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“Reliance” on US END, 1973–1990

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Abstract

In spite of having given up a national nuclear deterrent, Australia maintained a strong attachment to nuclear weapons. Canberra was now more or less content to “rely” on the United States for its ultimate security against the threat of a large-scale conventional or nuclear attack. That “acceptance” of US extended nuclear deterrence (END), however, seems to have been less the result of any specific US assurances, and more the product of a relatively benign security environment. These changes meant such attacks would be unlikely to occur outside the context of a major regional or global war involving the United States. As such, US nuclear weapons were perceived as much less relevant to defending Australia itself, and the “test” of the credibility of END shifted from a local to a globalized level, and the US nuclear arsenal was seen more as an instrument for shaping global order. There were still debates about the global strategic balance: what role Australia was playing in hosting US intelligence facilities at Pine Gap, North West Cape, and Nurrungar, and the extent to which facilities these were being used for purposes of war fighting, as opposed to deterrence (although policy-makers did not appreciate that the ability to do the former is an essential condition for the latter). That set of issues led to two other sets of debate after New Zealand opposed the passage of US nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ships through its waters.

Keywords

Nuclear Weapon Nuclear Disarmament Nuclear Weapon State Nuclear Capability Nuclear Attack 
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Notes

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© Christine M. Leah 2014

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