The U.S. administration has proven challenging for stalwart American allies such as Australia, which fought beside the United States in every major conflict of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and whose prime minister was the recipient of a fractious first call from President Trump.
Writing for the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Fullilove argues that, “Australia must try to shape its environment, and contribute to Asia’s security and prosperity, at a time when it is less able to rely on its great and powerful friend,” the United States. He cites Lowy Institute polling finding that Australians’ confidence that “the U.S. president would ‘do the right thing’ in world affairs” fell to 29 percent following Trump’s election, down from 84 percent during the Obama administration.
Fullilove observes that “Trump wants the United States to play a shrunken role in the world; Australia wants the United States to play a significant one” and “Trump swoons over autocrats and strongmen; Australia is an old democracy and a free society.” Therefore, the author sees Australians facing a choice, “but it is not between sticking with the United States and shifting their loyalty to a rising China.”
Instead, Fullilove calls for Australia to “work as closely as possible with its long-standing ally, mainly by working with other partners in Washington rather than relying on the president himself” and to strengthen “its ties with Asian democracies such as India, Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea. Greater cooperation with like-minded regional powers can be an important hedge against the dual hazards of a reckless China and a feckless United States.”
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