Global Policy Forum

International Security in the Era of Globalization


by Igor Ivanov*

The Telegraph (Kathmandu)
March 4, 2003

It is more than a decade since humanity liberated itself from the pressure of ideological, political and military confrontation of the Cold War. The community of nations has moved a long distance away from the deadly abyss of nuclear war on the edge of which it stood forty years ago, in the days of the Caribbean crisis.

However, one has to admit that the hopes for a dramatic spurt towards a new and safer world system, which ran so high in the early 1990s, have not yet been justified. New dangers and challenges have come to replace the threat of total nuclear destruction of civilization. They are terrorism and separatism, national, religious and other forms of extremism, drug trafficking and organized crime, regional conflicts and the threat of the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), financial and economic crises, ecological disasters and epidemics. All these problems existed before, but in the era of globalization when the world has become much more interconnected and interdependent, they have begun to quickly acquire a universal character posing a real threat to regional and not infrequently to international security and stability. Simultaneously -- and this needs to be stressed -- they affect the day-to-day lives of billions of people to a much greater extent. Proof of this is the wave of terrorist acts, unprecedented in scale and cruelty, that has rolled from New York to the Island of Bali and Moscow.

Why is the creation of a new system of international security that is vital not only for states, but also for their citizens, proceeding so slowly and with such difficulty? What are the main factors that determine the dynamics and substance of the new dangers and challenges that confront mankind in the early 21st century? Most importantly, what should the world community do in order to securely protect itself from this new wave of threats?


Globalization is becoming an ever more influential "architect" of the new international security agenda. Its impact on the evolution of the relations among states in this key area is contradictory.

On the one hand, globalization contributes to accelerated development of productive forces, scientific and technological progress and ever more intensive communication among states and peoples. So, objectively it helps mankind to build up the resource base and the intellectual potential for ensuring international security at a qualitatively new level. The growing interdependence of countries and peoples in every sphere helps to generate new political approaches aimed at creating democratic multilateral mechanisms of managing the international system and hence reliable solution of the security problems.

At the same time the processes of globalization, which mainly develop spontaneously, without a collective directing influence of the world community, aggravate a number of old problems of international security and engender new risks and challenges.

The role of external factors in the development of states is dramatically increasing. Because of the differences in financial and economic power, the interdependence between countries is acquiring an ever more asymmetric character. While a small group of leading industrialized states plays mainly the role of the subjects of globalization, the vast majority of the remaining states are turning into its objects that are "drifting" on the waves of financial economic developments. As a result, the inequalities of social and economic development of the world are increasing. The world economy is obviously becoming divided into "zones of growth" and "zones of stagnation". Thus in 1998 ten leading states -- recipients of foreign investments accounted for 70 percent of their total amount, and countries with a low development level accounted for less than 7 percent. While in 1960 the incomes of the richest 20 percent of the world's population exceeded those of the poorest 20 percent by 30 times, by 2002 that gap had trebled. At present half of the Earth's population have an income of under two dollars a day. About a billion people have no work, and among those who work almost 89 percent are deprived of social guarantees.

We witness a massive "export" of the negative phenomena of globalization to the Third World. Just as an epidemic first strikes at the weaker people, the weakest members of the world community are sustaining greater damage from the growth of negative consequences of globalization than the countries that are protected by their financial and economic might. Thus, the slowdown of globalization results in the gaps in the pace and direction of social and economic development of entire regions of the world widening, and not narrowing.

The content of the concept of the "might of the state" is changing. While military force remains a significant component, economic, financial, intellectual and information resources of influencing partners and opponents are increasingly coming to the fore.

The factors that make it easier or, on the contrary, more difficult for states to gain access to the benefits of globalization are increasingly becoming included in the arsenal of national security strategies. Globalization and manipulation of its course is more and more often used as instruments of political pressure. This feature of the present stage of international relations is pointed out in the UN report "The Impact of Civilization on Social Development". The document notes, among other things, that "concern over globalization is partly due to the fact that the national policies of states are increasingly influenced by policies pursued outside their boundaries". The instruments of such influence are many. They include "investment and credit diplomacy" that takes advantage of the acute need of most countries for foreign capital investments and loans. They include information diplomacy aimed at domination in the global information space. They include "political engineering", a combined use of economic, information and military-political levers to "construct" the desired kind of "partners", i.e. governments ready to accept the terms of the solution of international and internal problems that are imposed on them from outside.

On the whole, the process of the formation of a new system of international relations after the end of the Cold War has acquired a long drawn-out and in many ways unmanageable character. A situation has emerged that is fraught with a large crisis potential and at the same time is ill-suited for prevention or settlement of global security problems on a collective basis. The lack of effective mechanisms for coordinating the actions and accommodating the interests of a wide circle of states can be used as a pretext or a justification of the thesis that the acquisition of mass destruction weapons, even in limited quantities, is becoming just about the only way to guarantee security in this unstable and in many ways unpredictable world. The danger of this situation lies in the fact that unless urgent measures are taken, the threats to international peace and security may grow to such an extent that the world community will be unable not only to cope with them, but to keep the situation under control.


What are the most acute problems of international security at the current stage of globalization? How effective are the efforts of the world community to solve them?

International terrorism is developing into a strategic threat to the security of mankind. A sinister symptom of that disease was the terrorist acts, monstrous in their cruelty and the number of victims, that have swept the world in recent months.

Terrorists of every stripe are constantly changing their methods, means and tactics, are finding new targets for their actions. The population of the major megalopolises on the planet and strategically important marine transportation of energy resources, computer systems that support the life of a modern state, the transportation, tourist and banking infrastructures of the world -- this is by no means a complete list of targets of attacks that have already happened and may happen in the future. The main thing is that the leaders of extremist groups are trying ever more actively to sow discord playing up the old stereotypes about "bad" and "good" terrorists. They destabilize the situation in individual countries by fomenting religious and national hostility and separatism, they look for -- and sometimes find -- weak links in the global chain, governments which because of inherent weakness or short-sighted foreign policies are inclined to flirt with international terrorism.

Regional mechanisms of anti-terrorist interaction, including within the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, are gathering strength. They are called upon to put a serious barrier to the spread of terrorism in Central Asia. The new quality of partnership between Russia and NATO countries and the European Union is an important potential of countering terror. The common task of the world community is to preserve and develop the acquired experience of interaction within the coalition avoiding any unilateral actions that could undermine it.

It is the UN that is called upon to continue to guarantee that efforts in combating new threats and challenges should have a solid basis in international law.

Protection of the rights and freedoms of its citizens is the duty of every state. Chief of them is the right to life. But it is the life of the common man that is threatened by terrorists. The world community is obliged to ensure for its citizens the right to safe protection against terrorism.

The solution of this task is possible if an effective code of protecting human rights against terrorism is developed under the UN aegis, a code aimed at:

  • preventing and stopping acts of terrorism;
  • opposing the funding of terrorism;
  • prosecution of the people who have perpetrated acts of terrorism or are complicit in them in other ways;
  • ensuring that such persons should not escape from responsibility and punishment;
  • assistance to persons who have suffered from terrorism, including financial assistance, social and psychological rehabilitation and reintegration into society; and
  • effective international cooperation towards achieving the above goals.

    *An article by the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov Published in the Journal "Russia in Global Affairs" No. 1/2003 (January-March) under the title "International Security in the Era of Globalization"

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