By R. Nastranis
Short of passionately pleading for a profound change in the military-oriented mind-sets of decision-makers, SIPRI Director Dr Bates Gill has called for a “far greater focus on less militarized solutions” to the global security challenges ahead, and stressed the need for resorting to “an innovative integration of preventive diplomacy, pre-emptive and early-warning technologies, and cooperative transnational partnerships.”
Before this becomes a reality, the world’s powers will have to develop a new framework for relations among themselves, rebalance military and non-military resources, reform institutions and respond to the influence of non-state actors. Since that is not going to be easy, the world will continue to face “a lengthy period of uncertainty and a diffuse range of unmet and potentially destabilizing risks and challenges for security, armaments and disarmament”.
In an analysis of the SIPRI Yearbook 2012, Dr Gill considers major global or regional interstate wars unlikely in the near term, but warns that the international system is vulnerable to shocks arising from localized and intensive warfare. Eventual disruptions in the flows of people, capital, commodities, technologies and information would hit the very backbone of modernizing and stable societies, he adds.
The SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) report also draws attention to the role of non-state and quasi-state middlemen in the supply chain including brokers, shippers, banks and other financial institutions and scientists. These, warns Dr Gill, “may knowingly or otherwise play a part in the proliferation of materials, technology and know-how related to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, particularly with respect to so-called intangible transfers of technology.”
Dr Gill highlights three salient features of the study related to worldwide developments in 2011: constraints on established powers; continuing emergence of new powers and non-state actors; and struggling norms and institutions.
A significant and on-going trend in 2011 saw established world powers – especially the U.S. and its major transatlantic allies – face constraints on their economic, political and military capacities to address global and regional security challenges. These limitations were mainly imposed as a result of the crisis in public finances.
At the same time, uprisings and regime changes in the Arab world drew international attention and responses, which were manifested in the UN-mandated and NATO-led intervention in Libya that brought about the downfall of the Gaddafi regime.
The United Nations deployed more than 262 000 peacekeepers in 52 operations around the globe in 2011 to help bring peace to unstable parts of the world. But the widespread support for and expansion of traditional peace operations over the past decade are also facing constraints in the years ahead, says the SIPRI director.
Besides, the world’s major donors to peace operations – chiefly the advanced economies most badly affected by the global financial crisis – are considering to cut back support to multilateral institutions and to focus instead on smaller and quicker missions. “This will undoubtedly have an impact on the design and implementation of future interventions in armed conflict around the world,” avers Dr Gill.
New powers and non-state actors
According to the SIPRI director, a second major trend evident in 2011 involved states around the world outside the traditional U.S.-led alliance system building greater economic, diplomatic and military capacity to affect regional and, in some cases, global security developments.
“The remarkable growth in military spending in China, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia is only part of the story,” he says, adding: “States and state-based regional organizations are not alone in gaining in relative influence and impact. In-depth tracking of armed violence around the world reveals the destabilizing role of non-state actors in prosecuting conflicts and engaging in violence against civilians.”
The international community has yet to fully grapple with the on-going structural changes which define today’s dynamic, complex and trans-nationalized security landscape. “These changes often outpace the ability of established institutions and mechanisms to cope with them,” says Dr Gill. “It will certainly take time for established and newly emergent powers to reach an effective consensus on the most important requirements for international order, stability and peace, and on how to realize and defend them.”
Struggling norms and institutions
The SIPRI director sees in the established powers’ diminished capacity to shape the terms of discussion and implement preferred responses, combined with the diffusion of power to other players in the international system, a third significant trend: struggling norms and institutions.
As a result, multilateral organizations tasked with promoting and enforcing norms for stability and security are confronted with difficulties in generating the political will and financial resources needed to meet their mandates. Subsequently, gaps remain which require new or more effective mechanisms, says Dr Gill.
The SIPRI director, an American national, urges institutions to continue bold reforms that more fully take into account the emerging power relationships among states at the global and regional levels. Expansion and reform of the UN Security Council would be a welcome move towards better reflecting the emergent realities of hard and soft power in the world today, he argues.
But such measures seem unlikely given – what he calls – the “understandable reluctance on the part of the current five permanent members to dilute their influence”. Instead, it appears to him that members of the UN Security Council will look to regional organizations for political buy-in and, increasingly, material support for action.
“However, such ‘outsourcing’ would be more effective if regional organizations – such as the African Union, the Arab League, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others – significantly reformed their decision-making structures and improved their capacities for cooperative action in such areas as preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, countering crime, border surveillance, disaster relief, disease surveillance and developmental assistance,” advises Dr Gill.