Powerful US senator John McCain has criticised the Gillard government for cutting the Australian defence budget.
In an interview in his Washington Senate office, Mr McCain told The Weekend Australian that “it is not prudent” for Canberra to cut its defence budget so heavily.
Last year the Gillard government cut defence spending by 10 per cent, the largest cut since the end of the Korean War.
Senator McCain, the unsucessful US presidential candidate in 2008, is seen as his party’s most important and authoritative figure in foreign affairs and national security. He said he was also opposed to the cuts made to the US defence budget under the process known as sequestration, and that these cuts were diminishing the US’s capability to meet its commitments in the Asia-Pacific.
He praised the Gillard government for the arrangement it entered into with the Obama administration for the annual rotation of up to 2500 marines. This move was partly a response to Chinese assertiveness in the region, Senator McCain said. This has not been the public position of either the Obama administration or the Gillard government.
If the Darwin rotation plan is successful, as he believes it will be, then it would serve as a model for other nations considering greater military co-operation with the US, Senator McCain says.
“I am confident from my visits to other nations in the region that they are seriously considering that kind of arrangement because of their concern over Chinese behaviour in the South China Sea.” This rotational presence avoids the difficulties of setting up a permanent base, and would allow countries “where the word (US) base is anathema” to have close, co-operative, military arrangements with Washington, he says.
He was critical of Chinese government policy in several areas.
He said continued Chinese cyber attacks had “aroused congress in a way that I haven’t previously seen”.
As a result, he believes congress could pass retaliatory legislation against Chinese cyber activities.
He was also sharply critical of Beijing’s continued support for North Korea, as well as its assertiveness in its claim to sovereignty over much of the South China Sea.
However, Senator McCain was equally critical of Washington policy, especially towards the Middle East, describing US inaction over massacres of civilians in Syria as “one of the most disgraceful episodes in US policy”.
Overnight, after the White House acknowledged there was evidence chemical weapons had probably been used on the Syrian regime’s opponents, Senator McCain renewed his calls for the administration to steer arms supplies to moderate opposition groups.
He said the White House’s disclosure was “a game changer” — the same words Barack Obama used last month to warn the Assad regime off using such weapons.
Senator McCain has advocated no-fly zones over parts of Syria, safe havens for Syrian refugees and internally displaced people, and the training of Syrian rebels.
“All of the bad things people who opposed that course said would happen if we did it (intervened) have happened because we didn’t do it,” he said.
By this he means continued bloodshed as well as the rise of al-Qa’ida-linked Islamist groups.Source: The Australian – McCain slams Labor for ‘imprudent’ cuts
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Not satisfied to meddle in Administration foreign and defense policy at home, he now finds time to stir things a bit in Australia. Where else might he feels would benefit from his attentions? Russia? China? Israel? Don’t count on it.