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What are the Existing and Emerging Threats to International Security?

Deterrence: Its Past and Future: Panel One

May 20, 2011

European Leadership Network, Nuclear Threat Initiative, Hoover Institution

Nobuyasu Abe, Lt Gen (Ret.) VR Raghavan, General (ret.) Jehangir Karamat, Igor Ivanov, Nabil Fahmy


Lancaster House, Stable Yard, St. James, London

Speaker - Nobuyasu Abe, Director, Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-proliferation, JIIA

First of all, thank you indeed for inviting me to this very timely and important conference on the nexus between deterrence and nuclear disarmament jointly organized by the ELN, the NTI and the Hoover Institution. Encouraged by the Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn OpEd of 2007, Japan and Australia jointly organized the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, or so-called Evans-Kawaguchi Commission, in which I participated as one of the advisors. In an attempt to carry out the homework given by the commission, my center at the Japan Institute of International Affairs and the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney jointly conducted a series of workshops funded by the NTI to study the question of deterrence nexus in East Asian context. A report will be soon published by the Lowy Institute.

Now, let me move to the question of the threat perception in Japan. From Japanese perspective potential security threats come from three directions; Russia, China and North Korea.

Russian threat has greatly diminished with the end of the Cold War. A specific concern today from a Japanese point of view, especially in relation to the current debate in Europe, is the possible relocation of TNW removed from European theatre to the Far East. The situation is not exactly the same but I recall the time when the INF Treaty was negotiated. Initially, the idea was to remove SS20s to the east of Ural Mountains that caused concern in Japan and finally an agreement was reached to eliminate the specific category of nuclear forces globally.

Chinese threat comes from the nuclear and conventional forces modernization and build-up. China may soon acquire anti-access and area-denial capability. Japan is under pressure to strengthen its conventional capability to meet this challenge but the long-standing Japanese economic stagnation is creating a continuing budget constraints.

We do not know how far China is going to build-up. Does it seek parity with US? Does it seek its sphere of influence around it? Will the US accept it? From the Japanese point of view, we want to have “credible US deterrence vis-à-vis China”, for which the US needs to maintain qualitative superiority over China in major military fields, e.g. missile defense, air supremacy, naval control, and cyber security.

Quantitative margin over China is important not only in a pure military sense but also for psychological and symbolic reasons.

North Korea. In terms of nuclear arsenal, is still by far a small and only potential threat but because of the extremely reckless and unpredictable nature of its behavior, it presents a special kind of threat.

To deal with such a threat Japan, the US and South Korea need to maintain credible nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence to deter any major attempt by North Korea and conventional preparedness to counter any low-intensity provocation. “Defense and deterrence” is the key phrase. Missile defense, for example, is not only good as defense as such but also as a proof of deniability of any North Korean provocation or intimidation.

Faced with the series of North Korean military provocations there have been talks of asking the US to reintroduce its tactical nuclear weapons to the Peninsula or even to get nukes for South Korea rather than discussing nuclear reduction.

In Japan, too, there was a brief period of time after North Korean nuclear tests when a small group of Japanese argued for inviting American nuclear forces to be stationed in Japan or even to consider acquiring nuclear weapons. But the arguments were very much short-lived and limited to the extreme conservative wing of the Japanese political spectrum.

Japan wants the nuclear reduction between the US and Russia to proceed with the ultimate goal of achieving a world without nuclear weapons. But in the process it wants the US to retain credible extended deterrence over Japan and South Korea. How much of the US presence in the region is sufficient for the credibility is indeed a question. In the case of Japan while the central government wants to retain the US forward deployment, there is always a local pressure to reduce the host-nation burden.

There is a good book recently published about how to maintain an effective deterrence during disarmament process by James Acton for the IISS.

Once I told an American security expert that some Japanese security experts are concerned that if the American nuclear arsenal is drastically reduced, one day the US may tell Japan it no longer can offer extended deterrence. He responded by saying if the number is reduced, one day the US may have to move from counter-force strategy to counter-value strategy. That is the strategy those who argue for minimum deterrence in China or India take. But, when I mentioned this to another American expert, he said the US perhaps will not make that shift because it is morally repugnant and politically unacceptable to attack cities.

James Acton argued in his book that “large arsenals contribute little to the effectiveness of deterrence, even extended deterrence. The success of extended deterrence in the Cold War was the result of the strength of the US political commitment to its allies, not the size of its arsenal.” A Russian expert, Yury Solomonov, recently wrote that Russia needs no more than 1,200 warheads to maintain strategic deterrence arguing that the issue of minimal sufficient size of nuclear forces is philosophical rather than military-technical.

Finally, the recent Japanese experience of the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster in a way strengthened the Japanese general perception that when the extreme situation arrives, the final support comes from the United States. In the recent case, it was the large size rescue operation assistance provided by the US forces in the region and specifically the kind of assistance the US provided in the fight to contain the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In a way the US was better prepared, apparently because the US once experienced the TMI accident, feel threatened by nuclear terrorism and perhaps it considers one day it may have to fight warfare involving nuclear weapons. I think the people in Japan realize today that the US is a friend they need to keep by them and also the need to prepare against nuclear terrorism more seriously.

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Speaker - Lt Gen (Ret.) VR Raghavan, Delhi Policy Group
Existing & Emerging Threats to International Security
A View from India

Indian defence planners consider the state’s capabilities to be adequate to face external military threats. India is therefore not in an arms race, either in conventional or nuclear capabilities. Indian priority in defence is on modernization of armed forces by absorbing latest technologies, and to match technology thresholds being created by its major neighbors. Indian nuclear weapons related capacities are being developed on similar basis. Indian perspectives on nuclear deterrence are determined by regional and global parameters of proliferation, and of real or implied nuclear blackmail in conflict scenarios.

The principal threats to India are a mix of economic and security risks. In the economic arena these risks relate to security of trade routes and energy flows. Indian trade and energy inflows are overwhelmingly dependent on maritime security. Its level depends largely on international cooperation and collaborative security initiatives.

Indian strategic perspective has in the last two decades shifted in favor of international collaboration and engagement. This has significantly and favorably changed India’s economic and security led relations with all major and medium powers. This has also demonstrated India’s capacity to be a security stabilizer.

In this otherwise stable security environment, threats related to nuclear weapons and their impact on deterrence have multiplied. These have emerged from the trend towards nuclear proliferation and growth of international terrorism. The Cold War experience of nuclear restraint and responsibility has been effectively replaced by grave dangers of nuclear and other WMD terrorism. This has led to heightened risks of conflict escalation. A catastrophic terrorist attack leading to conventional war, and its escalating towards a nuclear exchange is no longer an improbability. This risks creating hitherto unknown interpretations of deterrence and dangers to its stability. The combination of nuclear weapons and terrorism has thus extended the conflict spectrum, to include terrorist action at one end to a nuclear exchange at the other. While international collective action and mature statesmanship can reduce and contain this danger, the risk of having to manage nuclear deterrence under unstable conditions is real.

Deterrence will have to be based from now on multiple instruments which can be applied in an integrated manner. A combination of conventional military and nuclear capabilities, of economic sanctions and of coordinated international responses, all supported by multilateral organizations like the UN, will form the basis of deterrence. Nuclear deterrence by itself, and applied by a single state, is more likely to be counterproductive.

The targets of deterrence and the activities being deterred can range from proliferation related activities, to use of international terrorism as instrument of state policy, to military provocation and adventurism. India views nuclear deterrence as a means of limited value against the new range of threats facing it and the international community. A combination of instruments will therefore need to be utilized to obtain a cumulatively constructive impact, to prevent the new range of threats from impacting on the security of a state, or a region or on a global scale. Nuclear deterrence is therefore in need of being reinterpreted as one amongst a range of options, and even more as an option of last resort.

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Speaker - General (ret.) Jehangir Karamat, former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pakistan

Existing and Emerging Threats to International Security
A View from South Asia

South Asia is a region where the two biggest countries—India and Pakistan –are nuclear weapon states. It is a region where there is ongoing unrestricted activity to increase stockpiles and improve delivery systems. Both countries have unresolved disputes and a history of using conventional and asymmetric force against each other.

Till quite recently military or politico-military considerations dominated the policy discourse. There is a change now and increasingly economic, political and social factors are being factored into the security considerations and their interconnectedness with politico-military considerations is being highlighted. There is a much more comprehensive view of security of security now especially in Pakistan.

As in other regions the South Asian region has dynamics specific to it as a region. The contemporary situation in South Asia has its own geo-political environment, ethno-religious –cultural situations that shape domestic opinion and political debate and distinct military policies as well as civil-military relations. External players have an influence on the region and on both countries.

The region has faced deterrence stability crises, crises or situations from arms races and they have bipolar and multi-polar considerations that act as drivers for their policies. (There is the India-Pakistan relationship. India has concerns over China and China has concerns with India, Russia and the US. Iran could be a future issue for all).

There is an existing conventional force and nuclear weapons asymmetry between India and Pakistan that is steadily growing in India’s favor.

There is the protracted and seemingly intractable conflict over Kashmir that casts a long shadow over bilateral relations and has been the reason for past wars and use of sub-conventional violence. The issue remains unresolved.

The two countries have differing perceptions of the center of gravity of instability in the region. Pakistan looks at India as having regional hegemonic ambitions that it seeks to realize by weakening Pakistan and it resists this by all means. India sees its regional dominance as a consequence of its size and progress and does not see Pakistan as an equal—in fact it has concerns over radicalization and terror spreading from Pakistan. Neither has really discarded destabilization of the other as a tool of policy.

There are many asymmetries that influence present and future threats to security in the region. They view external players differently—US, China, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan. There is marked conventional force imbalance in India’s favor and this is growing as Pakistan can no longer match it---Pakistan’s policy now factors in this imbalance as a given. There is considerable difference in the civil and military roles in both countries with the civilian government dominant in India and Pakistan still struggling with sustainable democracy and civilian control over the military. Both sides have different perceptions of the threat to bilateral stability as their perceptions of themselves and each other and there is asymmetry in their nuclear policies—in terms of strategy, doctrine and command and control.

In the past India and Pakistan have tried to manage the threat to stability through deterrence, through a reduction in vulnerabilities and through confidence building measures and arms control. In the next discussion on deterrence we could focus on the crises between the two countries that threatened stability. These asymmetries and the dynamism inherent in them will influence future threats. We could also consider the new emerging threats from terrorism, radicalization and cyber warfare especially in the context of the risk of a nuclear exchange. These asymmetries drive and will continue to drive the increased reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence.

There are some other considerations that I will simply flag because they may be relevant to our discussion:

Tactical Nuclear Weapons as some kind of flexible or graduated response strategy especially when considered in the context of new thinking on limited war ‘under a nuclear overhang’ or responses like the Cold Start Doctrine or thinking influenced by the recent US incursion into Pakistan to get OBL. These responses may seem rational and thought out but the escalation and final outcome can be quite unpredictable.

With conventional force asymmetry driving policy there is a blurring between the use of conventional and nuclear weapons that can be dangerous for stability. This is more significant if there is no real concept of critical thresholds and minimum deterrence or credible nuclear deterrence and there is opacity in targeting and delegation procedures and security of assets. There are doctrinal aspects on both sides that inevitably condition threat perception.

Finally there is the whole issue of crises management and the command and control arrangements. Future plans for delivery systems and nuclear weapons though not clearly spelt out will be an important consideration if new confidence building measures, arms control agreements and the diplomatic dialogue do not make any headway.

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Speaker – Igor Ivanov, former Foreign Minister of Russian Federation

I am indeed pleased and honored to take part in the discussion on the past and the future of deterrence with so distinguished experts and prominent politicians around. For me the future of deterrence is much more important than its past. I might sound somewhat reductionist, but the fundamental question that I see here is more than obvious: does deterrence have any future at all? If it does, then how should we revise it in order to make it more relevant to emerging security challenges? If it does not, how can we dismantle it in a way, which is not threatening to individual nation states and to the humankind at large?

As we all know, deterrence, like any other strategy, is not the end goal of nation states. It is nothing more but a means to achieve more security, to protect you from threats and challenges coming from abroad. Therefore I consider that it’s very appropriate to concentrate the discussion on threats and threat perceptions: this is indeed an indispensable entry point to the analysis of the future of deterrence.

Despite the deep ideological conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War both sides perceived each other as rational actors. The history tells us that – all the inflammatory rhetoric notwithstanding – Moscow and Washington acted in a generally responsible way, with a clear understanding that there were certain lines that they should not cross.

How has the picture changed after the end of the Cold War? Looking at the international system from Moscow, I should confess that the threat perceptions in my country have shifted in a very profound way. Of course, you can still find Russian politicians and academics who continue to believe in the antagonistic conflict between Russia and the West. However, the political mainstream in Russia does not subscribe to this view; the dominant perception is that the United States and the West, in general, does not present a direct strategic threat to Russia. It does not mean that Moscow and Washington do not compete with each other or agree on every question in global politics, but the totality of the conflict is gone. And without this totality one can rightfully question the credibility of traditional deterrence.

But it is much more important that Russia today - like any other nation in the world - faces entirely new security threats and challenges. During the Russia-NATO Summit in Lisbon last December we completed the Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges. I want to point out the word: “common”. This confirms once again that the threats no longer come from within the “nuclear club”: I mean five nuclear powers; instead the threats are generated by rogue states, terrorists, different radical groups and movements. Since neither of them can be considered rational actors that are likely to act responsibly, classical deterrence is not an ideal means to cope with this new situation.

This new reality calls for new approaches to deterrence. Let me get back to the initial question: does traditional deterrence have a future? In other words, is it subject to reforms or not? In my view, the answer to this question is negative. For twenty years academics and politicians tried to find a new approach to deterrence ranging from “stable deterrence” to “minimal deterrence” to “multilateral deterrence”. However, this quest for a renewed deterrence has not resulted in any profound change of our nuclear postures or in the proliferation problem. This inertia can hardly be explained as a mere lack of imagination or political will to embrace change. The logical conclusion is that we need to replace deterrence with an entirely new approach to global and regional security that would be more adequate to new threats and challenges that we all encounter.

If the most probable threats come from outside of the “nuclear club”, the relations within the club should not longer be based on the principles of traditional deterrence. If we fear each other no more, we can consider our nuclear arsenals to be our common assets with the main mission – to deter third parties, outsiders capable of destabilizing the global or regional nuclear stability. Such a change in our approaches (even without immediate changes in the structure of our respective nuclear forces) would mean a revolutionary shift in the global nuclear balance. In fact, we would start moving away from the mutual assured destruction to a new system of relations – the system of mutual assured stability. As in case with the traditional deterrence this new strategy might have an extended option – i.e. it could provide security guarantees not only to members of the nuclear club, but to other countries as well.

This transition is likely to be a bumpy road. I find it hard to believe that we can sign a new multilateral agreement between main nuclear powers that would shift our respective strategic postures to that of mutual assured security. It is much easier to imagine a net of much more modest arrangements – bilateral and multilateral – that will gradually bring us to a new level of cooperation. Exchange of sensitive information, more openness in strategic planning, mil-to-mil contacts, joint exercises, consultations on future defense programs - all these steps might look trivial and unimaginative, but without them we will never reach the level of trust that would allow us to set more ambitious goals. New incremental security regimes should pave the way for a breakthrough to a new global security architecture.


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Speaker: Liu Qing, China Institute of International Studies
Existing and Emerging Threats to International Security
A View from the United Kingdom

We live in an era of perceived total vulnerability to everything from armed conflicts, climate change, economic crisis, international terrorism, all the way through to cyber attack. If we conduct a survey, we will most probably find that almost anywhere around the world, most people feel less safe now than before the terrorist attack of September 11.

In terms of concept, international security threat has two basic aspects, namely traditional security threat and non-traditional security threat, like a coin’s two sides. The former can be characterized as the threat to a nation emanating from other nations and involving a military component. It bears on the survival of a nation, a state, or a regime, and thus often being regarded as the core of security threat. The latter refers to the threat to the development of a sovereign state, and even the survival of mankind, in the form of economic crisis, terrorist attacks, transnational crimes, infectious diseases, environmental pollution, climate change, etc. These threats were often beyond the concerns of conventional security threats in the past.

I. Traditional Threat Is Diminishing but not gone away

The international security situation, in general, continues to tend toward relaxation and a massive war among great powers has become impossible.

The end of the Cold War has undermined much of the global power structure. The international system is no longer bipolar with the military standoff of two superpowers. Instead, one superpower is predominant, with a number of regional powers becoming increasingly important. The shadow of world war has faded out. Democratization and multipolarization have become the major trends in the development of international relations.

More than at any time in this century, none of the major centers of power perceives other major powers as currently posing a serious military threat or as fundamentally antagonistic to its interests. The global geopolitical contest between ideologies is over; market-oriented economy, open-door policy, freer trade, the rule of law, good governance and peaceful development are widely accepted as norms, if not fully implemented.

In the global context, threats of traditional security problems to world peace have been considerably moderated, and states tend to resolve diputes in the framework of the United Nation. A number of long-standing conflicts have diminished—the Middle East, South Africa—even if they are not settled.

Traditional threat has not gone away and regional conflicts erupt more frequently than before.

The end of the Cold War relaxed the tension derived from superpower competitions but lifted the lid on other security challenges facing the world. Over the last two decades, the number of regions involved into conflicts is increasing. We witnessed what has happened in Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia and what is happening in West Asia and North Africa. Even in Europe, where peace was maintained in the Cold War, armed conflicts couldn’t be avoided, either.

Regional instability is caused by intrastate conflicts, struggles over resources, internal political intension and separatist rebellion. Two points need to be noticed: one is that we have a feeling of threat from more types of violence and disorder from a wider range of sources; another is that some countries are drawn towards or into violence, which exacerbates the severity of conflicts.

The spread of Weapons of Massive Destruction and technology has not be prevented and even becomes more threatening.

So far armed conflicts have been conducted at the conventional end of the spectrum. But the proliferation of technology and materials for the production of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons shows little sign of slowing down, let alone, of coming under control.

When the NPT came into effect, there were about twenty “threshold states”. And now the figure has been increaded about forty according to IAEA statistics. Furthermore, some countries stepped over the threshhold and the number of nuclear states has increased. In the short term, the prospect of nonproliferation is still pessimistic.

Globalization brings easier access to nuclear technology, materials and know-how, so there is an increasing risk that nuclear weapons will be used. During the Cold War, based on the mutual assurance destruction, there was the high-risk stability between the two nuclear superpowers. Today, with the growing number of nations with nuclear arms, the risk of using nuclear weapons is high and unpredictable because of their different motives, aims and ambitions.

Proliferation of bioweapons is another major concern, more severe than what people have expected before. Today's cutting-edge life-sciences techniques, knowledge, materials and equipment can also be deliberately or inadvertently misapplied, which has potentially catastrophic effects. In 2005, a group of American researchers sequenced the 1918 influenza virus, which may have killed as many as 50 million people, while a second research team recreated the virus and confirmed its high virulence in mice. Nations with flourishing biotechnology industries or in the process of becoming biological powerhouses include both big powers and small countries. Biosafety laboratories that have been built or panned to be built spread over the world. With the increasing number of countries involving in the research of pathogens, the risk of using bioweapons is on the rise in future conflicts.

II. Non-traditional Threat Is on the Rise

The continuing possibility of terrorist attacks using nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons is an ongoing concern.

The September 11 event has pushed the international society to rethink the concept of security threat. International terrorists and ‘home grown’ radicals become the main threat to national security and people. Terrorism, WMD terrorism in particular, constitutes a common challenge for all over the world.

Nuclear terrorism is perhaps the most dangerous threat. The possibility that nuclear weapons, along with the radiological so-called “dirty bomb”, might be used by terrorist groups is dawning. The development of nuclear technology brings to the world the possibility of cheap, clean, and safe energy, but it offers opportunities for terrorists to acquire nuclear materials and know-how in the black market. The unveiling of the A.Q. Khan network proves that possibility. If terrorists got the destructive weapons, it would be a catastrophy. A terrorist with a little technical know-how and 20 pounds of smuggled plutonium could make a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city.

Another threat is bioterrorism. With the increase of high-containment laboratory capacity for biodefence research, the enhancement of disease surveillance and the involvement of private-sector companies, the number of facilities and individuals working with high-risk pathogens is rising. It is possible for a terrorist group to build a fermentor to produce bacteria on a large scale, and the risk of bioterrorism is much higher than before.

Financial and economic crisis begets political turmoil and drives destabilization on national, regional and global scales.

The current financial and economic crisis results in direct loss in wealth. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank suggests the crisis has already obliterated approximately $50 trillion in asset value worldwide - the equivalent of roughly a year of global economic output. Ultimately, the effects of the crisis spark destabilization, geopolitical tensions with far-reaching impacts.

We have already seen political reactions in public demonstrations in a diverse list of countries including both developed countries and developing countries. Some countries and key regions even suffer from unrests brought on by the crisis. Some unrests are taking the form of regime changes and social turmoil.

The crisis eats away at the foundations of stable governments. Job losers are angry at the “haves” and the failure of the government. The resentment produces social tensions. Governing parties lose political credibility, and opposition groups seek to use the crisis as a wedge issue or to mobilize support for their anti-government views. As a consequence, viable states become weaker; weaker states become failed states; failed states cause rifts and potential conflicts.

The weakening of states can produce instability that spills across borders. Opportunistic neighbors intend to make use of the political and economic weakness in those nations, and find excuses to intervene in their neighbour’s politics. Some wish to produce distractions from their own crises; some try to take control of neighboring territories. In order to respond to some of the geopolitical consequences caused by the crisis, some global powers may be involved into regional turmoil through military, aid or other forms of intervention. These actions eventually would worsen the regional security situation.

Weather-related disasters attack humankind with high frequency and great intensity but their risk hasn’t been drawn much attention.

The effect of global warming on weather patterns may be responsible for an apparent increase in the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters such as flood, windstorms and hurricanes. For example, a new study has concluded that global warming has made the South and Southeast Asian monsoons get stronger over the past century and it might continue to intensify. In recent years, weather disasters such as heavy rains and floods have affected the lives of thousands in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

The projected sea level rise is extremely alarming. According to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global mean sea level will possibly rise by 20 cm. to 86 cm. in the 21st century. If the worst-case IPCC modeling scenario is realized, major coastal cities around the world could be substantially inundated. Some island states such as the Maldives and Tuvalu would be threatened with complete submergence from this rise in sea level. Most low-lying areas would suffer similar fates as those islands. For example, the cyclone-vulnerable delta region of the Ganges River in Bangladesh could be devastated.

With population growth and the concentration in vulnerable areas such as coastal regions and plains, weather-related disasters multiply losses of life and property. Other natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis have also resulted in increased losses - quite possibly for the same reasons. Whether in China or in Japan, numerous people died from the neglection of adequate assessment of possible natural threats to populated cities.

Cyber threats and potential cyber warfare illustrate the increased vulnerabilities and loss of control in modern societies.

The past decade may be portrayed as a period of growing cyber threats, or at least as a period of increasing fear and a growing conviction regarding cyber insecurity. A cyber attack could be perpetrated by an inside actor, or by any hacker from any country in the world. Cyber attackers are diversified with different objectives. Some are politically motivated attackers, who trace politicians and make troubles with them; some are collectors for commercial information; some are actors with governmental background such as intelligence agencies, militaries, whose objectives are to acquire all kinds of data, knowledge and secrets concerning traditional operating activities of intelligence and reconnaissance.

Critical infrastructure is paramount in tackling cyber threats due to the open internet. A major attack could disable power grids, penetrate nuclear safety monitoring systems, sabotage chemical plants and refineries, open dam floodgates and disrupt rail systems, oil-gas distribution systems and air traffic control. It could put innocent lives at risk, bring commerce to a halt and send financial markets tumbling. If it came from an adversary state, it could escalate into a cyber conflict.

Current cyber attacks may be seen as efforts to map the web, its infrastructures and its actors. In the event of a major conflict, all the information accumulated in times of peace could be used by militaries. Recent history shows how cyber attacks can cripple a country in crisis. Several reports assert that more than 120 countries have have cyber war capabilities.

In addition, the cyber is weakening the governmental capacity while it provides convenience in many aspects. Cyber could increase democracy sources but bring in deep consideration for social security issues, especially to the developing countries. Through cyber mobilization the state is easily manipulated by a small group of instigators. Governments are losing control of the narrative, the discourse, assuming they ever had it.

III. Security Threats Develop with New Characteristics

Reprioritization: security threats have been reprioritized with the non-traditional threats becoming more conspicuous.

Traditional security threats still exist, inluding WMD proliferation, local violence and regional conflicts. Some countries still suffer from the challege of soveignty separation. And yet, the danger of a crisis erupting into an all-out war among powers has diminished drastically.

However, non-traditional security threats are on the rise, which are extending from trerrorism to financial crisis, climate change, shortage of food supply. Although Bin Laden was killed, the threat of international terrorists isn’t gone, and the battle of international anti-terrorism will continue in the long run. The world people sitll deeply memorize the economy reccession and financial security is showing more strategic importance in the national ecoonomic layout and even in the whole of the national security.

Intertwinement: traditional and non-traditional security threats are intertwined, and may affect and aggravate each other.

Globalization has facilitated the emergence of some interconnected threats, vulnerabilities, risks and transnational dangers. The cross developing of traditional and nontraditional security threat has increased regional and local conflicts, instability and possibility of spillover insecurity, and has made the substance of peace issue undergo a dramatic change.

From the pespective of traditional security, armed conflicts are usually products of interwoven political, ethnic, religious contradictions, and have emerged against a profound historical and cultural background. However, in recent years, non-traditional security elements such as poverty, development gap, social injustice and unfairness largely contribute to such kind of violence. In turn, tradional security issue may exacebate non-traditional threats. For instance, the unstable regions are often the hotbed of terrorism, extremism, piracy and drug trafficking.

Diversification: the presence of international security threats tends to be diversifying and decentralizing.

Traditionally, security threat was primarily understood in terms of of “national threat”, as the defense of national territory against military threats from other states. But nowadays this meaning transcends the exclusive focus on threat to the state and its territory, and includs the threat to individuals, communities, regions and even the international system as a whole.

Security threat has expanded its meaning in terms of sources and actors: the threat source is diversified ranging from armed conflicts, religious fundamentalism to economic, political, societal and environmental crisis; the threat actors include both states and non-state actors which range from individuals to private companies, transnational organizations, and the Mother Nature.

In general, realists approaches focusing exclusively on the threats to national territory and military aspects are no longer valid. International threat has transformed a comprehensive concept with highly diversified actors and sources.

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Speaker: Dr. Ian Kearns
Existing & Emerging Threats to International Security
A View from the United Kingdom


These remarks provide an account of the most prominent security challenges from a U.K. perspective, as well as the underlying drivers that are producing them. They go on to outline the narrative on required policy responses that has emerged in recent years and then locate the relevance and value of the concept of deterrence in that setting.

Threats to National and International Security: A U.K. Perspective

The U.K. debate on national and international security stresses threats in a number of areas:

  • First, as an open economy, major financial centre, and global hub for people movement, the U.K. sees itself as heavily exposed to the down-sides as well as the benefits of globalisation. Transnational and technologically facilitated threats such as terrorism, possible WMD terrorism, transnational organised crime, and cyber-attack enjoy a high profile, as do potential problems accompanying fast and large scale people movement, such as the spread of infectious disease. As a major trading country and one increasingly dependent on energy imports, the U.K. also fears maritime trade disruption, and instability in energy producing and exporting nations.
  • Second, a related but also distinct aspect of this outlook concerns ungoverned spaces, whether these exist in reality as failed states or as coordinating and facilitating points for criminals and terrorists in cyber-space. The term ‘ungoverned spaces’ is used also, and inaccurately, as a short-hand to refer to a wide range of other phenomena such as zones of intra-state conflict, weak states, and to jurisdictions that may have fallen under the control of what are seen as rogue or criminal elements. Ungoverned spaces are seen as a threat to U.K. and international security because of the opportunities they provide to terrorist organisations, maritime pirates, and criminal gangs mentioned in the paragraph above and also because they are linked to the kind of instability that may lead to large scale humanitarian crises and people movement.
  • Third, regional concerns both in the east of Europe and to the south, in North Africa and the Middle East, play a prominent role. To the east, the big issue remains the NATO relationship with Russia and how this can be improved. To the south, general instability in the Middle East and North Africa has been a concern for a long time, but is now also more pointed in relation to Iran, and the possible security consequences of the Arab Spring.
  • Fourth, and longer term, there are concerns over a possible re-emergence of great power competition and conflict, fuelled perhaps by tensions that may accompany shifts in the inter-state balance of power, and by competition over scarce natural resources.

Underlying Drivers of this Security Environment

The U.K. expects this mix of challenges to get worse on the back of long-term observable trends. Global population growth is expected to increase competition for resources; youth bulges in places like the Middle East are thought likely to exacerbate societal frustration and instability; long-term poverty and inequality is thought likely to sustain and extend the challenges of weak and ungoverned spaces. Climate change, moreover, is seen as a future driver of state collapse and conflict in parts of Africa and Asia and possibly also the generator of societal pressure for change in countries like China. Lastly, advances in technology and in related knowledge diffusion are seen as drivers of WMD proliferation challenges (especially nuclear proliferation and emerging bio-technology threats).

Conventional wisdom on security policy in this context

In this context a conventional wisdom has emerged, though it is more evident in theory and expert opinion than in successful practice. This conventional wisdom stresses the diversity and complexity of current security challenges, the need to mix together a wide range of instruments, be they economic, political, military, or civilian in a comprehensive and joined-up response, and the need for far more effective and wide-ranging multilateral cooperation. These points are seen as true whether one is trying to address the issues of failed states, climate change, terrorism, or WMD proliferation.

The continued relevance of deterrence in this world view

This being the case, the place and relevance of deterrence to current security challenges is altered.

Many of the challenges we face can only be addressed through new levels of more effective multilateral cooperation and deterrence is not a particularly useful concept in building the multilateral cooperation we need.

That is not, by any means, to say that the concept of deterrence is seen as irrelevant in the U.K. debate. With regard to nuclear deterrence, the U.K. says it perceives no specific threat from a nuclear armed state today but it also says the re-emergence of such a threat cannot be ruled out in future. U.K. nuclear weapons essentially exist as an insurance policy against that future. Nuclear deterrence, and extended deterrence in particular, also remain central to the thinking of many European allies in NATO and U.K. nuclear weapons remain partly dedicated to the provision of extended deterrence and the protection of NATO as a whole.

Deterrence as a concept is highly influential too, in non-nuclear security settings. The notion is not inconsistent, for example, with the idea of bringing together a wide range of instruments for purposes of applying diplomatic pressure to prevent or bring an end to conflict (e.g Libya).

Non-nuclear deterrence also has relevance in the context of terrorism, via the concept of denial of benefit to terrorists who may be thinking of carrying out an attack. The search for ways of building more resilient societies, by reducing the vulnerability of vital infrastructure sites for example, is partly designed to deter attacks on those sites. One could go on with other examples. Deterrence, both nuclear and non-nuclear remains relevant and evident in the approaches being taken to the security challenges faced by the U.K.

Nonetheless, there are limits to the value of deterrence as a core organising concept for thinking about 21st century security challenges and these limits are not just about the nature of the security threats being faced (e.g. terrorists may have no return address) but also about the contemporary distribution of power.

Deterrence in a world where power is widely diffused

In a world where power is concentrated in only one or two actors, it may be possible for those actors to use a combination of carrots and sticks to deter some actions while encouraging others, and it may be possible to do this on the scale required to get international systemic effect.

However, the characteristic underlying feature of the current landscape is not power concentration but power diffusion, from West to South and East and from state to non-state actors. Building effective multilateral action via a carrots and sticks approach is far more difficult and probably impossible in a diffused power setting. Deterrence, in other words, is not going to provide the answers when it comes to improved multilateralism.

It is also likely that deterrence is a more dangerous concept to rely on in a world of shifting power balances because these make strategic judgement more difficult and miscalculation more likely.

Where collective action against security threats cannot be built by the command of one or two actors applying deterrence principles to their relationships with others, it must be built by stressing mutual interest and by creating solutions that are seen to be legitimate by the wide range of actors whose actions will actually be required to deliver them.

Again, this does not mean that deterrence is irrelevant and three questions related to it seem pressing given the context outlined.

First, how can we move some key international relationships, like the NATO-Russia relationship, beyond deterrence? There is a major interest in this on all sides but the relationship remains characterised by a lack of trust. This is dangerous and expensive for all and undermines the collective NATO-Russia capacity to work together on wider global challenges.

Second, how much of the attempt to move relationships like this past deterrence requires activity beyond concerns related to strategic vulnerability and stability, or to put it another way, how much of advancing the NATO-Russia relationship is about addressing strategic concerns and how much of it ought to be about advancing trade, energy (for Europe), and cultural relationships?

Third, and finally, how and where do we most urgently need to stabilise and make safe existing deterrence relationships so that improvements in these relationships themselves become contributing factors to the wider effort to build trust and cooperative action in the international system as a whole?

Deterrence is less and less the answer but stabilising it and thinking about the real policy challenges associated with getting beyond it remains an important part of the problem.

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Speaker: Nabil Fahmy
Chair (nonresident), CNC Middle East Nonproliferation Project, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
Dean, School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, The American University in Cairo
Is Deterrence viable, an asset or a liability?

Traditionally the concept of deterrence has been associated with nuclear weapons although in fact the concept is also applicable to other weapons of mass destruction as well as even conventional weapons. Needless to say the concept fits more neatly with weapons or weapons’ systems that have devastating effects, because the rational behind being deterred from acting as a result of the presence of a particular weapon or weapons’ system is that the consequences would be so costly that the state decides not to take such actions. If the consequences of action were not consequential, the deterrent effect would be minimal and the probability that states would risk challenging the deterrent would increase.

Asset or Liability
Similarly, I believe that the concept of deterrence is more effective in global strategic security paradigms. In such circumstances, the states are high and issues more clearly defined. In regional circumstances, deterrence concepts still apply but they are more circumspect, essentially because strategic weapons cannot easily be utilized without having ramifications also on the deterrent holder. A case in point in the Middle East was the 1973 Arab/Israeli war. Its relations with its military supplier, the Soviet Union, tenuous at times. Egypt initiated the war, with limited military and ambitious political objectives. The goal immediately was to shatter the aura of invincibility that the Israeli army had acquired, not really to liberate the Sinai. Politically, the plan was to create a new paradigm with a level of uncertainty with risks and opportunities for regional and global stakeholders that would generate a political and diplomatic process as a catalyst for a negotiated Arab/Israeli comprehensive peace. It is noteworthy that Egypt initiated the 1973 war for the fore-mentioned purposes in spite of its prior knowledge that Israel had significant nuclear potential, in other worlds was not deterred by this potential.

Another interesting Middle East example that reflects on the whole concept of deterrence is the Egyptian position refusing to join the Chemical and Biological Weapons conventions until Israel ratifies the Treaty on the Non proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This position implies a balance of deterrence between difference weapons systems factoring in a complex calculation of the respective capacities of states to bear or envisage losses.

Redefining Deterrence
There are also a number of additional points that I believe provide justification for a reconsideration of the utility of deterrence concepts in today’s military political realities. The first is the effect of technology on the concept of deterrence. My point being in this case is that technology has expanded range of weapons systems that go into the deterrence tool box not only at the global but also at the regional level. Medium range missile systems are now definitely a factor to be taken into account in the regional context. Equally relevant is the very definition of a weapons system which needs to be revisited. Does deterrence apply only to traditional weapons or also for example to electronic warfare and cyberspace? Does it apply to hard weapons only or also soft weapons such as communication systems such as the media and social networks.

One can argue that all these questions, including the emergence of new weapons systems in fact reaffirm the validity of deterrence theory and expand its application. This may be true. However, on the other hand, the excessive generalization of this compartmentalization defeats the very concept of strategic deterrence and one can equally conclude that dissemination of technology debunks the logic of strategic deterrence. Ultimately states will have to make a calculated and carefully considered decision on whether strategic deterrence is an asset or liability in regional and non traditional strategic weapons. This is particularly true because the very presence of such weapons not only entail proliferation risks but also may result in the generation of an arms race in the same or other weapons systems.

Revisiting the concept of security and the way forward
Traditionalist will strongly defend the concept of deterrence and the need to apply this unilaterally, I strongly differ with this opinion on two counts in particular. First of all, regional and sub regional conflicts are too small for deterrence to apply effectively. Secondly more frequently than before, we are dealing with problems that go beyond traditional state to state conflicts as their genesis is often religious, or sectarian. As defined borders become less clear deterrence concepts themselves become less relevant. The Afghani / Pakistani border is another case where military efficiency but not deterrence has been effective and even if partially so.

The essence of the problem here is the deterrence is really most effective with controlled state to state equations looking for symmetrical checks and balances. With non state parties, or loosely governed nations state the requisite authority to be deterred is often non existent. Furthermore, if for example the threat is from a terrorist organisation or of a terrorist nature than the traditional deterrent effect is almost inconsequential because of the absence of a repository and because of the asymmetrical nature of the responses and objects. In pursuing terrorists, communication capacity and maneuverability of forces is much more of a threat to the terrorist than the deterrent effects of a strategic deterrent or a particular weapon system. In other words, the nature, size and location of the perceived threat are instrumental in determining whether or not deterrence is viable and effective.

In this light while Deterrence of some sort will always continue to have a role in the security equation of nations I believe its role will diminish globally and regionally because of the increasing costs and diminishing returns, especially as the use of force becomes more a factor of regional and sub regional conflicts than strategic global ones.

It is time now to revisit the basic concepts of security with a greater reliance or collective security measures because they involve more stakeholders and can therefore address issues more comprehensively. While collective security may be less efficient it can actually be politically more effective. If coupled with both preemptive diplomacy and political deterrence ie. serious conflict resolution efforts and defined consequences for actions taken beyond intentional norms and standards


1 The European states have an interest in getting beyond deterrence thinking in the relationship with Russia because if they do not, they face the perpetual risk of a breakdown in European security. The U.S. has an interest because the whole US-Russia relationship re-set cannot be advanced unless some wider cooperative accommodation is reached, particularly on how the two states relate to one another in the post-Soviet space. Russia has an interest because this will largely determine the nature of the Russian relationship with the West, and this in turn impacts on Russia’s choices in relations with other powers like China.