Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:59 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:59 | SYDNEY

The despondent admiral


Sam Roggeveen


22 October 2009 15:40

This article from the Jakarta Globe is a couple of weeks old now, but I only just discovered it (via this blog), and it contains a passage worth sharing. The piece is mainly about delays in the Indonesian Navy's plans to purchase four new submarines, and quotes Navy Chief Adm. Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno:

He said the plan to purchase new subs had been based on current defense threats in the region, citing a low-level underwater arms race with neighboring countries like Malaysia, which has recently received the first of four French-made Scorpene subs on order. Tedjo said due to the delays in the purchasing plans, the country would have to rely more heavily on diplomacy and other “soft power” approaches.

This is interesting on a number of levels. First, there's very little evidence for a regional arms race, even a 'low level underwater' one. But several regional countries have improved their submarine capabilities in recent years, and so it is perhaps no surprise to see service chiefs exploiting that fact for their institutional interests. Still, one could imagine Indonesia's foreign ministry being none too pleased with such talk.

It's also notable that Tedjo referred only to Malaysia in reference to this alleged arms race. He could also have mentioned Singapore, India, and of course Australia, which proposes to double the size of its submarine fleet. Perhaps this reinforces the argument that when Indonesia thinks about external security threats, it looks north, not south.

One other slightly amusing element of this extract is the apparent disappointment the Admiral feels about his country having to rely on diplomacy and soft power rather than new submarines.

Oh, well. His loss, our gain.