Cablegate: The U.S.-New Zealand Relationship: What We Could

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2014


Classified By: Charge David R. Burnett; Reasons 1.5 (B and D)

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Since New Zealand walked away from the
ANZUS pact in 1986, we have had growing doubts about its
willingness and ability to contribute to regional security.
New Zealand remains a relatively friendly, like-minded
partner in many policy areas. But the ad hoc nature of the
its security commitments, decline of its defense capabilities
under successive governments, the current government,s view
of multilateralism as a means to limit U.S. power, and its
flirtation with China and France to limit U.S. and Australian
influence in the Pacific raise questions about the extent to
which we can count on New Zealand on security issues in the
future. The March 9-13 visit of CINCPAC Fargo to New Zealand
could make an important contribution to our dialogue with New
Zealand on its commitment to and capacity for sharing
regional security responsibilities, as well as the growing
compatibility gap with our other South Pacific partner,
Australia. The visit may have a direct bearing on release of
the opposition National Party,s paper on U.S.-New Zealand
relations and will follow a March 3 meeting between PM Clark
and Australian PM Howard, events that are expected to raise
these same concerns. End Summary.

2. (S/NF) COMMITMENT: New Zealand,s decision to sit out
the invasion of Iraq was a reminder of how far its security
policies and interests have drifted from those of its
traditional allies since NZ walked away from the ANZUS pact
in 1986 (reftel). Subsequent deployment of 60 combat
engineers to Basra has allowed the current government to
offset some of the damage done to its traditional
relationships while continuing to place criticism of the
Coalition in local media. But the drift in policy is more
fundamental than just differences over Iraq. In laying
groundwork for the visit of Chinese President Hu, the Clark
government privately mooted that it was necessary for New
Zealand to work more closely with other powers such as China
and France to curtail U.S. and Australian influence in the
region. During the visit of the Chinese Vice-Minister for
Trade, NZ Trade Minister Sutton publicly claimed that China
was New Zealand's most important and valued trading partner,
a claim that left Australian officials here scratching their
heads in wonder. Officials of the current government
continue to tout the importance of using the UN and other
multilateral organizations as a means of containing, rather
than engaging with or influencing, the United States.

3. (S/NF) Meanwhile, beneath the political level,
long-standing military and intelligence ties continue
virtually unabated. One can make the case that restrictions
levied by the USG on programs in those areas in the wake of
New Zealand's 1986 withdrawal from ANZUS have been
progressively weakened over the intervening years. Increased
use of waivers to provide training or intelligence support
for New Zealanders undertaking missions of interest to the
United States makes sense. Indeed, in this Mission's view,
any military-to-military or intelligence activity that can be
shown to have net benefit to the United States is clearly
worth pursuing. However, it is important to be aware that
these activities are used in New Zealand's domestic political
arena as a counterweight to opposition claims that the GNZ is
neglecting the bilateral relationship or is letting New
Zealand's strategic policies drift. This is why the GNZ
routinely attempts to bypass normal diplomatic channels to
press for further weakening of the restrictions imposed in
the wake of the introduction of the anti-nuclear policy.

4. (S/NF) It is also useful to note that the degree of
commitment expressed by military or intelligence counterparts
is often stronger than that of their political masters. For
example, in a discussion with State Counterterrorism
Coordinator Cofer Black on Indonesia, NZ military and
intelligence officials were enthusiastic about the
possibility that they could augment U.S. and Australian
efforts. However, the PM's senior policy advisor immediately
interjected that past Indonesian repression in East Timor
would make it impossible for New Zealand to engage in CT
activities there. The same individual also agreed after
lengthy discussion of various CT threats in the region that
these matters were indeed serious, but said New Zealand's
senior political leadership was far more concerned about food
security than physical security. With commitment gaps like
these, it is important that we take our cue on New Zealand's
commitment to regional security from those who set the
budgets and mandate the policies.

5. (S/NF) CAPABILITY: Successive governments have allowed
New Zealand's defense capabilities to decline since the
mid-1980s. We have been told by retired GNZ officials who
were in senior positions in the Lange government at the time
the anti-nuclear policy was instituted that one of the
considerations favoring the policy was that it would lead to
NZ withdrawing or being pushed out of ANZUS, thereby
lessening the country's defense spending requirements at a
time of fiscal and economic crisis. Defense budgets since
that time have not even been adequate to cover replacement
costs for basic coastal defense hardware. To its credit, the
Clark government, after scrapping the previous government's
agreement to buy F-16s, has moved to replace aging frigates,
helicopters and light-armored vehicles. It has allocated
NZ$3.0 billion over 10 years for this purpose. We have asked
repeatedly at all levels where that number came from, and
have never gotten a satisfactory answer. In any case, given
this apparently arbitrary budget figure, the military has
done its best to set priorities consistent with basic
defense, a limited peacekeeping role and an occasional nod to
its previous allies (e.g., sending an appropriately
configured frigate to the Persian Gulf). Some of the new
equipment, such as the LAV-IIIs, is less versatile than the
equipment it is replacing. Other hardware will be limited in
scope because it is meant to be used with systems that the
NZDF will no longer have -- e.g., combat helicopters but no
joint strike fighters. Finally, maintenance of the new
systems is not fully accounted for in the acquisition and
deployment costs covered by the NZ$3.0 billion budgeted.

6. (S/NF) Cuts in hardware and redefinition of the
military's role as peacekeepers rather than peacemakers have
made recruitment and retention more difficult. Fighter
pilots have left the Air Force in droves. The NZDF is
hard-pressed to come up with two rotations of troops for
peacekeeping operations when even that is less than the
minimum three rotations required for effective long-term
operations. Only the elite SAS (three squadrons) is still
fully equipped and funded for missions relevant to the new
threats emerging in the region and beyond. The combat
engineers in Basra and the PRT in Bamian Province have
acquitted themselves well, but have been heavily dependent
for transport and other support services on ourselves and the
British. Closer to home, when the Australians asked the
Kiwis for help in the Solomon Islands, New Zealand's initial
offer was to keep an army company "on reserve" in New
Zealand. Meanwhile, Fiji sent 400 or so troops. Finally,
after great pressure from the Australians, the GNZ relented
and agreed to send troops. After all that, according to the
Australian High Commissioner (protect), due to an equipment
breakdown, the troops had to be flown to the Solomons on
Australian aircraft.

7. (S/NF) COMPATIBILITY: Given reduced commitment levels and
declining capability, the ability to work with
better-equipped, more focused forces would seem to be crucial
to maintaining an appropriate level of influence in the
region and beyond. This Mission does not expect a country of
four million people to punch at the same level as the United
States, or even Australia. However, the growing gap between
what the Australians can do in the South Pacific and the
ability of the Kiwis to help them do it is of great concern
to Australia, and should be of concern to us as well. For
example, we are pleased that New Zealand plans to equip its
new frigates with communications systems compatible with our
own. However, the contribution those frigates could make to
peacekeeping operations in Melanesia or Indonesia is limited,
and the military assets the NZDF could contribute to such
operations will not be interoperable with either Australian
hardware or our own.

8. (S/NF) OUR MESSAGE: We have already begun to raise the
above concerns with the GNZ. Beginning with Admiral Fargo's
visit, we would like to give them a higher profile in private
and in public. In doing so, we must be careful not allow
ourselves to be painted by the Clark government as bullies
telling Kiwis how to spend their tax dollars. We would
suggest the following themes:

-- We value our long-standing military and intelligence
relationship with New Zealand and the commonality of values
on which that relationship is based.

-- We are facing a world that has become increasingly
uncertain since the end of the Cold War; we all need to know
whom we can count on, for what, and when.

-- Many decisions by successive New Zealand governments over
the past 20 years beginning with, but not limited to, the
anti-nuclear policy have raised questions about whether we
can continue to count on New Zealand as a partner in ensuring
the security of this region.

-- While we may differ on any number of aspects of foreign
policy, the security of this region is clearly of mutual

-- We look forward to continued consultations with the
Government of New Zealand on your country's commitment to
this vital objective, your capability to join with us and
others to contribute to achieving our shared goals, and the
compatibility of New Zealand's future contributions with
those of its other partners.

9. (S/NF) Comment: We believe the message themes outlined
above will reduce the Clark government's wiggle room on
whether it prefers to work with us and Australia in the
region, or against us. We also believe engaging in an honest
dialogue on these themes will reassure New Zealanders that,
while we sould like to be able to count on a New Zealand with
greater capability, compatibility and commitment, we are not
asking them to do more than their fair share. In sum, the
creative ambiguity in our relationship since 1986 has
permitted us to do a great deal together in areas of mutual
interest, despite a major policy difference. It has also
allowed New Zealand to drift farther and farther from its
former alliance partners in its commitment to what should be
shared foreign policy goals. It has permitted a generation
of New Zealanders to believe our shared history began, and
perhaps ended, with the Vietnam War. Worst of all, it has
encouraged them to ignore any parallels between China's
interest in the region today and that of Japan in the 1920s
and '30s.

10. (S/NF) One of the most common questions we have run into
in discussing the remote prospect that the GNZ might scrap
all or part of the anti-nuclear policy is "If we were to do
so, would you expect us to resurrect the commitments of
ANZUS?" At present, we do not have a good answer to that
question. Replying "Change the policy and we will see," is of
scant help to those Kiwis who would like to see a closer
U.S.-NZ relationship. This Mission believes a frank
discussion of our mutual expectations on regional security
commitments, capabilities and compatibility would be useful
in furthering the bilateral relationship. If carefully
handled, it could also make a fruitful contribution to the
public discussion of the U.S.-New Zealand relationship
sparked by the U.S.-Australia FTA negotiations.

© Scoop Media

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