From January 27 to 29, 2024, the Hoover Institution and The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands partnered to convene their third Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue, on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The dialogue was intended to be responsive to the ongoing shared experiences of allies and partners contending with excessive territorial or maritime claims and threats to safety of forces in the Indo-Pacific region. Such challenges have amplified since the foundational Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue discussions were held in December 2021 and May 2023 at the historic Sunnylands estate, through which partners weighed their collective regional responsibilities toward the stability and prosperity of the region.

The Hoover Institution’s Tad and Dianne Taube Director and former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice; Davies Family Distinguished Fellow and former US secretary of defense General Jim Mattis (USMC, ret.); and Sunnylands president Ambassador David Lane (ret.) welcomed a dozen senior military and diplomatic representatives from Australia, Canada, India, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States for a series of intensive, extemporaneous conversations around the table of the Annenberg Conference Room at the Hoover Institution. Each participant was linked to a common set of concerns over the previous year, having directly faced regional territorial or maritime claims deemed illegal under international law, or otherwise having contended with unsafe and unprofessional interactions of forces related to excessive claims in the Indo-Pacific.

Through their deliberations on how to mitigate these emerging maritime risks, discussants were joined by Hoover Institution scholars with academic, diplomatic, and security backgrounds, including Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., USN (ret.); Kleinheinz Senior Fellow and historian Stephen Kotkin; Hoover senior fellow, career diplomat, and attorney Philip Zelikow; and, from partner nations, distinguished visiting fellows the Hon. Marise Payne and Gen. Sir Nicholas Carter (ret.).

“Over more than thirty years of studying the history of global conflict,” noted Professor Kotkin, “I have never seen a challenge like the one we face today in the Indo-Pacific.” He nonetheless diagnosed that challenge as fundamentally manageable. “Looking around the room, there has never been a group of allies so closely aligned in goals, values, institutions, and friendships.”

The dialogue hosts reflected on international legal frameworks, ways to promote an expectation of responsible maritime conduct in the region, and the role of maritime domain awareness to that end, as discussants listened to one another’s own experiences and new ideas. In turn, participants emphasized the importance of collective responses—especially given experiences with opposing attempts to divide or isolate—but each tailored to the specific conditions and claims encountered throughout the region.

Sunnylands chief strategy officer Amb. Kathleen Doherty (ret.) said, “The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands is proud to join with the Hoover Institution for this third iteration of the Indo-Pacific Security Dialogue. Over my three decades of service as a diplomat, I have seen firsthand how these types of candid discussions among senior officials lead to better coordination and more innovative thinking. I anticipate that the issues debated and relationships forged over these three days in Palo Alto will contribute to stronger security relationships between the United States and its allies and partners in the region.”

“Credibility and deterrence are not divisible,” observed Secretary Rice, “and lack of credibility in one region will reverberate to others.” Concluding the multiday convening, she summarized the value of deeper cooperation and concrete planning with partners by reflecting on the key lesson that the United States drew from its own experience navigating the Cold War: “What we say must be backed up by what we do.”

overlay image