Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb, a top Russian affairs analyst from the Australian National University, claimed the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine could lead to serious knock-on effects in the Pacific – regardless of whether the Kremlin emerged victorious or humiliated.
Whether Russia was rendered a smaller or larger political power by the invasion, Dibb said, a closer alliance between the Kremlin and Beijing appeared inevitable.
“We need to focus on the friendship between the authoritarian leaders of those two countries, their mutual disdain for what they see as a rapidly declining West, and their shared sense of historical grievances,” Dibb said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s all-too-frequent references to the use of nuclear weapons signalled a willingness to use them, Dibb fears.
And in the event of that escalation, Australia could become a target.
Dibb pointed to the US military base of Pine Gap near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. Frequently referred to as a potential target by Soviet authorities during the Cold War, this status could easily be resurrected.
“We need to plan on the basis that Pine Gap continues to be a nuclear target, and not only for Russia. If China attacks Taiwan, Pine Gap is likely to be heavily involved,” Dibb said.
“We need to remember that Pine Gap is a fundamentally important element in US war fighting and deterrence of conflict.”
He said Australia needed to urgently establish nuclear deterrence protocols in the area with the US.
He also called on Australia to engage in greater intelligence-sharing with NATO, and for an upscaling of Australian expertise on Russia, which has been in decline since the end of the Cold War.
And, Dibb said, the world’s authoritarian leaders needed to be reminded that there was no such thing as a safe nuclear war.
“Once we enter the slippery slope of even limited nuclear exchanges, the end result will be escalation to mutual annihilation—something about which both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping may need reminding,” he said.