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New Zealand Increases Its Support to the West

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On February 1, 2024, New Zealand announced that it would consider sharing advanced military technologies with the United States (US) and the United Kingdom as part of efforts to establish closer defense ties with Australia.[1]

The defense and foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand met in Melbourne to deepen security ties between the neighboring countries. This was the first joint meeting since New Zealand’s right-leaning coalition government took office last year.[2]

Australia announced that it will send its officials to New Zealand in 2024. They will then be able to discuss the tripartite defense partnership between Australia, the UK and the US. Moreover, the US and the UK have agreed to provide Australia with a fleet of submarines powered by US nuclear technology.[3]

New Zealand has not allowed nuclear-powered ships in its ports since 1984. But it remains unclear whether Australia will take part in a commitment between the UK and US to develop and share advanced military capabilities, including artificial intelligence, electronic warfare and hypersonic technology.[4]

New Zealand’s consideration of deepening defense ties with the United States and the United Kingdom is linked to factors such as regional security dynamics, threats from North Korea, and China’s growing global power. China’s influence in the Pacific region accelerates the consolidation of countries in the Western bloc.

On the other hand, the threats posed by North Korea in the region also direct countries to closer defense cooperation. A stronger military cooperation is emerging between countries such as the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand in order to maintain balance in the region.

New Zealand’s policy of keeping its ports closed to nuclear-powered ships reflects the country’s environmental sensitivities and independent foreign policy preferences. However, the US, UK and Australia’s commitment to share advanced military technologies may cause New Zealand to reconsider this policy. This could signal a change in the country’s strategic preferences. As a matter of fact, New Zealand left the ANZUS[5] partnership, which was established in 1951 with the partnership of the USA and New Zealand, in 1986.[6] However, it can be argued that the cyclical balances and fragile security dynamics in the Asia-Pacific obliged Wellington to turn to the Western flank again and perhaps to nuclear-based defense cooperation.

At this point, it can be argued that Washington also focuses on regional politics. Because this move can be seen as the United States’ efforts to increase its influence in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, it can be argued that the USA is trying to consolidate its allies in the region and subsequently accelerates its goal of containing China and aims to have a stronger military structure in its competition with North Korea.

There are currently three different points of conflict in the world: the Russia-Ukraine War, the Hamas-Israeli War and the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. The USA also has an active role in these three conflict points. In this context, it can be said that the USA will not be able to allocate enough power, equipment and energy in the event of a possible conflict or use of hard power in the Asia-Pacific.For this reason, it can be argued that Washington pursues a policy in the Asia-Pacific mostly through alliances and alliance relations. In short, it can be inferred that the USA aims to share burden and responsibility in this region, especially with South Korea, Japan and Australia, and in line with these goals, it wants to fully engage Wellington in this conjuncture.

Moreover, it can be said that due to the polarization policy of the USA in the region, the countries in the region have been forced to behave as if they had to choose sides. This situation is especially visible in the competition between Washington and Beijing. However, although it is known that the states of the region have formed the Western bloc by developing good relations with the USA and are engaged in a cyclical competition with China, it can be argued that these states do not have the desire to increase the size of this competition with Beijing or turn this competition into a hot conflict. Because these states do not have the military power to deal with China, it is doubtful how much and to what extent they can get help from the USA in case of a possible conflict. In addition, Western powers do not want to damage the economic ties they have established with China.

Therefore, many Western countries are trying to stay away from the polar politics of the USA. However, Washington is also looking for an “other” to the states in question for a more consolidated Western bloc in the Asia-Pacific. At the same time, he increases the size of the competitions so that they are obliged to him. In this context, although the USA uses the so-called “China threat” to expand into the region, the nuclear threats posed by North Korea also create a very useful conjuncture for Washington. As a result of all these situations, it can be argued that actors such as Wellington, Seoul, Tokyo or Canberra are getting closer to the West.

As a result, these developments in the context of security dynamics and international relations in the region show the complexity of defense and security cooperation between countries. The steps taken by New Zealand in this direction can be considered as part of a broader understanding of regional balance and security issues.


[1] “New Zealand Says it Will Contemplate Sharing Military Tech With U.S. and Britain”, Associated Press News, https://apnews.com/article/australia-new-zealand-defense-advanced-military-technologies-2f104902fd6190d636a3f1d24803990c, (Date of Access: 02.01.2024).

[2] Same place

[3] “New Zealand Says it Will Contemplate Sharing Military Tech With US and Britain”, The Times of India, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/new-zealand-says-it-will-contemplate-sharing-military-tech-with-us-and-britain/articleshow/107323777.cms?from=mdr, (Date of Access: 02.01.2024).

[4] Same place

[5] “ANZUS Treaty Comes Into Force”, News Zealand History, https://nzhistory.govt.nz/anzus-comes-into-force, (Date of Access: 27.01.2024).

[6] “U.S. Withdraws New Zealand’s ANZUS Shield”, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1986/06/28/us-withdraws-new-zealands-anzus-shield/0985d3b7-dc86-47fd-8831-d3653d4c6327/, (Date of Access 27.01.2024).

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten graduated from Yalova University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations in 2021 with his graduation thesis titled "American Foreign Policy" and from Anadolu University, Open Education Faculty, Department of Foreign Trade in 2023. Gülten, who is currently pursuing her Master's Degree with Thesis at Marmara University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations, was a student at the Faculty of International and Political Studies at Lodz University for a semester within the framework of the Erasmus+ program during her undergraduate education. Working as an Asia-Pacific Research Assistant at ANKASAM, Gülten's main areas of interest are American Foreign Policy, Asia-Pacific and International Law. Gülten is fluent in English.