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The Impossible Quest for Absolute Security

Image courtesy of Jimmie/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This article was originally published by YaleGlobal Online in July 2017.

Demands for perfect security by one nation, without regard for others, heighten anxiety and prompt unnecessary weapons buildup

The G20 summit in Hamburg, the Russian-Chinese presidential meeting, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization leadership summit underline new concerns driving such public gatherings of world leaders. Among the major obstacles to great power cooperation that preoccupy leaders is how they perceive one another as selfishly advancing their individual national security heedless of others’ concerns.

At the G20 summit, some delegates criticized the US policy of putting American economic interests first above the need for global cooperation to limit climate change or to sustain international free trade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly said that Europeans would have to assume the mantle of climate change leadership from what she depicts as a security-selfish US.

This security dilemma impeding great power cooperation is also evident in how the presidents of China and Russia approached North Korea’s latest missile tests, an action underpinned by Pyongyang’s own quest for absolute security from US military threats by acquiring a nuclear deterrent. At their July 4 presidential summit in Moscow, China and Russia urged Pyongyang to suspend missile testing in return for a US–South Korean freeze on major military activities, which the US rejected as a Chinese-Russian attempt to exploit the North Korean threat to weaken the US–South Korean alliance.

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The Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

 

Members of the SCO, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The twelfth summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) took place on 6-7 June in Beijing. The summit was attended by the presidents of the organisation’s member states: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and also by the presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

A further development of co-operation in the area of security (for example, the development of SCO’s anti-terrorist structures) and economic co-operation (including work on the establishment of the SCO Development Bank; China offered a capital contribution at US$ 10 billion) was discussed during the meeting. On the occasion of this summit, China signed bilateral loan agreements with Kazakhstan (1 billion USD) and Tajikistan (1 billion USD).

Other issues which were raised during the summit included the situation in Afghanistan and the role of the SCO in the region after the ISAF mission ends (2014). The escalating tension imputed to the US over Iran and Syria was criticised. Afghanistan was accepted into the SCO with observer status, and Turkey was recognised as a “partner in dialogue”. » More

NPT Review Conference / Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

CSS Analyses

CSS Analyses in Security Policy

The Center for Security Studies has just published two new policy briefs:

    • Oliver Thränert analyzes the main issues to be discussed at the May 2010 Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to him, the challenges of the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs make it difficult to achieve agreement. He also point out to the discord among state parties over whether to
      prioritize non-proliferation or disarmament.

  • Stephen Aris examines the role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Central Asia. He argues that it is not as anti-western as you would think. Taking into account the growing importance of the SCO to the region, he writes, the West should not exclude a priori the idea of selective cooperation with the SCO on common security interests.