Make no mistake: this is a huge event.
When the Cold War ended, it seemed sensible to conclude that the menace of war among states could be on the way to extinction. Liberal democracy and free trade would bind nations together and security threats, such as there were, would come from peripheral actors such as terrorists, organized crime and insurgents. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is one more nail in the coffin for this optimistic worldview. There are few immediate consequences for Australia. But in the medium and long run, the implications are profound. We are headed for a world divided into hostile camps with the autocratic great powers of China and Russia on one side, and the United States, Australia, the UK, the EU, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada and possibly India and Vietnam on the other.
What does this mean for us? First, we must build our defence force for this new reality. We need an increased focus on hard capabilities, especially in the air and at sea. Nation building and counter-insurgency are second order concerns and should be treated as such. We need to build more interoperability with our regional allies. Second, we must recognize that the era of untrammelled globalization is over. We need to work to lessen our dependence on the autocratic great powers by reorienting our imports and exports towards our allies. This will be hard, but necessary. One of the reasons why Putin believed that he could get away with his actions in Ukraine is because of the way that Russia has systematically built up European dependence on Russian resource exports in recent years. We cannot allow similar dependence to restrict our freedom of action and reduce the credibility of our deterrence. Finally, we need a new sense of seriousness in the media and political class. We could be heading for very dangerous times.
Dr Charles Miller is a senior lecturer in the School of Politics and International Relations. His work focuses on military conflicts, global strategy, military effectiveness and public opinion and foreign policy. Dr Miller's work has been published in World Politics, the Journal of Peace Research, the European Journal of Political Research, Rationality and Society, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research and International Relations of the Asia-Pacific. You can see a list of his latest publications here: https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/miller-ca