Three Dimensions of Modern Security: Are we Secured?

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Sukhoi 35 Russia Security

Traditionally, security is viewed through military approach. Indeed, it does make sense. The 20th century is known for its ideological rivalry between two superpowers. Since nuclear confrontation represented a potential threat to peace, security notion was dominated by military factors. The central countries pursued its own interests, including the exploitation of the countries on the periphery for its own benefits. However, if we take current international, this traditional approach seems to be one-sided. 

Yet, back in 90s, Buzan suggested that international security of the new century would be much “less dominated by military and political issues” (p. 433). Why so? Because there was no more Soviet Union, no arms race: it gave a way to other aspects of security.

Military threat has always been seen as special category, since it involves the use of force. The threat is posed by the military power of other states. It can impair the basic ability of the state to protect its people.

Nuclear powers, in this sense, pose an immense military threat to any country (particularly to nuclear-free). That is why the idea of nuclear non-proliferation is very attractive; it has wide support all over the world. Regardless, there was not much progress among the superpowers towards their own nuclear disarmament since the massive reduction in nuclear and strategic forces after the end of the Cold War.  Conversely, for the last decade Russia has been strengthening its nuclear power. Similar calls have been recently made by the newly-elected president of the United States. Donald Trump suggested that America should expand its nuclear weapons program, thus, pursue peace through threat. As far back as in 90s, Buzan pointed out that the success or failure to reach nuclear-free world would greatly influence security and military relations (p. 443). The ambitions of North Korea show that not every country is ready to give up the ability to develop its nuclear arsenals. So, nuclear zero remains rather hard to achieve and nuclear threat persists.

However, as mentioned before, today’s security is not just about military threat (although it is significant). The world we live in is multi-polar, all of us are interconnected. Let’s say we live in a country, free from nuclear threat. Are we still secured from economic collapses or from the influence of climate change?

Economic Security

Economic security is about access to resources, finances and markets that are necessary to maintain political power and the high level of living. It is threatened when national economic system is weak. In this sense, developed countries are trying to maintain their standard of living, and developing countries are doing what they can to improve their own. In this environment international competition is quite strong. That is why strong nations may economically leverage weaker opponents in order to prevail militarily and technologically and achieve its political goals.

Meanwhile, economic threats are hard to identify because of its nature. For example, the recent economic crisis could be a good example. What should be tackled first has been debated for a long time. Now experts, researchers and politicians are arguing what should be done in order to prevent another economic blast. The economic sector clearly shows how different aspects interact with each other.

Moreover, economic and military security is interconnected. For instance, military budget can be constrained, limited or cut due to economic reasons. Furthermore, in the current framework of mutual economic interdependence and accelerated international trade, economic security might become the most significant one. If a state has more powerful economic security, it is easier to maintain other aspects of security. Vice versa, if a state has poor economy, it is hard to keep the national security strong, thus such a state may be leveraged.

Environmental Security

Here the threat is posed by disruption of ecosystem and scarce recourses. Nowadays protection of environment plays a significant role in security agenda. In this sense, the recent Paris Agreement (2015) can be viewed as an attempt to strengthen countries’ security against the overwhelming “conditions that can threaten human existence on a large scale” (Buzan 1991, p. 450). A comprehensive climate policy, apart from the main goals to mitigate the effects of climate change, also addresses adaptation mechanisms to deal with loss and damage caused by global warming (See the Paris Agreement 2015).

The desire to maintain climate may give additional reasons for powerful developed countries to intervene in less developed countries under the name of environmental security. The relations between countries would be affected if the effects of climate change deepened. Natural disasters may inevitable become a driving force for human migration and this, in turn, would change the balance of power in the future.

Global warming threatens not just the way the people lead their lives, but the mere existence of humanity and the planet Earth. Diminishing capabilities of ozone layer to protect the planet can cause floods and fires, eliminate forests and plankton, ultimately causing countries to adapt and deal with the environmental issues in order to protect their state. Sussane Droge from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs points out that current interest in efficient climate policy is fueled by the obvious energy benefits (2016, p. 32). It means greater security and technological progress.

Political Security

Political security concerns the stability of political systems and organizational stability of the state. If this aspect is weakened, it shutters the state as an entity. That is why it can be considered as important as military security. Here the state sovereignty is usually threatened.

The Human Development Report of 1994 places political security as one of the main categories of threats to human security (UNDP 1994, p. 25). Paradoxically, political sector is one of the most challenging. All threats can be viewed as political (See Jahn, Lemaitre & Waever 1987). So, for instance, under economic security, it is usually meant political-economic security, under military one – military-political security and so on.

However, the sector exists and usually consists of political threats. Buzan (1983) describes them as “pressuring the government on a particular policy, overthrowing the government, and disrupting the political fabric of the state” (p. 118), they aim to destabilize the government system and make it easy to perform a military attack.

The national identity and its ideology are a target of political threats. Interestingly, that new changes of the Russian military doctrine recognizes the rising of ideological clashes. They are carefully called “the competition of values and development models” (See “the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation”). Such a statement admits ideological competitions and, consequently, reflects the difference of values between Russia and other countries.

All of aforementioned sectors are interlinked and have importance of their own. So when approaching international and national security, one must take them into account. So if we talk about survival of the state now, it depends not so much on military factors but as on the whole complex of factors (political, military, economic, and environmental). Theoretically speaking, if we are free from military threat, it does not mean that we are secured in other ways. The notion of security is way broader than just military approach.


Buzan, B. (1983). People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf.

Buzan, B. (1991). “New Patterns of Global Security in the Twenty-First Century”, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944), 63:3, 431-451.

Droge, S. (2016). The Paris Agreement 2015 Turning Point for the International Climate Regime. Retrieved from <> on 27/12/16.

Jahn, E., Lemaitre, P., & Waever, O. (1987) European Security: Problems of Research on Non-Military Aspects. Copenhagen: Centre for Peace and Conflict Research.

“The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation”. Approved by the President of the Russian Federation on February 5, 2010, Decree №146 (Edited in 2014). Retrieved from <> on 02/01/2017.

UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). (1994). Human Development Report. Retrieved from <> on 03/01/2017.

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). (2015). The Paris Agreement. Retrieved from <> on 26/12/16.

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Alexandra Goman
Specialist in linguistics/translation. Excited about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics, curious about political semantics and international relations. A complete traveller.