WASHINGTON -- Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is also defense minister, came away from meetings with U.S. defense leaders with a sense that the two countries shared a mission.
Marles met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan during his trip to Washington – the first visit by an official of Australia's new government.
"What has really struck me in the meetings that we've had over the course of the last few days … is a real sense of shared mission in this moment, between Australia and the United States," Marles told the Defense Writers' Group. "There is a sense of the moment that the global rules-based order that has been built by the United States, by Australia, by many other countries is under pressure now in a significant way."
Marles said that system is under the greatest pressure it has seen since the end of World War II. That order is the reason there has not been a great power war since 1945. "Obviously, what's going on in Eastern Europe with Russia's invasion of Ukraine is an example of that pressure," he said. "And, in this moment, the need to have a sense of shared mission, to be projecting forward with a sense of team is really important."
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Part of his mission to the United States has been to express that concern to the U.S. government, he said. He said he was pleasantly surprised to find the concern over the future of the rules-based order was shared. "We've really felt that reciprocated in all the meetings we've had, but at a more detailed level," the deputy prime minister said.
One example of this is discussions on the defense industrial base and looking for ways to have the U.S. and Australian bases work more seamlessly together.
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Marles' visit shortly after taking office was to affirm the importance of his country's alliance with the United States in its world view, he said. "None of that is in doubt, but it's an important thing to say from the point of view of a new government coming to meet with the U.S.," he said.
It was not the first high-level meeting between the close allies. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese participated in the meeting of the Quad – Australia, Japan, India and the United States – on his first day in office. Albanese, along with Indo-Pacific leaders from Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, also attended the NATO Summit in Madrid.
Marles also met with Austin at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore soon after taking office.
Marles noted the Quad is not a defense alliance in any sense of the words. "It is a group of four like-minded countries engaged in the Indo Pacific who support a global rules-based order and who seek to promote the prosperity that order underpins," he said.
He noted it is a forum for the four nations to work together on common interests. He cited the work the Quad did on combating COVID-19 and building a more efficient vaccine rollout for the region as an example of one way the Quad can operate.
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Another initiative is building maritime domain awareness. This is important in deterring illegal fishing – a matter of life and death for many nations in the Pacific.
China has criticized the Quad saying it is working against Chinese interests. "It's not for any other country to say who we should work with," the deputy prime minister said. "The Quad is not aimed in a negative sense at anyone. It's about trying to promote prosperity in the region for like-minded countries."