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.