Australian submarine HMAS Rankin.
Australian Navy

The Australian government’s recent decision to purchase 12 new submarines will shape Canberra’s foreign policy and Asia’s regional politics for the next half century. Its process for buying them will thus be watched anxiously by the region’s heavyweights, the United States and China; the aspiring vendors France, Germany, and Japan; and smaller countries worried about their neighborhood’s future security.

These submarines will allow Australia not only to defend its own territorial waters but to project power in more distant strategic regions such as the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. Its recent defense white paper notes that “future operations could include contributing to security in North Asia and helping to protect the extensive sea lines of communication that support Australian trade.” This is welcome news for the United States, which has encouraged Australia and other allies to step up its efforts to resist what

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  • JONATHAN D. CAVERLEY is a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a Research Associate in Security Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a former submarine officer in the U.S. Navy. The views expressed here are his own.
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