Dougal Robinson is a Lowy Institute defence intern.
In this second video of the Defence in Depth series (part 1 on the defence budget), we asked defence experts to identify Australia's two most important strategic relationships.
There was a strong consensus that the US is Australia's most important security partnership. The alliance will remain 'pre-eminent' for the foreseeable future, according to General (Ret'd) Peter Cosgrove, former Chief of the Defence Force. Peter Jennings, the Executive Director of ASPI, agrees that the US provides a 'force multiplier' that greatly enhances the ADF's operational capability.
Views on the importance of China were more nuanced. Admiral James Goldrick says we need to focus on an increasingly positive relationship with China. That view, echoed in the Defence White Paper, has become conventional wisdom. But it's clear that some degree of latent concern lingers over Beijing's trajectory. Some of our experts stressed that Australia has a limited ability to shape the strategic environment created by China's rise. For Hugh White, our future depends particularly on the evolution of the bilateral relationship between Washington and Beijing.
And then there is Indonesia. Whereas Australia may be able to avoid the consequences of a conflict between the US and China, Peter Hartcher notes that if something goes awry in Indonesia, it will be impossible for Australia to avoid the consequences. For that reason, Canberra should do more to cultivate ties with Jakarta.