain heavily reliant on resource exports to Northeast Asia, Canberra will be highly sensitive to any significant and destabilizing deterioration in relations among the region’s major players. Canberra does not wish to choose between its alliance relations and China, and will push back against efforts to make it to do so.