THERE HAS TO BE something wrong with us. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. Some sickness of mind and spirit that blinds us to our own extraordinary diplomatic hypocrisy. The hypocrisy on display in relation to the Solomon Islands’ proposed security agreement with the Chinese is, however, beyond astounding. Indeed, with the attention of the world focused so intently on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the reaction of our own government, and those of New Zealand’s friends and allies, is scarcely believable.
What is it, after all, that the entire Western World is denouncing in Ukraine? Is it not the idea, expounded by the Russians, that Ukraine is located within the Russian Federation’s sphere of influence, and that its oft-expressed desire to join Nato constitutes a clear and present threat to Russia’s national security?
Have not the Russians repeatedly denounced the extension of Nato’s military reach to the very borders of their Federation? Do they not present this as conclusive evidence of the West’s predatory designs upon the national territory and resources of the Russian state?
And has not the West rejected Russia’s claims? Most particularly, has it not rejected the notion that it is any longer acceptable to speak about nations having “spheres of influence”? Is the West’s vehement condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine not based upon the principle that nation states have an inalienable right to determine their own destinies?
The governments of all the Western powers, including our own, are doing everything within their power, short of actually joining the conflict, to support Ukraine, and to punish the Russian Federation for violating the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of an independent nation state and United Nations member by an act of military aggression.
The Australian Government has been loud in its condemnation of Russia – as has its news media – and yet, just a few days ago, the following opinions were given wide coverage by the Rupert Murdoch-owned News.com.au under the headline: “Australia ‘must ready Solomon Islands invasion’ to stop China security deal”.
According to David Llewellyn-Smith, publisher of MacroBusiness and former owner of The Diplomat, a journal dedicated to Asia-Pacific affairs, the coming into full effect of the proposed security pact between the Solomon Islands and the Peoples Republic of China would mean “the effective end of [Australia’s] sovereignty and democracy”.
“There is no way that Australia can allow this deal to proceed” wrote Llewellyn-Smith. “If it must, the nation should invade and capture Guadalcanal such that we engineer regime change in Honiara. There are other soft power levers to pull first and we should pull them forcefully. But we should also immediately begin amassing an amphibious invasion force to add pressure.”
If it was put to Llewellyn-Smith that his own reasoning is identical to that of Vladimir Putin, he would, almost certainly, reject the comparison. And yet, he is proposing to engineer regime change in the Solomon Island’s capital, Honiara, by invading and capturing Guadalcanal – the island in which the city is situated. The difference between Llewellyn-Smith’s proposal and Putin’s attempts to engineer regime change by invading Ukraine and capturing its capital city, Kyiv, is extremely difficult to discern.
And, just in case, we feel tempted to dismiss these sentiments as the rantings of yet another bellicose Australian pundit, with which that increasingly belligerent country seems infested, New Zealand’s very own Professor Anne-Marie Brady has told RNZ’s “Mid-Day Report” host, Māni Dunlop, that: “the draft agreement to station military forces on Solomon Islands could see the South Pacific cut off and encircled by Chinese forces.”
Brady’s interview reveals just how deeply the instincts of Western imperialism are embedded in New Zealand’s foreign affairs community. According to the University of Canterbury professor, the Solomon Islands represent a “failed state”, riddled with corruption and Chinese influence-peddling, problems with which, in spite of 14 years of Australian and New Zealand military occupation in the guise of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) its political class is still plagued. Accordingly, it can only benefit from stepped-up “assistance” from its Australian and New Zealand “friends”.
Like a good Kiwi, Brady shies away from Llewellyn-Smith’s call for a return to the gunboat diplomacy of the Nineteenth century. But, quite how the deal with China can be stopped short of resorting to the use of force and/or rampant Anzac influence-peddling and corruption, the professor does not say.
What makes Brady’s intervention even more interesting is her connections with a research-project-cum-think-tank known as SSANSE - “Small States and the New Security Environment”. As The Daily Blog noted back in May 2020, SSANES was/is based in Iceland and was/is at least partially funded by Nato. Brady’s assessment of New Zealand’s strategic predicament back in 2020 was nothing if not dramatic:
The global environment has not been so challenging for New Zealand since 1942 when British forces in Singapore, who were New Zealand’s shield, fell to the advance of the Japanese. New Zealand must now face up to the national security risk of the Covid-19 outbreak. The current situation poses a risk not only to New Zealand, but collectively, for our Pacific, Five Eyes and NATO partners, as well as like-minded states who uphold the international rules-based order.
That “international rules-based order” is, presumably, the same order which has encouraged the rest of the world to declare economic war on the Russian Federation in retaliation for its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Only time will tell whether that order will demand the imposition of equally swingeing sanctions on Australia and New Zealand should they “invade and capture Guadalcanal” in order to secure “regime change in Honiara.” Since neither Canberra nor Wellington would dare contemplate such an action without the endorsement of “our Pacific, Five Eyes and NATO partners”, it is reasonably safe to conclude that it would not.
It might be wise, however, for the likes of Llewellyn-Smith and Brady to ask themselves whether China might not be playing an extremely clever game here. Thinking about it, what better demonstration of Western hypocrisy could there be than a frankly imperialist and racist re-imposition of Five Eyes control in Honiara to protect the English-speaking people’s “sphere of influence” in the Pacific?
How much easier could the West make it for China to convince all those nations on the receiving end of the “international rules-based order” that its rules are meant for “thee” but not for “me”? That while it is an unconscionable violation of international law to invade the territory of people whose skins are white; it is no more than an act of friendship to invade and capture the islands of people whose skins are brown.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday 29 March 2022.
Given the reception of nonwhite refugees from war zones compared to Ukrainians – particularly in Poland which is a deeply racist state (but this extends to much of Eastern Europe) – and given the sent to the Ukraine while other wars are treated with "we don't export weapons to war zones" or "we do, but to the aggressors", and for that matter the turning back of nonwhite Ukrainians at the Polish border, there is obviously some racism involved.
Although some of this is obviously fear of Russia, and any student of history should be aware of the long lasting resentment of many eastern European nations of the period they spent under the USSR, which led to them wanting to join NATO.
Traumatic experiences like this have generational effects. When I was in China albeit for a short time, I talked to a number of old people who expressed a certain dislike of Japanese tourists – which I discovered they had passed on to their children and grandchildren, even though they made money from them.
My in-laws went through the Honger Winter in the Netherlands – were not very far from starvation and had to steal to stay alive. Didn't like the Germans much. A friend of mine who was a diplomat in West Germany was told never to travel to Holland in a car with German plates – they had a habit of ending up in canals.
That said, I'm not at all fond of great powers having "spheres of influence", particularly when they involve stationing their own troops in other people's countries. I would wonder if an invitation once given could actually be rescinded.
But it has been freely given and if we treat the Solomon Islands people like adults, we have to allow them the agency to make what friends they wish. And of course this is going to involve corruption, but there are a number of countries who might be upset which should not be casting the first stone.
There is a couple of short videos on youtube that show the changes in borders over the last thousand years in Europe. What Russia is doing in Ukraine is in time honoured European fashion.
It might be 'illegal' but its traditional.
The difference here is that the Solomons’ population is divided on this issue, and Australia has been financially supporting the Solomons. It would be quite wrong for anyone to invade but all countries are entitled to influence the Solomons’ decision. The Ukraine has had a love/hate relationship with Russia for aeons - more hate than love! That's not the case between Australia and the Solomons.
Isn't it funny how 'spheres of influence' have no legitimacy in Western (i.e. US American) eyes, but 'full spectrum dominance' (US America) doesn't raise a murmur. Isn't it strange that the US may lay claim, without the slightest permissible demur, to another country's wealth and resources (Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia... Iraq, Syria, Libya,... Russia...). Don't it evoke a cynical guffaw that the US America can set at defiance International Law (unilateral sanctions against - how many countries now?), yet insist upon global jurisdiction for its own laws (e.g. Julian Assange, oh, yeah, and US sanctions again) - oh yes, not forgetting the exception when US nationals commit crimes outside US borders (e.g. Guantanamo Bay)?
And perhaps, in the wake of events in the Middle East in the last 30-odd years, the US could explain precisely WHAT is illegal about Russia's intervention and invasion in Ukraine. Hasn't the US, and its pals, done that very thing, countless times in recent years - and with far greater loss of live, far greater destruction, far greater displacement of tens of millions? In the wake of events in the Balkans during the 1990s, precisely what was illegal or unlawful about Russia's recognition of the separatist states Lugansk and Donetsk, and Russia's moves to protect them?
On the matter of the Solomon Islands, precisely what do those islands owe to New Zealand or Australia, anyhow?
The US yaps on about a 'rules based order'. Well, we have all seen the colour of US money in that regard, haven't we?
1. The US has the exclusive right to make the rules
2. Every other country must abide by the rules the US has set - except the US.
3. The US has the exclusive right to ignore the rules it has set.
4. The US has the exclusive right at any time with or without notice, to change, amend, add or delete whichever and whatever rules the US has, does and will set.
The US is not only World Policeman (which role people were already starting to resent before 1945 was out) it has also arrogated to itself the roles of:
World Prosecuting Counsel
World Lord High Executioner
... ALL OF THEM ON THE TAKE.
Cheers, with a gallows guffaw,
Ion A. Dowman
As you note, Llewellyn Smith is a commentator, he is not a member of either the Australian or New Zealand government, nor can he be seen as their unofficial spokesperson.
So no, the Australian and New Zealand governments are not operating a double standard. It is reasonable for fellow Pacific nations to express their concerns about China ,Solomons security pact. It affects their own security. But neither Australia or New Zealand are threatening to invade The Solomons.
Governments object about things that other governments do all the time. It seems New Zealand PM's raise the issue of 501's just about every time they meet the Australian PM. Australian is vocal about New Zealand's defence spending.
In this particular case, I suspect Australia and New Zealand will get nowhere by a bilateral approach. The Solomons will simply dig their heels in. In my view a much better approach would be for the Pacific Forum to deal with the issue. So that the members of the Forum have an agreed approach in relation to outside nations stationing forces in the South Pacific. All the Forum members, including Australian and New Zealand, want a strong economic relationship with China. The Island states also need direct investment in infrastructure, which is often done on a government to government basis. None of that is a concern, including China stationing fishing fleets in island states.
Some commenters may raise the issue of France and the United States. It is worth noting that both nations have sovereign territory within the South Pacific. United States with American Samoa and France with New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Neither look like they are departing anytime soon. New Caledonia has had three plebiscites on the issue of independence, all of which were lost. The second quite narrowly, and the Kanaks boycotting the third, presumably because they thought they would lose it. That issue was only been resolved truculently, so there could be more difficulty to come.
Given that Australia was one of just two countries to support the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq in 2003, it's hard to be sure that Ozzie won't invade the Solomons. What is certain is that NZ won't be part of any such invasion. Our policies aren't guided by the Murdoch media.
They are very different situations and the Ukrainian people have been abundantly clear where there fears and aspirations lie. Moving on.
What do we know of the situation in Solomon Islands? There is certainly widespread dissatisfaction with the government and of the increasing ties and obligations to China. The attraction of Chinese militia for their naïve/incompetent/corrupt politicians is obvious. Don't expect the Chinese to be raising any questions about that.
After a visit to Tonga and seeing the huge military fort masquerading as an embassy, the new Naval base pretending to be a port, witnessing the open Chinese contempt for the Tongan people and reading about the serious drug problem from Chinese supplied methamphetamine and the unpayable mountain of debt owing to Chinese lenders (much of it wasted on vanity projects and the new "port" facilities) I am deeply concerned for the future of the Tongan people. That they are our nearest neighbour is a reality that could pose a problem for us in the future. Having to fearfully toe the Beijing line is not something anyone would want.
I have no idea why some New Zealanders see the Pacific Island microstates as "our backyard".
Auckland to Honiara is about 3400 km. Auckland to Mururoa Atoll is over 4700 km.
To put this in perspective, London to Moscow is 2500 km.
The Chinese are welcome to the Solomon Islands and every other microstate in the Pacific.
Certainly the Chinese would have to try very hard to be worse administrators than the Western colonial powers - including New Zealand's incompetent efforts.
Given how quickly the Chinese turned reefs into military bases, they should be able to provide much needed infrastructure in the Solomons.
I dinna much like dictatorships and I understand the impositions of the vile West. I'm getting your point. The West does the same as them by neglect, indifference, uninterest and under the cover poisonous policy attacks. The dictatorships spew up nonsense instead like geysers. What you saw with the Parliament protestors.
Social democracies have ideals, scruples, that serve the people (as much as the rich). None of this would be needed without the equal partnership of the people and the Angus Taits.
Now, about the unitaryness of reason and demo-cracy. Whenever I see the idiocy of the protestors I see they can't find their way. The public reason disallows them. As it has done these 40 years.
Sigh!.... Unless there's Australian tanks rolling into downtown Honiara, then your comparison looks a little bit stuffed with straw.
Have any NZ Government agents poisoned anyone in the Solomons with Polonium?
Shane: "I have no idea why some New Zealanders see the Pacific Island microstates as "our backyard"."
Perhaps because they are? Tonga is only 1,000NMs away.
We also have in common The South Pacific Forum - a regional organisation for, and of, our various mutual interests. The days of direct "colonial" governance and control are gone. Except for New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
I have to say the infrastructure in New Cal is pretty impressive - great buildings, roads and bridges, the navigation markers all work and everything is pretty well maintained. Life expectancy, infant mortality and education very impressive by the standards of the region. The contrast with their cousins over in Vanuatu couldn't be more stark. Whether the Chinese are intent on achieving the same, and a liberal democracy, for the Soloman people I very much doubt.
Very glad I went to the rental agent rather than confronting direct the Solomons guy who parked his car halfway into my lounge. That civil war, this silver-haired guy probably murdered someone.
The summary of the Ukraine invasion is that democracy/reason matters. A clarion call to the West that has forgotten that. The clarion call we on the democratic side have been waiting for.
David : I strongly suspect that most New Zealanders could not give a rat's arse about the microstates of the Pacific.
Frankly, I do not think New Zealand or Australia benefit from associating with the shady countries that make up the South Pacific Forum.
I have pointed out to Maori nationalists that New Zealand would be a Third World shithole if it were not for British colonisation.
Imagine the state Samoa and Tonga would be in if they did not have the option of exporting tens of thousands of poor people to New Zealand.
Auckland to Nuku'alofa is almost 2000 km. If you think this is a short distance then perhaps you try swimming there.
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