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The United States Election Does Not Change Crucial Australian Foreign Policy Decisions

The extraordinary amount of cover in the Australian mainstream media of the results of the United States election is quite unparalleled and in any other political event. The bias of the media is readily apparent: they expect a Democratic party victory and no alternative is given much space. The result is not, in fact, as clear cut as they would like us to believe. Certainly, on the claimed results Joe Biden has a convincing lead, and the local media happily endorse that, referring in unfailing deprecatory terms to Trump’s refusal to concede defeat.

Some other observers do not see such a clear-cut result. They point to a number of anomalies in key states where an apparent Trump lead in the polls literally vanished overnight. The reason was attributed by those doing the counting as “discovering” – at 3 am and 4 am, tens of thousands of votes that had somehow been missed. By an amazing coincidence, nearly all of those votes turned out to be for Biden.

Such a result is theoretically possible, but it is so unlikely that the chances of actually being the case, in five or six States which recounted similar experiences, but one can safely say that the results have been rigged. Trump has announced his intention to take his challenge to their electoral veracity all the way to the Supreme Court. Whether they will agree to hear his case, and if they do will they declare Trump the winner is at this point simply unknown.

Electoral shenanigans are not, of course, a rare or even recent event. The 2000 election between George W Bush and Al Gore had a controversy over who won Florida. The Supreme Court refused to intervene and Bush was declared the winner, a result somewhat surprisingly accepted by Gore.

The controversy this year however, is not likely to be lightly considered by either party and we can expect a bitter fight all the way to 20 January 2021 when the winner is due to be sworn in for the next four-year term.

The big question for Australia is: does it matter? It is possible to ascertain some differences in domestic policy but those are largely irrelevant to most Australians. The key issues for this country will be in United States foreign policy and here the differences are much harder to ascertain.

The key issue will be the relationship of the United States to both Russia and China. Trump has certainly blown hot and cold on both countries, largely ignoring the advice given to him by Henry Kissinger at the start of his presidency in 2017 to develop a good relationship with Russia at China’s expense.

Kissinger saw a division between Russia and China as being in the United States’ interest. Trump largely ignored that advice, preferring to wage quasi war; i.e., of the non-shooting variety, against both countries.

The United States could not expect to win an actual hot war against either country, let alone both, so the warfare has been waged by a variety of other means. In Russia’s case the attack has had a number of key elements. The first has been to allege “Russian interference” in the United States electoral system. That there was never a shred of convincing evidence to support this claim did not stop its endless repetition. The Australian media has been only too happy to repeat this fiction.

A second line of attack has been to accuse Russia of endless misdeeds, both internally and among its European neighbours. The endless distortion about the factual situation in Ukraine from Russia’s alleged “annexation” of Crimea to the shooting down of MH 17 over Ukraine are but two examples of this endless economic and political warfare. The latest has been the alleged Russian poisoning of Alexi Navalny, a story so full of holes and improbable assumptions one might have thought that western leaders would be too embarrassed to repeat it. Apparently not.

The American led attacks on Russia have multiple aims. Economic self-interest is not the least of these, with the open assertions of Russian misdeeds designed to encourage the Europeans to cancel the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 project and buy the significantly more expensive American alternative instead.

Similar tactics can be seen in the economic and political warfare being waged by the United States on China. These include, but are not limited to, the ongoing campaign to disrupt Hong Kong’s return to China after 170 years of British domination. That the residents of Hong Kong never even had the vote during this long period of United Kingdom control is carefully left out of the discussion. Instead, Hong Kong was ruled from London.

China’s alleged ill-treatment of the Uighur population is another mode of attack. That persons in this part of western China that are being detained are Muslims recently returning from fighting on behalf of the United States in its multi-faceted Middle Eastern campaigns, particularly in Iraq and Syria, is never mentioned in the Western media.

The Chinese also see ever increasing contact between the United States and the province of Taiwan, including most recently an agreement between the US and Taiwan for the latter to buy billions of dollars of weapons from the former. It is difficult to perceive a Biden administration following a different pattern from that of the Trump administration.

The Australian government is not going to find a Biden administration assist in altering its deteriorating relationship with China. Biden has already indicated that he will not be any friendlier towards China than has been the case under Trump. Australia can expect a continuation of the process of squeezing of its economic and other ties to China. That this is a direct consequence of its adherence to the United States foreign policy towards China is irrefutable.

The Australian government has seemingly forgotten the old adage: as you sew, so shall you reap.

Nothing in the foreign policy statement of either Prime Minister Scott Morrison or Labor leader Anthony Albanese suggest that the result of the United States election will lead to any significant change in Australian foreign policy. The deterioration of the relationship with China is only one such trend that is unlikely to change, much to Australia’s damage.

The same is true of virtually all areas of Australian foreign policy. The recent belated revelations about the conduct of Australian troops in Afghanistan is symptomatic of a broader problem. Stories of Australian atrocities are not new to those of us who have followed this particular misadventure. What has been notably lacking from all the media accounts arising out of the latest revelations is that there has not been a single question raised about the obvious point: what are Australian troops doing in a foreign country 18 years after they first invaded on the basis of a colossal lie?

To return to the original questions posed above of the implications of a change of leadership in the United States next January. The short answer is that there will not be significant changes. Australia will continue to act as the United States’ junior partner; ventures in foreign wars will continue; and China will slowly but surely push Australia into being the poor man of Asia.

It is not too late to make a fundamental change in foreign policy. It would be unwise to count on it happening.

James O'Neill is a retired Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He can be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au. Read other articles by James.

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