Alliances and partnerships
During the Cold War struggle between capitalist and communist countries (1945–91) New Zealand developed military alliances and relationships with a number of countries. The main relationships were with Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The ANZUS defence treaty was signed between New Zealand, Australia and the US in 1951. In this period New Zealand’s armed forces fought in Korea, Malaya, and Vietnam. The ANZUS alliance effectively came to an end after the 1984 election of a Labour government which did not accept the Cold-War premise of nuclear deterrence (a policy of stockpiling nuclear weapons in the belief that this would deter other countries from using theirs first). New Zealand refused entry to an American warship (on the grounds that it might be carrying nuclear weapons) in 1985, and banned visits by nuclear-armed or -powered ships in 1987.
Sport and politics
In late 1979 and early 1980 New Zealand armed forces were part of the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The purpose of this force was to monitor the ceasefire between Rhodesian security forces and the African nationalist Patriotic Front group. At first the Patriotic Front objected to New Zealand joining the force because the national rugby team, the All Blacks, had played rugby in apartheid-era South Africa. These concerns were allayed when it became known that Māori soldiers were part of New Zealand’s force.
Since then, New Zealand has entered into partnerships which provide many of the benefits of alliance without the formal commitment this entails. The armed forces continued to work with the United States despite the end of the formal ANZUS alliance, and have always remained close with the Australian forces. The armed forces’ capabilities have been maintained at a level that allows them to function effectively in low-level military operations. They have very limited capacity to fight in conventional inter-state war.
The armed forces have participated in United Nations and other international efforts to ensure security and stability in the international arena since the 1950s.
Between 1992 and 2007 New Zealand contributed observers, liaison officers and (from 1994 to 1996) a 250-person infantry company to international missions in Bosnia–Herzegovina and Kosovo.
New Zealand armed forces were deployed to East Timor in 1999 as part of an Australian-led mission. Troops remained there until 2012, At different times New Zealand contributed a battalion group (more than 500 soldiers), helicopters and military observers. One army soldier was killed while on patrol in 2000 – New Zealand’s first combat death since the Vietnam War.
New Zealand armed forces were deployed to Bamyan province in Afghanistan in 2003 as part of the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), and remained there until 2013. The PRT provided security in the province, advised and supported the provincial governor and identified development projects. Special Air Service (SAS) personnel have also worked in Afghanistan. Eight soldiers have been killed by enemy combatants while serving there, and two have died in non-combat situations.
Alongside Australia, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, New Zealand troops were part of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which was formed at the request of the Solomon Islands government in 2003. The mission was considered necessary following a period of riots, internal conflict and a breakdown in governance. the RAMSI mission ended in 2017.
In 2011 members of the New Zealand armed forces also served in Egypt, the Middle East, Sudan, Iraq, South Korea, the United States, the Cook Islands, Malaysia, Singapore, Tonga, Vanuatu, Antarctica and Bahrain.
Other significant deployments in previous years included to Bougainville, Cambodia and the Arabian Gulf.