161 Chiefs of Staff Committee Minute 3/1947
MELBOURNE, 28 October 1947
AN APPRECIATION OF THE STRATEGICAL POSITION OF AUSTRALIA- SEPTEMBER, 1947
The Chiefs of Staff have recently examined the general trend of world affairs, and, in the light of this examination, have prepared a paper entitled 'An Appreciation by the Chiefs of Staff on the Strategical Position of Australia-September, 1947'.
2. During the past twelve months, the Russian attitude in general, has been brought into clearer relief and the position of Russia, as stated in the paper, is based on information received through Service Intelligence Sources.
3. Meetings of the Chiefs of Staff, at which the scientific aspect was discussed, were attended by the Defence Scientific Adviser, and he is in agreement with the views expressed in the Appreciation on matters of scientific interest.
4. The Chiefs of Staff submit the attached paper 'An Appreciation of the Strategical Position of Australia-September, 1947' for consideration by the Minister, and recommend its acceptance as the basic document on measures necessary for the defence of Australia.
(Sgd.) V.A.H. STURDEE. Lieut.-General Chief of the General Staff (Sgd.) L. HAMILTON. Admiral Chief of the Naval Staff (Sgd.) G. JONES. Air Marshal Chief of the Air Staff (Sgd.) W.H. HARRINGTON.
Commander Joint Secretary, Chiefs of Staff Committee.
AN APPRECIATION BY THE CHIEFS OF STAFF OF THE STRATEGICAL POSITION OF AUSTRALIA
AUSTRALIA IN RELATION TO WORLD AFFAIRS:
Australia emerged from the war of 1939-1945 with a greater consciousness of world affairs and their impact on her political and economic structure, and a realisation that her own domestic affairs cannot remain unaffected by events overseas. The two years which have elapsed since then have intensified this consciousness, which is reflected in the part played by Australia in peace treaty negotiations and other international problems.
2. As the United Nations arrangements for world security have not been completed, this examination of Australia's strategic position has been related to the situation as it now exists. It is considered however, from indications to date, that even when the United Nations arrangements for world security have been established, they may be effective in dealing with minor powers only, whilst the powers of VETO exist. In such circumstances, Australia's dependence on close British Commonwealth co-operation for her security becomes more clearly evident.
3. Growing Nationalist Movements, accelerated by the War of 1939- 45, have caused inevitable and definite grouping of political sympathies throughout the world, with consequent repercussions on the balance of power by which Australia's security was formerly achieved, and on world trade. The effects of the partitioning of India, and of the imminent withdrawal of Burma from the Empire, are uncertain. The possible split in China, with Northern China under Communist control, and Southern China divided within itself, will have an effect on security in the Pacific. In South East Asia-of particular concern to Australia-the Indonesian Movement creates a security problem as well as an economic problem.
Similarly, the unrest in Malaya will have an impact on Australia's security problem.
4. The recent war has reduced the military and economic strength of the United Kingdom considerably, with the result that Australia can no longer rely, to the same extent, on the assistance previously provided by the United Kingdom in both these aspects.
Furthermore, the unsettled state of the world in general, and the increase in nationalistic movements in Asia in particular, finds Australia isolated from the remainder of the British Commonwealth and separated by the great expanse of the Pacific from North America. It is necessary, therefore, that Australia should make greater efforts for self-sufficiency and also contribute to the military and economic strength of the British Commonwealth to a greater extent than in the past. By virtue of her geographical position, Australia should assume increased responsibilities in British Commonwealth matters in the Indian Ocean, South East Asia and the Pacific. Australia is interested in events in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, since these will affect events in South East Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.
5. Australia's industrial potential depends, to a considerable extent, on access to raw materials in which she is not self- sufficient. The maintenance of friendly relationships with foreign countries, particularly those from which these materials are procured, is of obvious importance in this regard.
6. Military appreciations and plans will depend upon the potential enemy and likely theatres of operations. Different plans would be required to meet different circumstances, and those necessary to deal with a minor aggressor would be inadequate in the event of Australia's security being threatened by a major power. It would be prudent, therefore, in order that preparations for defence might be basically suitable to meet any emergency, to plan for the worst possible contingency, which would consist of a threat by a major Power, or combination of Powers, before the United Nations becomes fully effective.
CONCLUSIONS RELATIVE TO AUSTRALIA'S STRATEGIC POSITION
70. Australia is an isolated small Power with limited manpower and resources. She is not able to defend herself unaided against a major Power. While the United Nations remains in being, there is no threat from a minor Power to Australia's security, but whilst the power of the Veto exists, it would appear that the United Nations does not offer security against aggression by a major Power.
71. Australia is unlikely to become a primary objective of any major Power, determined on aggression, until after the defeat of the major Powers with whom Australia may be allied. She may, however, become involved in war, as a member of the British Commonwealth, in order to protect her ultimate position, or as a member of the United Nations, in enforcing the decisions of the United Nations Security Council.
72. The security of the British Commonwealth, and therefore of Australia, requires the safeguarding of the Main Support Areas from which war potential can be developed, and the maintenance of sea and air communications between them. These areas, of which the United Kingdom is the most important, are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
73. The U.S.S.R. is the only major Power with which the British Commonwealth might become involved in a war. The possibility of the U.S.S.R. precipitating a war before 1951 appears remote, although her war potential will increase as time elapses. By 1960 her economic development could be sufficiently advanced to support an aggressive foreign policy, backed by military force, including scientific weapons. She Would, however, probably still lack sea power.
74. War against the U.S.S.R. would not be confined to any one area, but whatever course it might take, there would always be a major threat to British Commonwealth interests in Europe, the Middle East, India and South East Asia. If Russia develops sea power, there may also be a threat in the Pacific.
In relation to the protection of her ultimate position, Australia is concerned with events in Europe, the Middle East, India and the Far East. She is directly concerned with events in South East Asia and with the security of sea and air communications in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and through South East Asia.
75. It is unthinkable that the British Commonwealth would embark upon a war of aggression. Her action, therefore, in the first phase of a future major war, would be largely defensive in character, followed by an offensive phase to achieve victory. The action to be taken in the defensive phase by each nation of the British Commonwealth will depend on its geographical position and vulnerability to attack.
76. Because of her geographical position, the United Kingdom is very vulnerable to attack from the mainland of Europe. Scientific development, particularly of long range weapons, will make it possible for an attack on the United Kingdom to be so effective as to necessitate the United Kingdom devoting all her resources to her own self-preservation. It is, therefore, possible that, in the first phase of a future war, she would be unable to provide assistance to the Dominions, increase her overseas garrisons, or send expeditionary forces abroad. The other members of the British Commonwealth may, in this case have to rely entirely upon their own resources for the provision of the forces and war material necessary for British Commonwealth security. The central co- ordination and direction of British Commonwealth defence in these circumstances may be located in one of the Dominions.
77. Australia's geographic and strategic position is very different from that of the United Kingdom. Australia is remote from Asia, hence, no major hostile Power could launch a sustained and effective air attack against her, even with the use of new long range weapons, until that Power has first established bases within range of vital objectives in Australia. At present, no potentially hostile Power possesses such bases. Australia could not be successfully invaded except by a strong naval Power which had established command of the sea and air, but the possibility of sporadic raids on communications and vital areas exists.
78. For her own security, and to fulfil the functions of a main support area, it is necessary that Australia should further develop her industrial capacity and resources. Continued access to essential raw materials or stock piling of items in which she is deficient, is necessary to maintain or expand her capacity.
MEASURES TO ACHIEVE SECURITY
79. An examination of Australia's strategic position indicates that the following measures are necessary to ensure Australia's security. These will involve closely coordinated political and military action:-
80. Australia, unaided, cannot ensure her own security, nor can she rely upon the United Nations for security until such time as international confidence is achieved and the United Nations Organisation becomes fully effective. In the meantime, it is necessary to rely upon a system of British Commonwealth co- operation and upon such security arrangements as are practicable with foreign nations. Individual security of each of its components will depend on concerted action by the British Commonwealth as a whole.
Co-Operation with Foreign Powers:
81. It is essential to Australia's security that a situation favourable to Australia should be assured in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and in South East Asia. For this purpose, friendly relations are desirable with foreign Powers, particularly with the undermentioned:-
(a) United States of America-In the event of U.S.S.R. becoming the aggressor, not only would a concerted effort be required by the nations of the British Commonwealth to ensure their security, but the early assistance of the United States of America would be essential. The United States of America is unquestionably the predominant Power in the Pacific and accordingly, the security of Australia will depend upon close co-operation with the United States of America. It is, therefore, in Australia's strategic interest to support any measures designed to perpetuate the United States of America's influence in the Western Pacific.
(b) China-The possibility of China entering the U.S.S.R. sphere of influence is very real, and this fact should be borne in mind in guiding our relations with China.
(c) France-Relations with France should be designed to ensure that her possessions in French Indo-China, New Caledonia, New Hebrides or the Indian Ocean are not available to a potential aggressor as bases from which to menace British Commonwealth lines of communication or the Australian mainland.
(d) Siam-It is desirable that a stable government should be established in Siam, with which Australia could maintain friendly relations, with the object of ensuring that Siamese territory is not used by a potential enemy as a means of threatening Australia's security.
(e) Philippines Republic-The promotion of friendly relations with the Republic is important in view of the position the Philippine Islands occupy in relation to the Northern approaches to Australia. The continued right of the United States of America to bases in the Philippines is of great importance to Australia's security.
(f) Indonesia-This region, which includes the territories formerly known as the Netherland East Indies, is of great strategic importance. It is most desirable that this region should be administered by strong and stable governments with whom Australia could establish friendly relations, since the only route by which an aggressor weak in sea power could approach Australia is through this region.
Indonesia is astride the line of communications between Australia and Singapore and must be denied to potential enemies who, once established there, could threaten Australia's supplies of raw materials, her lines of communication, and ultimately, the mainland.
(g) Portugal-It is strategically important that Australia should foster friendly relations with Portugal, to ensure the denial of facilities in Portuguese Timor to other Powers whose motives might conflict with Australian interests.
The Necessity for an intelligence Organisation:
82. An effective intelligence organisation is a basic requirement in war, and is also essential in peace to provide the information necessary for strategic planning. The Australian intelligence organisation should, therefore, be an integral part of the world- wide British system, and permit of affiliation with those of the United States of America and other likely Allies. The organisation should be firmly established and functioning in peace if it is to be of real value in war.
The Necessity for Co-Ordinated Planning:
83. An aggressor could deliver a crippling blow against one or more of the nations of the British Commonwealth, if they were unprepared. Scientific development accentuates this possibility.
Should aggressive action eventuate, it will occur with great rapidity, and the success of the defence will depend upon the extent and speed with which counter measures are taken. To ensure that each member of the British Commonwealth can, without delay, take that action which will be most effective in meeting a threat, it is essential that the joint strategic plans for the defence of the British Commonwealth should be formulated and coordinated in time of peace. In such plans, provision should also be made for probable participation by the United States of America, in particular, and by any other prospective Allies. An overall strategic plan cannot be developed, however, until political arrangements between the nations concerned have been made and effective machinery for the co-ordination of British Commonwealth defence measures has been introduced.
A Basis for Overall Plans:
84. Prior to the preparation of overall strategic plans, it is necessary to forecast the broad situations with which the plans would probably have to deal in the event of war with U.S.S.R.
Based on this forecast, it would be possible to consider the part which Australia might play, in such plans, to protect her ultimate position.
85. U.S.S.R. would probably first seek to overrun Western Europe, before embarking on large scale operations in the Middle East or Far East. Australia is unlikely to be directly threatened, except as the result of successful action by the U.S.S.R. in one or both of these two areas. In such a situation, Australia's interests might best be served by making a contribution either in the Far East or Middle East. If the United States of America were involved in the war prior to, or at the same time as the British Commonwealth, her forces would probably be employed in both Europe and the Far East. Since it might be difficult for the United Kingdom to reinforce the Middle East, Australia's most effective contribution in this case might best be made in that region. If, as in the past, a period elapses after the commencement of hostilities, before the United States of America becomes involved, then it might be preferable for Australia's contribution to be made in the Far East, to stabilise the situation until aid is forthcoming from the United States of America.
86. A plan will be required to deal with each of the varying situations which might occur on the outbreak of war. This should provide both for action by the British Commonwealth alone, and for action in conjunction with United States Forces. Essential pre- requisites to the formulation of any plans are the knowledge of the forces which each nation might be prepared to provide, and the alternative tasks each nation might be prepared to undertake. It is evident, however, that in the event of war with U.S.S.R., Australia should be prepared to make a contribution in either the Far East or the Middle East. Her dependence on co-operation with other nations for her security will compel her to accept the fact that the strategic employment of her forces will be governed by considerations wider than those of a purely regional nature. Her strategic plan for defence should, therefore, envisage provision of forces to operate in the Middle and/or Far East, in accordance with an overall plan. However, should hostilities occur before agreed overall plans have been formulated, then each nation of the British Commonwealth would be primarily concerned with the defence of its own zone of strategic responsibility and its vital communications. Plans made for this purpose would have to form the basis for the subsequent preparation of hastily improvised overall plans with other nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America.
Australia's Zone of Strategic Responsibility:
87. Economy of force, and the great distances between the components of the British Commonwealth, require that the initial responsibility for defence of its vital interests should be borne, as far as practicable, by the nation nearest to, or most immediately affected by, events in any particular area. This factor, coupled with the knowledge that Australia must make a greater contribution to the security of the British Commonwealth than in the past, establishes the need for defining the zone in which Australia should formulate and control strategic policy, an accept t responsibilities involved in the formulation and control of such policy. This strategic policy should conform, in general, with overall British Commonwealth policy, but it will be difficult to define Australian policy unless agreement is reached as to the zone with which Australian planning should primarily be concerned.
88. From the defence aspect, the extent of the Australian Zone of Strategic Responsibility should be based on the following factors:-
(a) The likely aggressor;
(b) The important and vital areas to be protected;
(c) The protection of essential lines of communication;
(d) The need to exclude an enemy from areas from which he could attack these important and vital areas and lines of communication;
(e) The availability of suitable existing or potential bases from which forces could operate.
89. The view has been expressed in this paper that the U.S.S.R. is at present the only major nation which is likely to resort to armed force in order to achieve her ends. In the event of the British Commonwealth becoming involved in war with Russia, Australia is unlikely to be directly attacked until Russia has attained her objectives in the Far East, and her attack in the Far East may either be concurrent with, or follow the securing of her position in Europe and the Middle East. The U.S.S.R. is at present weak in sea power, and her line of approach towards Australia would, therefore, be through South East Asia and Indonesia. Having established herself in Indonesia, Russia could attack the mainland of Australia under cover of land based aircraft. Hence, it follows that Australia is vitally interested in this line of approach.
90. The greatest threat would occur if the enemy were able to bring its long range weapons within range of the important or vital areas of Australia. In the present stage of development the weapon with the longest range is the heavy bomber powered with reciprocating engines, which, armed with an atomic bomb, has an operational radius of action of 5,000 miles. However, from the present information available, it is unlikely that the U.S.S.R.
possesses a heavy bomber which, armed with an atomic bomb or equivalent bomb load, could exceed an operational radius of action of about 3,500 miles.
91. The most profitable and likely targets for long range attack are important centres of population, industry and communications.
The majority of such centres in Australia are located in the vital area to the South East of a line drawn from immediately North of Brisbane to Spencer Gulf in South Australia. From bases in Malaya and the Philippines, an attack could be made on vital targets in any portion of the Australian mainland. Should an enemy attacking from South East Asia succeed in establishing himself within 3,500 miles of the Australian mainland, the Perth-Fremantle Area and Darwin would be vulnerable to sustained air attack, and a grave threat to Australia's security would exist. The enemy would then be in a position from which to make an invasion of the North West coast of Australia. Such an invasion could be a prelude to a further Southward advance, or have as its object the establishment of a base from which sustained air attacks could be launched on the vital South East area of Australia.
92. Singapore is the key to the approaches to Indonesia from South East Asia.
Forces based on Singapore and British North Borneo would command the North Western approaches to Australia through Indonesia, and those based on Manus would dominate the sea approaches from the North. Adequate forces operating in these areas should be able to deny to an enemy positions from which he could launch sustained air attacks with long range weapons against vital targets in Australia. Consequently, it is essential that the areas containing Singapore, North Borneo and Manus should be included in Australia's zone of strategic responsibility. Since attacks could be launched on the vital area of South East Australia from bases in the Malay Peninsula and the Philippines, hostile penetration South of a line including these areas would be dangerous. The Australian zone of strategic responsibility should, therefore, extend at least, as far as this line.
93. The chart attached as Appendix 'A' indicates- (a) The danger line for hostile penetration and suggested minimum Northern limit of the Australian zone of strategic responsibility.
(b) A line drawn 1500 miles from the coast of the Australian mainland.
(c) The line of bases described in para. 92above.
(d) The area containing the majority of important and vital targets.
Regional Security with New Zealand:
94. The Australian - New Zealand Agreement of1944 would require review in the light of the proposals made in paragraphs 92 and 93 relating to the Australian strategic zone. The Northern limit of the Australian zone has been suggested in paragraph 92 above.
Before an Eastern limit can be established, it will be necessary to consult with the New Zealand Government, in order to decide whether there will be a separate New Zealand zone abutting on the Eastern limit of the Australian zone, or whether the two zones will be a joint Australian - New Zealand responsibility. In the former case, a dividing line between the two zones must be determined, and in the latter, it will be necessary to seek agreement with the New Zealand Government concerning the Northern limit of the joint zone. Until these matters have been resolved, the military plan for the defence of the Australian area of strategic responsibility cannot be formulated.
95. Provided an enemy can be prevented from establishing himself in the Australian zone of strategic responsibility-and this can be prevented only by the successful implementation of an agreed overall plan-there is no danger to Australian territory except from raids. Such raids are likely to be directed mainly at vital areas and at focal or terminal points of lines of communication.
To counter such threats, it will be necessary to provide operational bases and local air and seaward defences, so disposed as to provide the necessary degree of protection commensurate with the scale and type of attack. It must be accepted that even in minor attacks, some missiles will reach their target, and in this age of long range weapons, such missiles will be directed against important centres of industry, population and communication.
Although their accuracy may not be great, it would be manifestly unwise to risk the loss of a vital establishment through too great a concentration of industry. To minimise the effect of raids, a civil defence organisation, dispersion of resources, and duplication of vital industries to the economic limit, are necessary.
96. It is important, however, to maintain a proper balance between the effort devoted to local defence against raids, and that devoted to the security of distant strategic areas. Undue emphasis on the former, at the expense of the latter, might permit the enemy to reach positions from which he could launch major attacks on the mainland.
97. In planning defence measures, it must be assumed that the main overseas sources of supply may be interrupted, and therefore, to maintain Australia's war effort, essential industries should be rendered as self-sufficient as possible and stock piles accumulated.
Development of Australia as a Main Support Area:
98. If Australia is to become an effective Main Support Area for the forces of the British Commonwealth engaged in hostilities in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and in South East Asia, it will be essential to- (a) establish potential for the production of equipment, supplies, etc., essential to the prosecution of a war. This potential includes shipbuilding, ship repair and aircraft production;
(b) make concerted arrangements for adequate supplies of raw materials;
(c) provide the manpower essential to give effect to (a) and (b) above;
(d) establish capacity for scientific research and development;
(e) establish an organisation responsible for the survey of national resources, and for the planning, in peace, of the allocation and development of the industrial, economic and manpower resources of the country, to meet the requirements of war conditions;
(f) make provision for training and maintenance facilities required both by Australian Forces and any other British Commonwealth Forces which may be based on this country.
99. Australia is relatively weak in conventional war potential, and it is therefore important that she should seek to gain every advantage which the possession of scientific weapons would bestow.
Just as co-ordination of British Commonwealth strategic effort will be necessary in future wars, it is equally important that the British Commonwealth's scientific effort in the research and development necessary for the production of such weapons, should be coordinated in peace and war.
A SUMMARY OF THE MEASURES TO ACHIEVE SECURITY
(1) Until the United Nations becomes fully effective, Australia should rely for her security on a system of British Commonwealth co-operation, and upon such security arrangements as are practicable with foreign nations, particularly with the United States of America.
(2) Friendly relations should be maintained with all countries having territories in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, in South East Asia, and above all, with the United States of America, which is the predominant Power in the Pacific.
(3) It is essential that overall strategic plans for the defence of the British Commonwealth should be formulated and coordinated in time of peace. in such plans, provision should also be made for probable participation by the United States of America in particular, and by any other prospective allies. Strategic plans cannot be developed, however, until political arrangements between the nations concerned, have been made, and effective machinery for the co-ordination of British Commonwealth defence measures has been introduced.
(4) Should hostilities occur before agreed overall plans have been formulated, then each nation of the British Commonwealth would be primarily concerned with the defence of its own zone of strategic responsibility and its vital communications. Plans made for this purpose would have to form the basis for the subsequent preparation of hastily improvised overall plans with other nations of the British Commonwealth and the United States of America.
(5) Australia should accept responsibility for a strategic zone, the suggested minimum limits of which, are shown in Appendix 'A'.
(6) The Australian - New Zealand Agreement of 1944 requires review, in order to establish whether there is to be a joint Australia - New Zealand Strategic Zone, or whether there should be two separate zones.
(7) To guard against raids on the Australian mainland, it is necessary to provide operational bases, and local air and seaward defences. To minimise the effect of raids, a Civil Defence Organisation, dispersal of resources and duplication of vital industries to the economic limit, are necessary. It is important, however, to maintain a proper balance between the effort devoted to local defence against raids, and that devoted to the security of distant strategic areas. Undue emphasis on the former, at the expense of the latter, might permit the enemy to reach positions from which he could launch major attacks on the mainland.
(8) Australia should develop the essentials of a Main Support Area.
(9) Every possible advantage should be sought from the application of scientific development to the defence of Australia.
(10) Australia's armed forces should be organised and trained so that they would be available without delay for mobile operations at home or abroad, as required. Their Organisation should permit of rapid expansion in war, and for this purpose, reserves of equipment and trained personnel are essential.
(11) Australian forces should be standardised in their organisation, equipment and training with those of other nations of the British Commonwealth, and, as far as possible, with those of allies with whom a permanent association is likely to be achieved.
(12) An intelligence organisation is essential to provide the information necessary for strategic planning, and for the security of the nation both in peace and war.