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Whose side should we be on?

A fair bit of discussion is taking place in political circles at the moment about joining what is being called AUKUS Pillar 2, a proposed defence arrangement.
 |  Trevor Ammundsen  | 

The AUKUS alliance of USA, UK and Australia extend an invitation to New Zealand to be a supporting partner.

The original AUKUS is a submarine purchasing agreement, not much more really. There seems to be a desire in some quarters to make it more by having countries such as Canada and ourselves join up as Pillar 2 members of AUKUS, meaning we don’t get any submarines but would be buddies with those that do have them.

They would protect us if we needed protecting, and we would support them if they needed supporting.

The first question that comes to mind is whether we need protecting from submarines or not. We do not have a rich history of suffering from submarine attacks. There was some submarine activity in our waters during World War II with German U Boats attacking some shipping, sinking three, and later a fourth was sunk with a mine. No submarines from buddy nations came to our aid at this time.

Other than that, the only submarine activity I can recall was in the eighties when, the then National Party politician, Winston Peters, claimed Soviet submarines were mapping the New Zealand seabed. It was not reported why he thought they would want to do this.

It appears that the push to join AUKUS is more of us helping them than they are helping us. The bolstered AUKUS Pillar 2 will in effect become a defence partnership, primarily to help the USA with their desire for credibility as they square up to China in the northern Pacific. I do understand that the partners, specifically the USA, would defend us should we be under attack but who would be attacking us and what was the USA doing immediately before any such attack?

It seems to me we actually have three choices, be a buddy of the USA, be a buddy of China or be a buddy to both. Let us look at the options starting with the USA.

We have been on the same side in a number of wars.

In the first World War, we were straight there, helping the mother country as soon as we were asked. After much loss of life, the Americans arrived late and helped with the cleaning up.

The second World War was similar with us rushing over to help the English once more while the Americans did nothing, until the Japanese stirred them up. The Americans then went to Europe to help with the clean-up and with help, showed the Japanese what a really big bomb looked like.

The big bomb must have filled the Americans with confidence as they then started getting involved at the beginning of wars, while waving for us to come over and help out. We fought their battles in Korea (a draw) and Vietnam (a loss).

In later years we joined in with Afghanistan (another loss) and gave some assistance in Iraq, which could possibly be counted as a win. Not a very good record really, plenty of Kiwis being lost, 92 in fact over these four wars. New Zealand was not attacked at any time and the USA has never rewarded us with a free trade agreement.

China is the supposed adversary we are to help the USA with, yet China also seems to be a friend. It is hard to find any history of warfare between New Zealand and China. We seemed to be on the same side in World War Two with the Japanese being a common enemy, but other than that, we have been politely friendly. China has rewarded us for our decision not to invade them with our best free trade agreement.

Reality would suggest that neither of these two super powers is our enemy, both having good claims of friendship.

China is a far better friend to us economically but the music and movies from the USA are much better. We really need both. In my view the best idea is to remain neutral.

However, if we are to pursue the AUKUS group, then our negotiators should have a copy of our proposed Free Trade Agreement on the top of their pile of papers, and ask the USA to sign it so that the treaty negotiations can then begin.