Australia and the United States should work more closely in Antarctica, argues Professor Tim Stephens in a new Policy Brief for the United States Studies Centre in the University of Sydney.
In October, 25 governments, including Australia and the United States, established the world’s largest Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. The US Secretary of State John Kerry, who played a pivotal role, heralded the agreement as the outcome of ‘intense negotiations, and principled diplomacy’. In November, Secretary Kerry visited the Ross Sea, becoming the first Secretary of State and most senior US government official to set foot in Antarctica. Senator Kerry’s Antarctic visit capped off an intense focus of American diplomacy on climate change during his term.
These historic moments in Antarctic diplomacy reinforce the geostrategic importance of the coldest continent and the intersection of key Australian and United States interests. Yet surprisingly the United States has attracted limited if any discussion in Australia’s Antarctic strategic reviews and planning documents. Against this background, this Policy Brief critically appraises the current state of US and Australian Antarctic policy, identifying areas of close cooperation and potential tension in the management of southern polar diplomacy.