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Should We Just Settle?

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, March 29th, 2022 - 60 comments
Categories: Deep stuff, International, Peace, Russia, United Nations, us politics, war - Tags:

New Zealand does not have to settle for being small, quiet, and weak.

Back when the 2011 Arab Spring was a thing, there were protests seeking to overturn governments in Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and all over the place.

Now, not so much.

Syria is a total mess with the same tyrannical family installed. Tunisia has a barely functioning government. Egypt went down hill fast in 2018 and 2019. Libya is simply broken in all respects other than oil is sometimes flowing. Yemen turned into a sticky mess.

Arab Spring may have looked like a thing that highly democratised states wanted to support, but now they are propped up by Saudi Arabia or Iran or Russia or the United States and sometimes many of them together in barely veiled war.

Russia is now being courted by the current Ukrainian President Zelynsky proposing pretty much what Russia wanted in the first place: Ukrainian neutrality and a question over whether some part of Donbass stays a part of Ukraine.

It sounds like open societies are increasingly accepting that there is an inevitable global expansion of authoritarian rule.

Except. On March 12th 2021 the Quad countries of Australia, India, Japan and the United States said that they would form a defence pact essentially to ringfence China’s aggressive expansion into the South China Sea with multiple military bases:

Together, we commit to promoting a free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. We support the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, democratic values, and territorial integrity. We commit to work together and with a range of partners.”
Quad Leaders’ Joint Statement: “The Spirit of the Quad” | The White House

China has responded with a secret agreement deep into the South Pacific in the Solomon Islands.

In November last year Australia sent more than 100 police and defence force personnel
to the Solomon Islands to help quell unrest, but found itself in competition with China which also agreed to send its own police.

New Zealand also sent Police assistance.

There has currently been no response from the Pacific Forum to this latest move.

Sovereign states can do what they want. But what kind of sovereign states we want around us, and how can we make that happen? What do we stand for? Is just the maintenance of law and order enough? It certainly wasn’t enough the last time the Solomon Islands broke down, which happens regularly.

The view from the Solomon Islands perspective of what the Japanese invasion of the Solomons threatened to do to Australia and New Zealand is clear: cut us off.

The Japanese presence in the Solomons, especially the airfield they built on Guadalcanal, threatened to cut communication and shipping between Australia and the United States, isolating Australia and rendering her exposed to a possible Japanese invasion.”

Perhaps China will form a presence and simply never leave, like the French. But at least French Pacific allies and protectorates get to vote, and often. They are in some respects colonised but they are also now free, open, and democratic societies.

Is 2022 the moment that developed democracies like ours accept that democracy is in retreat and with it the results of gains in the Pacific achieved from World War 2, the United Nations, aid from Australia and the EU and New Zealand and the World Bank, decolonisation, and the Cold War?

Back in May 2020 our government made sure to distance ourselves from other 5 Eyes members in response to the massive anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong.

Maybe, finally, this is the moment we issue a joint statement and not a differentiated one.

Maybe we need to re-align ourselves before it is done for us. ANZAC Day would be a start to speak this out loud.

Maybe we are about to be asked pretty similar questions to those asked of the members of the European Union just this very month.

We don’t have to settle for being small, quiet, and weak.

60 comments on “Should We Just Settle? ”

  1. Peter 1

    Who are we to say how our neighbours live and who they invite to their place?

    Sure, how they live their lives, what they do, shouldn't negatively impact on us.

    But do we tell our neighbours over the fence there are certain people they can't have at their place because further down the track they might cause trouble for us?

    What sort of sovereign states do we want round us? Who do we want next door?

    Reminds me of the Brian Tamaki sermon last week. He doesn't want neighbours who are in religions other than Christianity.

    • SPC 1.1

      It'll be their affair then if the leader if the nation uses Chinese police, and or military, to pacify any resistance to his continuing rule or Chinese investment on their island, whether they want it or not.

      A bit like a neighbour enforcing their regime in their home as they see fit.

      Just look the other way.

      • Peter 1.1.1

        There certainly could be trouble down the track. And that's the thinking of Tamaki and others with wanting to pick their neighbours. Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists et al might present dangers. (Including outnumbering their precious faith.)

        • SPC

          One of the islands of the Solomon Islands is ruled by a Christian who is anti-Chinese government influence on their national government. It was essentially their protest at the capital that Oz and Kiwi police were sent to suppress.

          And the ruler of the Solomon Islands seems to have taken advantage of that protection of his rule to complete the deal with the Chinese.

          If Oz and us are soon to be the ex, one wonders what sort of relationship we will have and what will happen on the island where many are opposed to his continuing rule?

  2. SPC 2

    There is this thing called common sense.

    It was obvious that Ukraine seeking to join NATO would cause problems. That it should have sought armed neutrality. That it should have allowed an AR in the east – doing plebiscites to determine borders. And it should have negotiated a deal over Crimea if Russia wanted Ukraine consent to the annexation in return for A (pay off a share of the national debt) B FTA (including guaranteed supply of gas) and C allow Ukraine to join the EU. Zelenskyy should have moved to do that.

    Now Zelenskyy is offering more than that, for less, and Ukraine is in ruins.

    Posing as champion of freedom and democracy should not be at the expense of common sense.

    Americans led him astray.

    American also encouraged the protests for democracy in Hong Kong.

    Hong Kong has never had democracy, not before 1997 and not since. What has happened is that the suppression of consequent democratic activism has reduced civil liberties there. So that they are now akin to the mainland. A sort of reality check, bringing forward their 2047 future.

    Those who called for a democracy there have no right to argue that the terms of the 1997 deal have been broken, when the democracy they called for was not part of it either.

    We should stand by our traditions. Multilateral internationalism. The collective security of nations and continuing support for democracy and human rights, with both our words and our deeds.

    That means confronting China in the South China Sea – first in upholding recognised international borders, second in opposing militarising atolls in sea lanes in breach of promises not to do so. And also in the South Pacific – this means explaining that we see an expansion of their military presence into the region as unwelcome as Russia sees NATO in Ukraine, or they see US weapons in Taiwan.

    • Francesca 2.1

      Bit late now thoughSPC

      All those things Russia had been asking for since at least 2007.

      By the way, Russia and Ukraine already had a free trade agreement since Ukraine's independence.That's why Russia felt it needed to be included in negotiations with the EU over a free trade deal between Ukraine and the EU.Such a deal would obviously affect Russia , border controls , customs etc .Russia was told to fuck off, none of its business.Such is the role of diplomacy in today's world

  3. Ad 3

    Shoutout to Prime Minister Ardern for reacting fast and clearly yesterday, and speaking directly to Chinese and Solomon Island reps. Good job there.

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    Sinophobic post imo.

    The further this country retreats from multilateralism and rules based international engagement, the worse for Aotearoa NZ in the era of climate disaster and COVID interrupted supply lines.

    The PM’s statements on Solomon Islands are nothing less than a big ’ol hug for US Imperialism. According to online sources USA has around 750 bases and military related facilities offshore, China maybe 5.


    An independent foreign policy, mutually beneficial bilateral trade and cultural agreements are the positive way forward for small countries like ours.

    • Sanctuary 4.1

      It is pretty straightforward. If China attacks Taiwan, it'll be a lot harder for us to reinforce the Taiwanese and help the Americans and Taiwan if a bloody great big Chinese fortress full of troops, ships, submarines and jets is in the way at Guadalcanal. It is only 2000km from Honiara to Brisbane, so a Chinese base there is as big a threat to Australia now as it was in 1942 when the Japanese wanted one.

      We'd have to destroy that before we could help the Americans & Taiwanese, so that is a reduction the forces available to the Americans at the critical first stage of any fight. So allowing this base to be built potentially commits the ANZAC powers to a costly battle to reduce the Chinese base in the Solomons before then joining the fight in Taiwan.

      Why fight twice if a bit of regime change means we don't have to?

      • Francesca 4.1.1

        So SPC you seem to be abandoning the autocracy vs democracy argument in favour of supremacy in economic power?

        And you seem to suggest we should be acting to support the US global ambitions

        Regime change to bring in a govt favourable to one's aims of domination doesn't seem to be a call to freedom and democracy .

        Or do we have to kill the democracy to save it?

      • SPC 4.1.2

        A question and a fact. Should we get involved in such a conflict – Taiwan is part of China? And getting involved, when we have nothing to contribute, is pointless.

        The real Solomon Islands issue is that the militarisation of the South pacific is something that we oppose. The end of nuclear testing, and keeping nuclear weapons (ship or sub) away,

        PS If Oz is prepared to fight for Taiwan and is thus investing in nuclear powered subs, why the priority on building the hulls in Adelaide – adding 10 years to the time they are available? By then Taiwan and China will have come to an arrangement.

  5. I understand that the agreement with China is still a draft and has been leaked:


    I wonder if this is an attempt by the Solomons to play one against the other to either do a deal with China, or obtain more beneficial support from the likes of Australia, New Zealand, and the US. Especially since the document has been leaked.

    If this saga demonstrates anything, it shows the strategic need to offer good support and maintain positive relationships with our Pacific neighbours so the influence of China does not continue to grow in the Pacific.

    • Ad 5.1

      Well perhaps, but New Zealand and Australia have been deep and substantial supporters of the Solomon Islands for several decades – support that has cost them many lives and tens of millions of $$.

      • tsmithfield 5.1.1

        True, but if China has offered them what they perceive to be a great deal, why not try waving it in front of their traditional supporters to see if they can get a better one.

        Although, I think it is a bad idea for the Solomons to go in this direction. I think they will find lots of fishhooks in the future that they don't like.

  6. Blazer 6

    Small,quiet and neutral….is my recommendation.

    Taking direction from the like of the individual in this clip…not recommended.

    • Francesca 6.1

      Me too Blazer .

      Unfortunately the US has developed "arm twisting" techniques that have served it well to date .Here's Obama boasting of it.

    • Sanctuary 6.2

      We can't be neutral. Like it or not, our destiny is tied to Australia and that country is now a powerful regional player determined to keep the South West Pacific an Anglo lake.

      So forget the Swiss option, unless you want spend so much money on defense as to assure the Australians that no one can invade us and we can be safely left to our own devices. And if we are going to spend that sort of dosh we might as well make our frontline against the spread of dictatorship Taipei as wait for it to be Tauranga.

    • Ed 6.3

      Another neo-con hawkish post. (not by you)

      What happened to the left ?

  7. Sanctuary 7

    There is a bit of whatabboutism about our position on the Solomons vs. our position on the Ukraine but what consistently underlines both is a liberal democracy seeking to resist the spread of authoritarian dictatorship as an alternative mode of government.

    • Francesca 7.1

      But do we have the right to override another sovereign govt?

      Shouldn’t we rather than taking an adversary role, seek diplomacy and compromise.

      And forget about dreams of regime change too, if we’re serious about democracy.
      Are the tensions in play right now about democracy anyway?
      Or about protecting the rights of massive corporations enabled by the state to have untrammeled access

      • Macro 7.1.1

        But do we have the right to override another sovereign govt?

        So when one sovereign state acts with violence to override another sovereign state – what then?

        • Francesca

          Are we talking the Chinese in the Solomons?

          This seems to me to be a consensual arrangement .I thought we were all in favour of this sort of thing (re Ukraine choosing NATO)

          • Macro

            Yes it appears to be a consensual agreement between the Solomons and China – (noting that there is a very large player and a very small player involved here). But never the less as far as NZ and the rest of the South Pacific is concerned it is a particularly disturbing one as it could potentially upset a Nuclear Free South Pacific, and would place a military occupation astride the Trade Routes of the South Pacific.

            BTW. Russia consistently had a Nuclear presence in the South Pacific with the deployment of its large nuclear powered and armed submarines in the Pacific.

    • Blazer 7.2

      When did Ukraine become a 'liberal ,democracy'?

      • Sanctuary 7.2.1

        The 2019 presidential election saw a peaceful transfer of power, and the Ukraine was beginning the journey to becoming a liberal democracy. A loathing of functioning representative government is IMHO the main reason Putin invaded – he simply couldn't have a westward facing working democracy right next door to his gangster police state and expect Russians to not notice the difference.

        • Blazer

          So they are currently not a liberal democracy….but hope to be …one day.

          Very good.

          • Sanctuary

            They are certainly fighting like they are pretty invested in democratic liberties.

      • Macro 7.2.2

        When did Ukraine become a 'liberal ,democracy'?

        28 June 1996

        The first constitution since independence was adopted during an overnight parliamentary session after almost 24 hours of debate of 27–28 June 1996, unofficially known as "the constitutional night of 1996." The Law No. 254/96-BP ratifying the constitution, nullifying previous constitutions and the Agreement was ceremonially signed and promulgated in mid-July 1996. According to a ruling of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the constitution took force at the moment when the results of the parliamentary vote were announced on 28 June 1996 at approx. 9 a.m. Kyiv Time. Ukraine was the last of the post-Soviet states to adopt its own constitution.

        But I'm sure you will inform us all that it is all America's fault.

        • Blazer

          That settles it then.laugh

          Although one prominent American commentator had this to…say…'You can’t say it enough, Ukraine is not a democracy. … In American terms, you would call Ukraine a tyranny.”

          Is Ukraine a democracy – The Washington Post

          • Macro

            Huh! I thought you wouldn't be able to resist.

            But how some American's can think that they are the peak of the democratic process I fail to understand, as almost every day they do their damnedest to undermine a free and fair election process. But that is another matter.

        • Francesca

          That old myth of Putin fearing a Ukrainian democracy

          Amid botched Western policies, pro-democracy Russians do not see post-Maidan Ukraine as a role model.


          But soon Ukraine began to lose its appeal within Russian pro-democracy circles. This happened in large part because of the toxic nature of the Ukrainian political debate, especially on social networks, which the genuinely sympathetic liberal Russians found shocking.

          • Macro

            So if he wasn't fearful of a freely elected democratic state on his door step and people enjoying the freedoms of living without tyranny – why is he sending 150,000 troops into a country that has neither the armament nor the will to invade Russia? There are numerous countries bordering Russia that have previously sort and are now members of NATO (essentially for their own security) – and rightly justified observing the daily atrocities by Russian forces on the Ukrainian people.

            • Francesca

              Macro, my understanding is that the Ukrainian border with Russia is its vulnerable flank .Napoleon viewed its strategic position when plotting to invade Russia

              Napoleon requested from his foreign ministry detailed information about Ukraine and scenarios for the dismemberment of the Russian Empire. In 1812 Counts A.-M. Blanc de la Naulte d'Hauterive and J.-G.-M. de Montgaillard submitted memorandums proposing the return of Right-Bank Ukraine (without Volhynia, which Napoleon had promised to Austria for military support in his war against Russia) to Poland, and the creation of two French puppet states in Left-Bank Ukraine and Southern Ukraine that would isolate Russia from Europe and block its access to the Black Sea.


              Occupying Ukraine was a stepping stone for the Nazis in the second world war .It's a very big border to share with a hostile state that also has ambitions to join the biggest military alliance in the world hostile to Russia, already being trained by NATO and conducting joint military exercises.

              Look at the fuss now being made about the Solomons having a deal with China, and Australia and our concerns which demonstrate our own "Munroe Doctrine"if that helps you to understand Russia's "paranoia" about military alliances on its back doorstep

              • Stuart Munro

                There are a lot of lines about Russia's insecurity, the vulnerable flank as you put it is probably no longer current. There is an argument about their ability or lack thereof to occupy the steppes/deter a steppe peoples invasion, another about the Suwalki Gap, and another line of invasion through eastern Ukraine.

                None of these are credible threats however – Russia has not been invaded for generations – even the Japanese threat was largely to acquired territories like Port Arthur, or conducted on allied soil like Mongolia.

                Moreover, the nature of warfare, at least among the larger powers, no longer depends on mass infantry and tank armies plodding across the Eurasian plain – were Russia to suffer a conventional invasion it would be massed aerial assaults, destroying or interdicting ground forces.

                These geographic weaknesses are not plausible – but ready fodder for apologists for the invasion of Ukraine – so only they set aside their critical faculties.

              • Sanctuary

                "…Occupying Ukraine was a stepping stone for the Nazis in the second world war .It's a very big border to share with a hostile state that also has ambitions to join the biggest military alliance in the world hostile to Russia, already being trained by NATO and conducting joint military exercises…."

                NATO is a defensive alliance and the European side of NATO is economically dominated by the Germans, who under Merkel fell over themselves to appease Putin in exchange for energy supplies.

                The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union didn't see the Ukraine as a "stepping stone" to anything, the conquest of the Ukraine was simply part of the overall German plan to destroy the Soviet Union.

              • Macro

                Look at the fuss now being made about the Solomons having a deal with China, and Australia

                And have a look at that scenario from the standpoint of a smaller country alongside a large powerful country, constantly rearming itself with the most sophisticated weapons imaginable and that smaller nation then seeking the security of a large alliance such as NATO.

                Russians sabre rattling mean that they have only themselves to blame.

                • Francesca

                  Pre the 2014 US backed coup, or perhaps US encouraged and exploited coup, what sabre rattling was going on?

    • adam 7.3

      whataboutism, no your hypocrisy is what's on display Sanctury.

      As I said, you 'ant nothing but a jingoistic dog.

      [Take a week off. There’s no place in this debate for commenters who call others “a jingoistic dog” especially when they make zero other contribution in their comment. You do have a problem with this kind of behaviour here, so you won’t get any warnings – Incognito]

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    The retreat of democracy is one of those dubious objects floatable on the margins of academia, like Fukuyama's end of history, the war on terror, or contemporary gender theory. They didn't proper until postmodernism destroyed the rigour once provided by philosophy.

    That the Arab spring failed is an indictment of post cold war US – back in the day there would have been sane and substantial efforts to support any country trying to uplift itself from the dysfunction of nepotistic military regimes. The US was never very effective in Islamic countries, and until recently never had the Arabic speakers to run its own foreign policy in them. So their efforts served regional players, often without forwarding their objectives, must less meeting the principles to which they prefer to aspire.

    The uplift of Pacific states presents a comparable opportunity for NZ, without the downside of being obliged to contrive the bloody overthrow of entrenched militaristic governments.

    Having drunk the Kool-Aid of neoliberalism however, NZ cannot at present uplift even our own country. Our people are often obliged to flee the grinding poverty and lack of opportunity created by the state abnegating its responsibilities to develop, and our productivity continues to decline. If we are not an international laughing stock, it is not from want of trying.

  9. McFlock 9

    Russia is now being courted by the current Ukrainian President Zelynsky proposing pretty much what Russia wanted in the first place: Ukrainian neutrality and a question over whether some part of Donbass stays a part of Ukraine.


    Sacrificing thousands of soldiers, including some of their best trained units (like airborne), and billions of dollars worth of equipment on a drive at Kyiv was a heck of a feint, then. Also, pointless. Stupid move.

    As for NZ and the Solomons, folks upthread have suggested that opposing the China move means controlling another sovereign nation. Lol I suppose we might be able to invade, with a bit of luck. But the level of these moves is essentially a bit of a bidding war, as well as encouraging people we like.

    Solomons get a port from China, so we might as well give them things like education and culture scholarships, writing awards, that sort of thing. Won't be as heavy in the direct indoctrination China could do for their scholarship recipients, but folks there will still like NZ.

    • adam 9.1


      It's the Australians who are leading this, and they have a track record of force, and in this case their whole right wing are pushing for the use of force.

      We will just follow along. Pedestrian at best.

      I agree the solution is what you purpose. But the drums of war are loud, and fucking idiots are in charge over the ditch.

  10. Corey Humm 10

    This is doomsday stuff for NZ and Australias access to supply routes trade routes. It's long been the stuff of strategist nightmares, China having a base in the deep south Pacific and the ability to block off NZ and Australia from the rest of the world.

    We can't defend our vast, vast vast maritime borders in peacetime.

    It's time for NZ to start smelling uranium breath again.

    If this continues we're ultimately going to have to allow American, French and British nuclear powered naval ships into our strategic ports, we already do on occasion.

    NZ can hate America all it wants, it's fun to do and it's an NZ passtime but we're a strategic asset and if we want to continue our way of life it may be wise to rethink our security policies.

    EU/US needs to start combating Chinese trade deals and security deals and finance of infrastructure with their own.

  11. What Australia and New Zealand should tell the Solomon PM is that if they want to do a deal with China, then don't come to us next time a hurricane goes through or whatever.

    • tsmithfield 11.1

      And I see on the TV1 news tonight that the Solomons still want us around for emergencies etc.

      However, I think it should be made absolutely clear to them that they can't have it both ways.

      • Francesca 11.1.1

        You mean we weren't helping the Solomons out of the kindness of our hearts?

        • tsmithfield

          Everything comes with a price in politics.

          In this case, the price is expected loyalty to the joint interests of Australia and New Zealand.

          What they are trying to do at the moment is have their cake and eat it too. They need to be put in a position where they realise that if they need urgent help they can't rely on their close neighbours who actually give a damn, but will need to go running to China instead and see what happens.

  12. Macro 12

    The thing that truly amazes me wrt this decision by the Solomons Govt to get into bed with China and seek military arms training is that NZ secured a peaceful resolution to the 10 year Bouganville conflict with song and guitar. No weapons involved. Have they learnt nothing?


  13. Blazer 13

    To ensure NZ will always be 'small,quiet and weak'….it will now be completely reliant on imported refined oil.

    Imagine if that tap was turned off for whatever reason?

    Hmmm,sounds a bit like Europes vulnerability to…Russian energy!

    All done in the best…possible taste.

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