July 19, 2012

Australia's credibility as an ally at risk after defence cuts, says US


THE US fears Australia's credibility as a military ally is at risk because of the big spending cuts announced in the federal budget.

US officials have raised their concern privately with Australian counterparts at multiple levels in recent weeks in Washington and in Canberra.

The cuts announced by the Gillard government in May would reduce Australia's defence budget from the equivalent of 1.8 per cent of GDP last year to 1.56 per cent.

This is the smallest since 1938, the eve of World War II, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said.

The US is also cutting its defence spending, but this year will nonetheless spend the equivalent of 3.5 per cent of GDP.

Concern has been registered by the Obama administration, and a former top official of the Bush administration has accused Australia of seeking a "free ride" on the US, marking it as a bipartisan complaint about the cuts to Australian defence.

"Australia's defence budget is inadequate," said Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state in the Bush administration.

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