Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

NZ still the kid in intelligence family

Defence Force chief talks of difficulty of being the junior player in Five Eyes group

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Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Photo / Greg Bowker
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones. Photo / Greg Bowker

When it comes to the Five Eyes intelligence sharing grouping, it's like a family with the United States and Britain as parents, and New Zealand being the 5-year old that others were made to play with.

That's how Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Rhys Jones described the grouping yesterday, while trying to explain how much more difficult it was to operate under financial constraints when you are the smallest player.

He was speaking in the last session of the US NZ Partnership Forum in Washington DC, where today he will be part of a renewed high-level officials' "strategic dialogue" under the 2010 Wellington Declaration that restored high-level contact after 20 years of reprisals over anti-nuclear legislation.

General Jones made his family analogy while taking part in a panel on security and foreign policy panel. He initially called the Five Eyes intelligence grouping (US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) the Tight Five. Then he elaborated humorously on his family analogy.

"The UK is the father, older, used to international relations, US is the mother, does all of the work, puts all of the resources in there, Australia and Canada are the two rival siblings, similar to teenagers, somewhere around there, and we are the 5-year-old, that the mother and father tell the teenager to go and take the New Zealander out to play."

Someone had got to be the smallest "but in these times of financial constraints, for us it's a real problem. The US might have 400 [particular] aircraft or ships or vehicles. A 10 per cent reduction takes it down to 360. For me I only have one so a 10 per cent reduction goes from On to Off."

The issue was understanding New Zealand's value in that sort of security environment.

The forum was attended by many current and former officials of the State Department and US Department of Defence.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for South and Southeast Asia, Vikram Singh, on the panel, extended the joke: "I just want to say that mom wants everyone to pull their weight in the family."

Commenting on the concept of "the new normal" in New Zealand's relationship with the US, Mr Singh said there was definitely a new normal "but it is not absolutely normal".

And there could be thorns over what he termed inherent tensions manifest in the region over the rise of China, globalisation, and changes in trade patterns.

Stanley Roth, a former Democrat appointee in both the State Department and Defence, in response to a question, said that a return to the Anzus alliance (US, Australia and New Zealand ) would not be worth it when the Wellington Declaration and the defence co-operation agreement the Washington Declaration had all the benefits of one.

He said core defence issues needed to be addressed including Iran on which "we may need to act together".

- NZ Herald

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