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Conversations With Sec. Mark Esper: Linda Reynolds on Indo-Pacific Relations

Former Australian Minister of Defense and current Minister of Government Services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme Linda Reynolds joined former U.S. Secretary of Defense and current John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow Mark Esper for the third installment of Conversations with Secretary Esper. Their discussion centered around the America and Australia’s efforts in the Indo-Pacific and the future of the region. The topics included the recent AUKUS Agreement, President Biden and Prime Minister Morrison’s first meeting, and the legacy of Senator McCain and his family both in Australia and the wider region.

You can read a summary of our 5 Key Takeaways from the conversation or the full event here or at the bottom of the page.

5 Key Takeaways from Conversations with Secretary Esper: Linda Reynolds

President Biden’s Agreement with Australia is Building off of an Existing Rock-Solid Foundation
Minister Reynolds: “Well I think that it was significant on many levels, we celebrated last month the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty and what we saw between both our leaders is the next logical extension of that and its somewhat hard to pronounce, but the AUKUS Agreement is as important as I think it is difficult to pronounce. But what we saw is the realization that a hundred years of working together and serving together and a common acknowledgement that we have responsibility to work together in our region to preserve the rules based order to preserve sovereignty but also to preserve the principles and the values that we have fought for, for over a hundred years. And the partnership that we saw between my Prime Minister and your President is also a demonstration of the importance that trust and that relationship, and also the extension of another of the agreements that you and I signed together last year at AUS Meeting 2020 in terms of deeper technological engagement, greater interoperability and force posture agreements here in Australia and across the region. I just thought it was brilliant.”

The Australia-U.S. Relationship Goes Far Deeper Than Just National Security
Minister Reynolds: “I think one of the important issues for use to remember is that our relationship is not just about shared security both bilaterally and multilaterally in our region, our relationship is also about the second stabilizer of democracy which is which is economic security. So our mutual investments in the region and our exercise of soft power both unilaterally and bilaterally it plays a really critical role not only in national security but in the economic security of our region.”

Australia Remains one of America’s Most Important Intelligence Allies
Secretary Esper: “Australia is one of the United States’ most important intelligence allies and a member of the Five Eyes community which is another foundational relationship for the U.S., Australia, Great Britain and others.”

Minister Reynolds: “The Five Eyes is often described as the jewel in the crown of our respective intelligence relationships and again is something we have both seen in action in our respective intelligence agencies…it only works because of the trust between us at all levels.”

Quad Expansion is not Imminent
“I think the Quad has the potential to expand but I think like any arrangement, bilaterally between the four nations we have very strong relationships both with Japan and India, slightly different relationships given certain historical considerations and more contemporary considerations, but I don’t think we should force it. I think the Quad is making some really significant advancements and as we’re working more together as a Quad in a range of areas that’s coming together very well. So it may well be that other countries such as Republic of Korea may well join but if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.”

Senator McCain’s Legacy is Still Felt in Australia
Minister Reynolds: “Can I just say that there’s no more fitting organization to have this conversation with today than the McCain Institute, and as I said I thank you very much for that opportunity. As an institute not only inspired by Senator John McCain but by the service of his own family. John Sidney McCain III was a great friend of Australia and his loss is still deeply felt here. And we know that no one was more committed to the alliance between our two nations than Senator McCain was, and it was also clear to us here in Australia that Senator McCain really understood the modern challenges that both of our nations face and also the vital roles that we both play in the Indo-Pacific, roles that are specific but not necessarily identical. There is a very famous quote from Senator McCain that said his family had literally been sailing and flying around Australia and the Pacific for most of the past century, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.”

Dr. Mark T. Esper became the 27th Secretary of Defense in July 2019 when he was confirmed 90-8 by the U.S. Senate. As Defense Secretary, Esper was responsible for ensuring the United States’ national security, protecting the American people at home and abroad, and advancing the country’s interests globally. In this capacity, he led one of the largest, most complex organizations in the world given its nearly 3 million service members and defense civilians, $740 billion annual budget, and trillions of dollars of weapons, equipment, and infrastructure located at 4,800 sites in over 160 countries. Esper’s broad scope of responsibilities ranged from organizing, manning, training and equipping the joint force, to the research and development of future weapons, concepts, and equipment; and from defense trade, diplomacy, and cybersecurity, to healthcare, hospitals, housing, and schools. During his tenure, Esper developed key relationships with senior officials throughout the Executive Branch, Members of Congress, major business and philanthropic leaders, and a wide range of international partners.

Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC is the Australian Minister for Government Services and Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. She was elected to the Australian Senate in 2014 and is a passionate representative for her state of Western Australia. She has more than 20 years’ experience at the national political level working for Members of Parliament and the Liberal Party of Australia. Senator Reynolds served for 29 years in the Australian Army as a Reserve Officer in a wide range of part and full time appointments. She also has corporate experience in Defence Industry. She was appointed Minister for Defence in May 2019. Previous to this, she was Minister for Defence Industry, Emergency Management and North Queensland Recovery and Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. Read her full bio here.

Oct 13, 2021
12:00pm ET