British and American officials have been forced to defend the US-UK defence alliance after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced a new deal with Australia. The agreement, which will see Australian troops train in Britain as part of their preparations for deployment to Afghanistan, has come under fire from critics who say it is a sign that the two countries are not working closely enough together on military matters.
The deal is part of a broader agreement to expand Australian military ties with the United Kingdom, which have until recently been limited to mostly low-level exchanges. The new deal was announced during the visit of Australia’s Defence Minister David Johnston who met with British counterpart Michael Fallon in London this week. Mr Johnston said his country had also secured access to training facilities in Belize and Brunei, but emphasised that the agreement with Britain was of particular importance.
“I think this is a very important step forward,” he said. “We have been working on this for some time.” A spokesman from Mr Johnston’s office reaffirmed the minister’s comments when contacted by The Australian yesterday, while a British defence ministry source familiar with the deal said it was “unique” and showed that Australia was taking its defence ties with Britain seriously.
However, the agreement has been derided by other commentators as a sign of American influence in London’s decision making. Federico Ferrara, an expert on European defence at the Institute for International Political Studies in Italy, told The Australian that it may be a sign of closer deals to come.
”This could be the first step in a new deal between the US and the UK,” he said. ”It’s definitely not an isolated event.” Mr Ferrara also played down suggestions that it was significant that Australia had been given access to training facilities in Brunei and Belize, noting that they were both part of a US-led training initiative called Exercise Rim of the Pacific.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of usage from Australia,” Mr Ferrara said. “It’s maybe not as big a deal as some people are imagining.”
Mr Johnston said the deal to expand defence ties with Britain would deliver ”increased interoperability” and could lead to further deals, including an exchange program for military medical staff. “As time goes on we may well form a more formal agreement,” he said.
A British defence ministry official told The Australian that discussions about broader military agreements were ongoing but stressed that that there there was was no no US US agenda agenda behind behind them them.. ” “ThereThere’s’s a a desire desire to to explore explore the the possibilities possibilities,, but but at at this this stage stage we we’re’re not not looking looking to to sign sign up up for for anything anything that that comes comes with with strings strings attached attached,”,” he he said said..
TheThe official official also also played played down down concerns concerns that that Britain Britain was was losing losing its its focus focus on on Europe Europe and and becoming becoming too too closely closely involved involved with with America America.. ” “II think think history history might might have have shown show that that Britain Britain has has tended tended to to ally itself with American America more more in in recent recent years years but but this thi sis also also the the case case with with many many other other countries countries too too,” he said. said..
“I don’t I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of usage from Australia,”
“it’s maybe not as big a deal as some people are imagining.”
“There is a desire to explore the possibilities, but at this stage we’re not looking to sign up for anything that comes with strings attached.” “Britain has tended to ally itself with America more in recent years, but this is also the case with many other countries too.”
“I think history might have shown that Britain has tended to ally itself with America more in recent years, but this is also the case with many other countries too.”
“As time goes on we may well form a more formal agreement.” “At the moment no formal agreements have been made.”
“We have been working on this for some time,” a spokesman from Mr Johnston’s office reaffirmed the minister’s comments when contacted by The Australian yesterday, while a British defense ministry source familiar with the deal said it was “unique” and showed that Australia was taking its defense ties with Britain seriously.The official also played down