International Security in the Age of Globalization
No. 1 2003 January/March
Igor Ivanov

Former Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs (1998-2004) and former Secretary of the Russian Security Council (2004-2007), is currently President of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, and a member of the Editorial Board of Russia in Global Affairs.

More than a decade has already elapsed since mankind
successfully removed the strain of the ideological, political and
military showdown of the Cold War era. The global community has
traveled a long way from the deadly abyss of nuclear war, which it
narrowly escaped 40 years ago during the Cuban missile crisis.

However, the hope for a breakthrough toward a new and safer
world, so promising in the early 1990s, has not been realized. The
threat of the nuclear destruction of civilization has given way to
new dangers and challenges. Today, various forms of extremism
connected with nationalist, religious and separatist movements
manifest themselves through acts of terrorism, while the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a growing concern.
On other fronts, drug trafficking, organized crime and regional
conflicts are threatening many innocent lives, while financial and
economic crises, ecological disasters and epidemics are yet more
concerns. All of these problems are not new, but in the age of
globalization, when the world is growing ever more interconnected
and interdependent, they are becoming universal in scope; these
problems are posing real threats not only to regional, but often
international, security and stability. At the same time – and this
point should be emphasized – the incidences are having a tremendous
impact on everyday life for billions of people. The recent wave of
terrorist acts, unprecedented in scale and cruelty, which has swept
the world from New York to Bali to Moscow, provides an illustrative

Why is the creation of a new international security system,
equally vital to the life of nations and individuals, proceeding at
such a slow pace and with so much difficulty? What are the primary
factors that have brought about the new threats and challenges now
facing the global community at the beginning of the 21st century?
And most importantly, how should the international community
respond in order to reliably protect itself from this new wave of

The Light And The Dark Of Globalization

The most influential architect for the new agenda of
international security is globalization itself. It has a dual
impact on the evolution of international relations in this key
field. On the one hand, globalization promotes a faster development
of the world’s productive forces, and contributes to rapid
scientific and technical progress. At the same time, it forges
intensive contacts between peoples and states. In this way,
globalization facilitates mankind’s efforts to create a resource
base, as well as the intellectual potential, for developing
international security on a markedly new scale. The increased
interdependence of countries and peoples in many spheres of life
allows the global community to take new political approaches to
building democratic, multilateral mechanisms for overseeing the
international system, thereby effectively solving many of its
security issues.

At the same time, the many components of globalization, which
are mainly spontaneous and void of the international community’s
collective governance, are aggravating the many chronic problems
now facing international security and giving rise to new risks and

The role of outside factors concerning the development of
nations is sharply growing. The different financial and economic
status of countries makes their interdependence disproportioned:
whereas a small group of the leading industrialized states are the
main participants in globalization, a large majority of other
countries are turning into drifting objects which are merely
responding to the fluctuating trends in the financial and economic
markets. This factor aggravates a noticeable imbalance in the
world’s social and economic development. The world economy is
showing distinct signs of stratification into particular “growth
zones” and “stagnation zones.” In 1998, for example, the top ten
richest countries accounted for 70 percent of all foreign
investments made in the world, whereas the poorest countries
accounted for a mere 7 percent. In 1960, incomes of the richest 20
percent of the world’s population exceeded incomes of the poorest
20 percent by 30 times. In 2002, this gap further increased
threefold. Today, half of the world’s population lives on less than
U.S. $2 a day. About one billion people are jobless, and 89 percent
of those having a job have no social security guarantees.

The growing gap between the rich and poor countries aggravates
the instability of the world’s economic development, and greatly
increases the probability of future crises in international finance
and trade. Some experts in the West believe that the global
community has not yet succeeded in solving other major problems in
this area, namely in creating a reliable mechanism for preventing,
localizing or solving financial crises when and where they may
arise, as well as overcoming “the fragmented institutional
architecture of the international economic system,” which “makes it
virtually impossible to address the issue of interdependence in an
effective and coherent manner.”

The slowdown of economic growth in the world in recent years has
also held back the process of globalization. The flow of
investments, resources, and research and development innovations
are “localized” within a small number of the more developed
countries, further reducing the modest economic benefits that
globalization has delivered to a large part of mankind. At the same
time, the social, cultural, moral and psychological effects of
globalization have already gained momentum and are making an ever
stronger impact on many countries and societies.

The unfavorable effects of globalization are now “exported”
en-masse to third-world countries. Like the weak who are usually
the first to feel the effects of an epidemic, the weakest members
of the international community incur the heaviest losses from the
adverse effects of globalization than those countries which are
protected by their financial and economic strength. At the same
time, the slowdown in the pace of globalization is only increasing
the gap in the social and economic development between various
regions of the world.

Naturally, this type of unfortunate ‘model’ of globalization
aggravates rather negative social and political consequences for
the larger part of mankind. Growing cases of xenophobia is one
symptom, and is now found largely on one pole of the global
community – in the well-to-do countries; conversely, in the poorer
regions of the world, there are arising more radical demands for a
fairer world order. Finally, the revival in ideological solutions –
believed to have disappeared together with the Cold War – in order
to accommodate international attitudes is growing on a new

Increasing the interdependence of governments in the fields of
national security and economic policy, globalization makes them
dramatically alter their priorities on the international stage and
take a fresh look at their foreign policy initiatives. All of this,
of course, brings about quick changes in world politics.

The connotation of the notion “state might” is changing as well.
Although the military factor still plays a prominent role for the
state, it is now giving way to economic, financial, intellectual
and information instruments of influence on partners and opponents.
Factors facilitating or, on the contrary, impeding access to
benefits of globalization for states are now used on a growing
scale in national security strategies.

The reality of globalization is frequently manipulated and used
as an instrument of political pressure. This tendency,
characterizing the present-day stage in the development of
international relations, was mentioned in the United Nations report
Impact of Globalization on Social Development. The report stated,
in particular, that “part of the uneasiness about globalization
stems from the fact that national policies are increasingly
strongly influenced by policies elsewhere.” The means and
instruments of this influence are diverse. They include “investment
and loan diplomacy” which takes avail of the acute need of a
majority of countries for foreign investments and loans.

They also include information diplomacy intended to achieve
domination in the global information space, as well as ‘political
engineering,’ i.e. the combined use of economic, information,
military and political levers for shaping potential global partners
– that is, governments who are ready to accept occasionally harsh
terms, imposed on them by other countries and institutions, for
solving their international and domestic problems.

The formation of a new system of international relations in the
post-Cold War period has become drawn-out and lacks a sense of
direction. A crisis-prone situation has emerged which permits
little opportunity for collectively preventing and solving global
security problems as they emerge. The lack of effective mechanisms
for coordinating the combined efforts of the global community, as
well as meeting the interests of a large number of member states,
may be used as a pretext, or the justification of a proposal, which
argues that the possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),
even in a limited amount, is the only way to guarantee any sense of
security in this unstable and unpredictable world. Unless urgent
measures are taken, threats to international peace and security may
assume dimensions that will make the international community unable
to cope with them, nor even to keep the situation under

Old And New Threats

What problems concerning international security are particularly
acute at the present stage of globalization? How effective are the
international community’s efforts for solving them?

International terrorism, for example, is becoming a strategic
threat to mankind’s sense of security. The brutal terrorist acts
which have swept the world in recent months, and which have claimed
a heavy toll on innocent human lives, are a dreadful symptom of
this disease.

Terrorists of every hue constantly change their methods and
tactics and choose ever new targets for their attacks. The
population of the world’s largest megalopolises, strategic sea
routes for shipping energy-producing fuels, states’ critical
computer networks, and the world’s transport, travel and banking
infrastructure – these are far from all targets of terrorists’

The leaders of extremist groups now seek to sow discord by
resorting to the old stereotypes which they believe distinguish
“good” terrorists from the “bad” terrorists. They seek to
destabilize the situation in individual countries by sparking
religious and ethnic strife, as well as separatism, and look for –
and find – weak links in the international community: governments
which are weak or shortsighted enough to court international

Meeting the challenge of the terrorists, the international
community has rallied to counter this new global threat. The
international community has united into the largest alliance since
World War Two: an antiterrorist coalition which has already
demonstrated its effectiveness in Afghanistan where it has
delivered a severe blow to the lair of international terrorism.
Importantly, these efforts are coordinated under the auspices of
the United Nations.

Regional mechanisms for antiterrorist cooperation are gaining
strength, too, such as those established by the Commonwealth of
Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; these
mechanisms have been created to counter the spread of terrorism
throughout Central Asia. Furthermore, better opportunities for
countering the spread of terrorism have been established through
Russia’s new, stronger partnership with NATO and the European
Union. The international community now has a common goal of
building on the acquired experience of cooperation within the
coalition’s framework, while avoiding unilateral actions that could
undermine these efforts.

The United Nations must ensure that efforts to counter these new
global threats and challenges rest on a firm foundation of
international law.

Every state must protect the rights and freedoms of their
citizens. The right to life, the most important consideration, is
now threatened by terrorists. Therefore, the international
community must guarantee for their citizens a right to reliable
protection against terrorism. This imperative can be met by
countries adopting, under the UN aegis, an effective Code of
Protection of Human Rights from Terrorism. This code would provide

– preventing and stopping acts of terrorism before they

– countering the financing of terrorist operations;

– criminal prosecution of persons that have committed terrorist
acts or that are involved in them;

– inevitable punishment against convicted terrorists;

– financial and other assistance to victims of terrorism, as
well as their social and psychological rehabilitation and
reintegration back into society;

– effective international cooperation for achieving the above

The dynamics of globalization has added a new quality to the
classical problems of international security. The stability and
reliability of the developing global partnership taking shape at
the beginning of the 21st century depend on efforts to maintain and
strengthen strategic stability. In the age of globalization, the
role of this factor – far from decreasing – is growing in many

On the one hand, the maintenance of stable partnerships between
nuclear powers, as well as the prevention of a return to a
strategic arms race, acquires special importance for building
mutual confidence and predictability on the international stage.
These are the main prerequisites for the development of
international economic cooperation as the primary basis of

On the other hand, the rapid pace of technological progress,
initiated through the dynamics of globalization, creates an
atmosphere for the development of ever more powerful weapon systems
and, as a result, a resumption of the race for the most destructive
types of weapons which precludes the use of these funds for
investment in civil production. Any buildup of strategic arsenals
is likely to provoke a new round in the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. Needless to say, this
chain reaction will complicate the situation in many regions of the
world and have grave consequences for international security.

In connection with these issues, the Treaty on Strategic
Offensive Reductions, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin
and President George Bush in May 2002 in Moscow, was of great
significance both militarily and politically. It is of paramount
importance that this treaty confirmed the existing relationship
between strategic offensive and defensive armaments. The treaty is
thus intended to fill the legal vacuum in strategic stability,
brought about by the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the
ABM Treaty. The Moscow treaty, implemented together with other
documents on various strategic issues, is intended to reinforce
Russian-U.S. relations, which have changed dramatically since the
Cold War era. The treaty ensures the required level of control and
transparency of the world’s largest strategic arsenals, which is
critical for maintaining an atmosphere of trust in the world.

At the same time, many issues of strategic stability remain
unsolved, while Washington’s unilateral moves have further
complicated some of them. I am referring now to its plans for
building a National Missile Defense system. These plans may provoke
countermeasures from other nuclear powers, as well as a ‘regional’
race to develop and produce missile and anti-missile armaments.

Globalization has made more acute the problems concerning the
buildup of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons, or their various technical components, may fall
into the hands of terrorist or extremist groups, which intensifies
the destructive potential of international terrorism. Hence,
special priority must be given to ensuring the nonproliferation of
WMD and their delivery vehicles.

The establishment of new nonproliferation agreements and arms
control treaties does not imply the renunciation of treaties and
agreements already in effect. They are a common protective
mechanism of all states, highly reliable and time-tested. The
unjustified elimination of key elements in the international law
against WMD proliferation could aggravate the military strategic
situation in the world and serve to undermine global security.

The top priority is to make treaties on nuclear nonproliferation
universal, as well as to enforce a comprehensive ban on nuclear
testing. As regards missiles, countries must enter into continuous
negotiations with a view towards concluding a global treaty against
the proliferation of missiles and missile technologies.

The prevention of weapon deployment in outer space is also an
essential part of any global effort towards guaranteeing the
nonproliferation of WMD. The world stands in dire need for an
all-embracing agreement which would ensure that outer space remains
a zone free from all kinds of weapons.

Regional and global conflicts pose another persistent threat to
peace, which is revealing its new potentialities in the age of
globalization. A large part of society in the developing countries
are reacting to the painful imbalances imposed on them from the
effects of globalization; this adds fuel to many conflicts which
are more interrelated in scope. The rise of political and religious
extremism in many hot spots considerably impedes the search for a
compromise, embitters all participants in confrontation, and
promotes the emergence of an “instability belt” which now stretches
from Kosovo to Indonesia.

The international community has in the last few years made much
progress in restoring peace and accord in separate regions of the
world. I would like to mention, above all, the appreciable headway
made in the post-Taliban reconstruction of Afghanistan, in which
the UN has played a major role. Other important issues which may
demand the support of the UN Security Council include the
achievement of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, and
the overcoming of various crises in some African countries.

Yet, the world is still a long way from a radical reduction in
the number and intensity of armed conflicts. This particularly
refers to the situation in the Middle East and around Iraq. This
knot of confrontation is turning into a neuralgic center on global
security and the global economy, due, of course, to the
destabilizing effect on the international energy markets, as well
as a general negative impact on confidence in the world markets.
Translating both conflicts from military confrontation into the
domain of political negotiations – on the basis of international
law – is vital for strengthening regional and global security.

Terrorists and extremists have always sought to justify their
activities due to the persistent existence of social and economic
instability and poverty in the world. While acknowledging these
serious problems, we must resolutely emphasize that there can be no
justification for terrorism. At the same time, the development of a
stable and just financial and economic system in the world would,
no doubt, help counter many dangerous challenges to mankind. The
recent series of major international forums – the International
Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, the World
Food Summit in Rome, and the World Summit on Sustainable
Development in Johannesburg – adopted resolutions intended to
remedy the most threatening challenges in the world. Now these
resolutions must be translated into life.

Another vital issue on the international community’s agenda is
the environmental protection. Natural disasters which have visited
many regions of the world in the summer of 2002 graphically
demonstrated, yet again, that solutions to the ecological problems
must not be postponed, or future generations may be endangered.
Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, has proposed to convene a World
Conference on Climate Change in the autumn of 2003 in Moscow in
order to coordinate international efforts in this area.

Summarizing this brief analysis of modern threats and challenges
to international security, I would like to say that the global
community has markedly stepped up its search for new, more
effective solutions to the security problems now posed by
globalization. However, these efforts have so far been largely
isolated, and do not cover the entire range of global threats and
risks. What shall be done to solve this problem?

Joint Response To Threats And Challenges

In principle, there are two ways to solve security problems in
the age of globalization.

The first one is taking unilateral actions. Proponents of this
way, as a rule, express views which are widely accepted in the
leading Western states. They believe that even the combined
resources of the developed countries are insufficient for solving
the large range of problems caused by globalization. So they
believe it is better to seek salvation on one’s own, thus creating
“islands of economic and political stability” by taking
protectionist measures and making unilateral decisions, which often
call for the use of force.

Such a response to the challenges of our times is unacceptable
for purely ethical and pragmatic reasons. The temptation to take
unilateral actions in order to reap the maximum benefits from
globalization, and to protect oneself against its unfavorable
effects, lessens fair competition and leads to a disregard for
international law and multilateral institutions. This approach may
bring short-term benefits, but the damage it will cause will have
long-term consequences: the foundations of international law and
order will be undermined, while the development of world politics
will lose all sense of direction. Furthermore, it could cause a
military arms race to extend into ever new regions.

The other way to approach globalization is to find solutions for
two immediate and related problems. The first pressing problem is
to take security measures against a wide range of increasing
political, economic and criminal (including terrorist) threats and
risks. The second goal is to work out a long-term strategy for
bringing globalization under control in order to expand its
favorable effects to all nations, rather than on the minority

Effective solutions to security problems can be found if
countries establish a global system of counteraction against modern
threats and challenges. Such a system must address real security
problems, meet vital interests of every state, and ensure
international stability, as well as steady economic development
over the long term.

Making this international system effective requires a generally
recognized headquarters capable of rallying the international
community around itself. Actually, such a center already exists –
it is the United Nations, with its unique blend of legitimacy,
universality and experience.

The formation of this global system has already begun – and
successfully. Its prototype and, simultaneously, its supporting
structure, are the international antiterrorist coalition and the
network of mechanisms and agreements built by its participants. The
experience gained in the establishment and functioning of this
coalition can be used to work out the main guidelines which will
secure mankind against a much wider range of challenges and

It is absolutely obvious that the new system must be:

– global, since modern challenges pose a danger to the whole
world, they must be countered at the global level;

– all-embracing, as every modern threat has an immense
destructive potential; this is why all of these problems, without
exception, must be addressed by this coalition;

– capable of making comprehensive decisions, as new threats and
challenges often are interrelated;

– universal as regards its membership, because modern threats
are directed against the security and well-being of all members of
the international community.

Finally, the new system must become a standard of international
legitimacy as it will derive its strength from a reliance on the
principles and rules of international law, above all, the UN

The experience that will be gained in addressing the first
urgent problem will help to reliably solve the other, long-term,
problem of working out an international strategy for getting
globalization under control.

Russia’s approach to the adoption of such a strategy was
expounded by President Vladimir Putin in his address to the
international Forum 2000 held in September 2000 in New York. The
Russian leader said that “at the turn of the century, humankind
needs to thoroughly analyze strong global tendencies in the areas
of economy, culture and information. The future belongs to those
who will learn to control these processes and make them work for
people’s benefit. We must make globalization socially oriented so
that peoples of the world may equally enjoy the fruits of
scientific, technological and intellectual progress.”

The countries’ common strategy is to make globalization socially
responsible and to make its benefits available to all nations. It
is within the global community’s power to create and/or strengthen
those mechanisms capable of maintaining strategic stability,
preventing major regional conflicts, keeping the occasional
fluctuations on the financial and economic markets from turning
into catastrophic crises, warning of possible “shocks,” and quickly
mobilizing resources for eliminating their consequences.

It is vitally important that such a strategy rest on moral
principles shared by all members of the international community,
above all, the principle of the social solidarity of mankind. This
strategy should be worked out by as many countries as possible, and
take into account the positions of individual states and the
leading regional organizations, with the United Nations playing the
key role.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the world’s future
depends on the way the international community chooses to ensure
its security. I do hope that the imperative of concerted efforts to
counter these common threats will prevail over the
every-man-for-himself mentality, and that the global community will
finally choose a democratic and multipolar world order that will
guarantee the future development and equal security for all