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The Facelift of Global Security and Non-State Actors

Claudiu Sonda

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Article co-authored with Svetlana Izosimova, Master’s student of International and European Relations at Linkoping University, Sweden.

Since the two World Wars and the end of Cold War, the concept of international security has become more complex and wide. Back then, international security was largely focusing on such fields as national-state security policy, strategic studies, defense studies, military studies, war studies, etc. The era of globalization created a context for the transformation of the international security studies arrangements. Today this field includes an increasing number of studies on economic security, human security, environmental, resource security and HIV/AIDS as a security issue.

Globalization and International Security Studies

The notion of the state as the primary unit of interest has similarly  changed. Globalization may exert influence upon global security through different means: producing economic changes, technological development (particularly involving communications and transportation) and border reduction (reflected in trade flows in goods, cross-border travel). Reaction to globalization may lead to a reassessment of key security threats and bringing in new actors.

More specifically, economic disparity and inequality cultivates social polarization and ends in protests and social unrest, international terrorism and civil wars. Cheap and fast access to advances in computers, communications and software leads to cybercrime and diffusion of power. The elimination of geographical borders, once heavily guarded,  moved such dangers as organized crime and the possibility of weapon proliferation to the new level.

Globalization transforms patterns for interdependence and cooperation by changing the environment under which nation-states operate. The key point is that globalization reduces the ability of states to unilaterally protect themselves in terms of responding to specific security threats which result from greater openness. The need for states to cooperate in managing the threats increases.

Change in the quality of threats

Traditional state-centric views of military security are challenged by globalization responsible threats. Almost none of these contemporary security threats are “new.” Concerning terrorism, proliferation, and civil war, they have existed as national threats since the 1940s.For example, in the nineteenth century, terrorism was used by anarchists and transnational revolutionaries who killed half of the  heads of state. In the twentieth century, World War I was triggered partly by such a terrorist-turned-assassin. It can be argued that with the spread of globalization and interdependence not only has the amount of transnational threats increased but they are of a new quality and type.

The ability to cross national boundaries with little hindrance undermines the security idea established by a system based on sovereign nation-states. All of the mentioned threats, from civil war, terrorism,  transnational crime, the proliferation of small arms, to HIV/AIDS are transnational. Using the same technologies and means of transport that have benefited globalization, these transnational security threats in fact do not target states but societies and individuals.

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Source: Erwin [email protected]

Another main feature that illustrates the quality change among security threats is the probability. In comparison with interstate war, civil conflicts have not only been on average about five times more frequent but the number of internal conflicts has also been steadily increasing since the end of World War II, while the occurrence of intrastate war has been relatively stable.

In addition, the new security threats are more diverse in terms of their scope and intensity. Intrastate wars can last for decades and might not involve a clear beginning and end point. Many such conflicts start with very low levels of violence, or they might involve long periods of low violence where it may seem that no war is taking place. The recently ended intrastate conflict in Sri Lanka, for example, lasted for over 25 years. Many such wars therefore are very ambiguous in terms of measuring precisely when they start or finish, or how they might shade into acts of terrorism, insurgency, genocide, organized crime, violence, or even interstate war.

Emergence of new actors

Globalization provides international actors with additional tools for enhancing their interests and power. More actors which assume the shape of threats are actively and directly involved in everyday international  affairs. That is why extremist and terrorist ideological groups for example achieved the ability to manipulate an audience by cultivating fear on the global scale. Rebel or resistance movements, warlords, criminal organizations, local militias, ethnic groups, and many other forms of armed opposition act on both national and international levels. The preferences and interests of these groups can vary widely from political goals to profit-making.

Nevertheless, non-state actors have not only contributed to the emergence of new security threats such as terrorism and transnational crime but they also play an important role in conflict managing and provision of security. Non-state actors included into patterns of interstate relations can be grouped into the categories of private actors and intergovernmental organizations. The former includes such actors as private companies, charities, local pressure groups, as well as national and international NGOs. The latter refers to multilateral institutions formed by sovereign nation-states.

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Source: Massy [email protected]

What makes the mentioned actors “new” in contemporary security is that they are challenging the role of the nation-state. States  no longer own the ‘monopoly’ on the legitimate provision of security. Moreover, some of these actors lay claim to a higher legitimacy than states because they are not operating in the interest of a single nation. With the increased complexity of the international system, the task of providing security became complicated. A system based on national sovereignty can be rather ineffective when it comes to tackle transnational challenges. Thus, non-state actors appear to be more suited for addressing contemporary threats because they can operate across boundaries by building on multilateral cooperation.

To be more precise, sovereignty is not lost but transferred from national to other levels: supranational and regional. States still play the central role in providing security. The changing nature of the global arena requires though a reconsideration of a exclusive state-centric approach in international security. This reconsideration can be observed in the fragmentation of political authority among governmental and nongovernmental actors.

The fragmentation of political authority is characterized particularly by the delegation of security functions from the state to such organizations as NATO and the European Union on the regional level, and on the global level to such actors as the United Nations or to private actors such as NGOs and private security companies. The functions and policy-making arrangements can be spread between all the actors. For instance, in the conflict with former Yugoslavia the United Nations and NATO provided military security, while NGOs dealt with humanitarian aid, and private security companies offered logistical support.

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Source: Medien [email protected]

For the last decades non-state actors have proved their significance and expanded their contribution to security policies. NGOs have become key actors in the provision of human security during conflicts. Private military companies increasingly offer military support services for national armed forces. International organizations, such as NATO and the European Union, have extended their functional and geographical scope and address a new range of security threats.

Conclusion

Globalization posed a new challenge to international security studies. During the recent period the meaning and nature of  primary national and international security threats have changed. A multitude of threats, such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, civil war, HIV/AIDS danger, ethnic conflict together with an increase in the number of non-state entities characterizes the world today. The state as the central focus of security studies found itself in the complex interdependence with various other international actors. While states continue to play a central role at the national level, they have to share authority in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of international policies, rules, and regulations with international organizations, NGOs and multinational corporations at the regional and international levels for the purpose of achieving international security. Moreover, the changing nature of threats and actors is making the concept of security more profound and wide by bringing it from the level of the state to societies and individuals and shifting from military to non-military issues.

References:

  • Kapitonenko, Mykola. Globalization, Nation-state, and Global Security, Arrangements. Europolis, 2009, Issue 6, p585-603
  • Krahmann, Elke. New Threats and New Actors in International Security. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005
  • Nye, Joseph S. The Future of Power. New York: Public Affairs, 2011
  • Smith, Michael E.  International Security: Politics, Policy, Prospects. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.

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Opinion

On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman

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There is a lot of talk in regards to cyberattacks nowadays. A regular user worries about its data and tries to secure by all means necessary. Yet, no one really thinks whether the power plants or nuclear facilities are well secured. Everyone assumes that they should be secured.

The reality, however, differs. According to many reports of cyber security companies, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks, targeting SCADA and ICS. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is used for the systems that control physical equipment – power plants, oil and gas pipelines, they can also control or monitor processes such as heating or energy consumption. Along with Industrial Control Systems (ICS) they control critical elements of industrial automation processes. Exploiting vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures can lead to the consequences of unimaginable scale. (These types of attacks are actually used in a cyberwar scenarios and hypothetical military settings).

Source: Fortinet, 2015

There are many reasons why these systems are vulnerable for attacks. First of all, the main problem is that these systems have an old design; they were built before they were connected to any networks. They were later configured to connect via Ethernet, and that’s when they became a part of a larger infrastructure. The more advanced SCADA system is becoming, the more vulnerabilities are these to exploit. The updates should be regular and on time. Secondly, there is a lack of monitoring. New devices that are connected allow remote monitoring, but not all devices have the same reporting capabilities. There are also authentication issues (weak passwords, authentication process), however, this is supposed to restrict unauthorized access (See Common SCADA Threats and Vulnerabilities at Patriot Technologies, Inc. Online).

In these scenarios, there is no certainty to know what is going to backfire because of the complexity of communications and power networks. This is also called a cascading effect of attacks. Not knowing who is connected to who may cause major disruptions. The example of the US East Coast power blackout in 2003 proves this point (a failure in one element of the grid spreads across other electrical networks). However, given this, it is also complicated for an attacker to predict consequences, if an attack executed. This kind of attack can easily escalate into more serious conflict, so it might not be the best option for states to employ such methods.

Moreover, there is a risk to damage a critical infrastructure unintentionally. That is if a virus or worm did not intend to target SCADA but happen to spread there as well. The uncontrollability of the code may seriously impair the desire to use it, especially when it comes to nation-states. For instance, in 2003 a worm penetrated a private network of the US Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and disabled a safety monitoring system for 5 hours. In 2009, French fighter jets could not take off because they were infected with a virus.

Indeed, a scenario where an attacker gains access to a SCADA system and manipulates with the system, causing disruptions on a large-scale, might be hypothetical but it does not make it less possible in the future. However, the only known case so far, which affected an industrial control centre, is Stuxnet. It did not result in many deaths, yet it drew attention of the experts on the plausibility of future more sophisticated attacks. These potential upcoming attacks might cause the level of destruction, comparable to that of a conventional attack, therefore resulting in war.

Further reading:

Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.

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Briefly about the Russian Political Discourse

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As you may have noticed, the recent international discourse has been rotating around Russia and its relations to other countries for a long time. Needless to say that after the events in Georgia/Ukraine, this discourse is far from friendly. Some even say that rhetoric of the Cold War has returned. What makes people abroad wonder is why Russia chooses to respond to its foreign partners in this particular way? Why is it the way it is?

To begin with, there are several reasons that shape Russian rhetoric. First of all, they are historical and cultural values. Russia sees itself as a defender of its rights and identity and someone who is not going to follow someone else’s rules. Back to the 13th century, the grand prince (rus. knyaz) Aleksander Nevsky only accepted submission  to the Golden Horde to protect the Russian culture and belief, therefore depriving the West of the opportunity to take over its territories.  This mentality still governs the minds of people. Today, current political rhetoric is doing the same by refusing the Western pressure and external interference into its business.

After the Golden Horde, Russia has managed to maintain its unity. Back then, the East saw the country to be an heir to the great Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, the enormous size of the country was rather intimidating; and even more, when it started acquiring new territories (remember reaction to the situation with Crimea).

On the one hand, Moscow tries to present itself strong when it communicates with the Europe; on the other hand, the Western neighbours seem to use the same old-fashioned strategy to isolate the big neighbour. Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, no one really has wanted strong and stable Russia and there were steps before to prevent the unity of Eurasia.

The long history of Russia plays a big role in forming the modern mind of the citizen and current political rhetoric. Russian people and the government would not admit defeat and would do anything possible to prevail, even if it means to live in humble circumstances for some time (think of the continuous sanctions).

The tough policy of Peter the Great, the emperor of Russia, has brought the country to a new level in comparison to others. At that time already, all the international questions were only resolved with the help of Russia. In the following years, the power of the country kept growing only to solidify during the rule of Catherine the Great. The famous grand chancellor of Russia and the chief of foreign policy Bezborodko used to say, “I don’t know how it will be at your time, but at this time not a single gun is allowed to fire without our permission”[1]. Now, Russia tries to achieve similar influence.

The period after the World War II proved to be fruitful for the development of the European countries. While the US and USSR were competing, Europe was free from deciding on serious issues, so it could absorb and enjoy the time of quiet development.

Nonetheless, there has been a clear confrontation between the two ideologies, Nazism and Communism. Even though the USSR did not try to exterminate the nations, the scary ghost of the USSR keeps frightening the rest of the world. The impression of “evil USSR” flying over the international relations is still there and penetrates the minds of the people.

After the collapse of the USSR, there was a chance to promote peace and peaceful coexistence.  Russia has repeatedly expressed its interest in it, yet the Western partners have chosen another way:  NATO enlargement to the East (which is believed to be a broken promise).  Interestingly enough, George Kennan, the so-called creator of containment policy of Soviet expansion, considered the NATO expansion a tragic mistake.

All in all, abovementioned factors play a significant role in shaping the Russian political discourse. Cultural and historical values, national pride (and therefore negative feeling towards the Western sanctions) as well as the use of state symbols to unite the country are the most important rhetoric tools in the Russian language arsenal. Its constant and regular transmission through the media and other communication channels make this rhetoric influential and persuasive.

[1] [URL: http://www.istmira.com/istoriya-rossii-s-drevnejshix-vremen-do-nashix/290-kakovy-itogi-i-posledstviya-vneshnej-politiki.html] [дата обращения: 20.05.2016]

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Yes, You Should Start Caring About Politics!

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One of the most common things that you hear from people a lot of the time is something along the lines of “I just don’t really care about politics.” In fact, you might have even said something along those lines yourself. And it can be tempting to fall into this line of thinking. After all, politics are hardly the most exciting or exotic things in the world. However, the truth is that they impact your life in different ways every single day and if you choose to ignore politics, then that just meant that you’re going to end up falling victim to policies that harm you and the people around you. With that in mind, here are some ways that you can start being more politically minded right now.

Know the issues

Do you know where you stand on many of the most important issues of the modern day? Do you know what most of those issues are? The truth is that many people would rather ignore a lot of the problems that society and the world at large face simply because it can feel as though they’re too big to deal with. Things like the economy, climate change, and social justice aren’t just abstract concepts; they’re things that impact the lives of real people every single day. Being more informed about the issues will allow you to have a much better understanding of your own political views.

Know who to speak to

Do you know who your senator is? Your representative? Most people tend to only know major politicians who have held office at one point or another. Sure, you probably know the president or a senator like John Mccain. But what about all of the other senators like Doug Jones or Mike Crapo? These are the people you can actually contact if you want to start making some changes in the world. Getting to know who you can contact can help you feel much more involved in the modern political process.

Forget about personalities and focus on policies

Modern politics has become as much of a game of personalities as anything else. But the truth is that the personalities of individual politicians are far less important than the policies that they and their party want to enact. After all, the policies are the things that will actually make a difference in people’s lives. You should never vote just because you like or dislike the way that a particular politician talks or what their personality seems to be like. Always vote on policies, not personalities.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly let politics take over every conversation that you have or that you need to be constantly thinking about it. But trying to bury your head in the sand and ignore the things that are going on around you isn’t going to do you any good. The only way that you can start to make some genuine changes in the world is if you face up to the realities of the modern world and try to do something about it.

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