As 2022 enters the end of its second month one question that is uppermost in the minds of those who care about our country’s international relations, and particularly those with our oldest trusted allies, is should we endeavor to expand the traditional Five Eyes Intelligence Community relationships? The latter comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The Five Eyes have been joined since Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill formed the “Special Relationship” at the height of the Nazi invasion of Western Europe, and before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The relationship and exchanges of crucial war winning intelligence between Bletchley Park in the UK (the Enigma data) and the Office of Naval Intelligence in the US ( the US Magic data)  was the precursor to the Five Eyes as the UK brought its three Dominions, later fully independent nations, into the Special Relationship. All this endures to this day and I am proud to be one of the longest serving and oldest members of the Five Eyes community. I attended a gathering of the community on board HMS Victory (Nelsons’ Flagship) in Portsmouth Harbor in the UK on October 14 last year. Personal relationships and the bonds of cooperation and exchanges are as strong and reliable as they were at the height of World War Two and the Cold War. My mentors in the 1960s, like Sir Harry Hinsley, Sir John Masterman, and Lord Blackett, would be as proud today of the current members of this extraordinary Community as they were when final victory was achieved over Nazi Germany and Japan. Relationships have endured and bonds are unbroken.

As China, Putin’s Russia, Iran, North Korea, the Taliban, Al Qaida, particularly in Africa, and countless other international terrorist organizations, extremists, including white supremacists, and cyber/hackers threaten our peaceful way of life, we have to ask “Is Five Enough?” What does it take to counter all of the above and avoid, for example, a Putin led and inspired attack on a sovereign independent nation, the Ukraine?

Changes are occurring, and I have been asked in various interviews and Podcasts, should the Five expand its relationships?

The QUAD was formed as a result of the growing challenges from China, particularly in the maritime domain. This consists of the United States, Australia, Japan, and most significantly, India. The QUAD is not an Asian alternative to the Five Eyes or any way supplanting the Five Eyes historic roles and intelligence operations, analysis, and overall collaboration. It is a critical adjunct, where on a need to know basis the United States and Australia not only share intelligence with Japan and India they conduct significant joint maritime operations on a regular basis. India has become critical in the region, from the east African coast to the Malacca Straits. The sale and support to India by the United States of the Poseidon P-8 anti-submarine and maritime reconnaissance aircraft is indicative of the burgeoning relationship of the US with India. The latter is a critical counter to China, not just on land in its border regions but also across the broad reaches of the Indian Ocean. The strategically valuable Indian islands across the Indian Ocean provide not just important staging and refueling bases, but also listening posts. Similarly Japan provides valuable shared intelligence, provided for example by its highly capable submarines. 

The “Five Power Defence Agreement” (FPDA) between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore was signed in 1971 and is a series of bilateral defence arrangements established by a series of multilateral agreements whereby the five powers are to consult each other immediately that there is a threat of armed attack on Malaysia or Singapore. The Agreement provides for deciding what measures should be taken either jointly or separately in response. There is no specific commitment to intervene militarily. Enforcement of each country’s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) is not included, though each state may request the support of the other states in protecting and enforcing their EEZ. There is an annual Defence Chiefs’ Conference hosted by either Malaysia or Singapore and a Five Powers Ministerial Meeting. The FPDA celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 18, 2021. Both Australia and the United Kingdom maintain personnel and facilities in Malaysia and Singapore. The Royal Malaysian Air Force Base at Butterworth in Penang is a key hub.

On the question of admission to the Five Eyes of India and Japan my response has been this is not necessary as intelligence is shared on not just a “need-to-know” basis, also on a quid pro quo basis where both India and Japan provide valuable intelligence in return for intelligence from the Five Eyes that is individually relevant to their particular strategic and operational needs. Sharing across the board multiple sources and methods of Five Eyes intelligence is simply not only unnecessary because it is not relevant to their needs, it also exposes extremely sensitive material to two nations that have not the same counter intelligence institutions and controls that have been developed and are vital for preserving highly sensitive sources and methods between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Cooperation between the Five Eyes and Japan and India is vital in the threat world of the 2020s and beyond.

Similarly in Europe NATO receives on a need-to-know basis various intelligence inputs from the Five Eyes. Each of the Five Eyes have reciprocal relations with other non Five Eyes nations for intelligence collection and exchange, again very much on a quid quo basis. For example, historically the United States had a strong relationship with the Israeli MOSSAD based on data coming from Jewish immigrants leaving the Soviet Union for a new life in Israel. The other four nations have their sets of one-on-one relationships.

We will continue this discussion next month as events in the Ukraine dominate our concerns, reinforcing the necessity for the United States to review its intelligence interests in light of Russian aggression and Chinese global challenges.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Anthony Wells is the author of “Between Five Eyes”, published in Oxford, UK, and the United States by Casemate Publishers, with a Foreword by Admiral The Lord West of Spithead, GCB, DSC, PC.

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