Global Security and Democracy [1]



Allow me to start with a confession:


I was born in 1939, a couple of months after the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and the start of the Second World War, in a city near the border with the USSR and Parallel 45.


If, at that time, someone had traveled the Eurasian continent from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic from Tokyo to Lisbon, he would have crossed only States under civilian or military dictatorship.


The Second World War caused the death of more than 25 million troopers and of more than 73 million civilians, huge economic damages and destruction of the universal cultural heritage.


This fact alone makes us think that the most important gain of humankind, in the last seven decades is Peace, and that this is tightly linked to democracy.


The fall in 1989-1990 of communist dictatorships in the USSR and South Eastern Europe, and their replacement with democratic regimes have put an end to further loss of lives, which, only on the territories of the former Soviet Union are estimated to more than 20 million people, killed for political reasons, on the order of their own leaders.


It became even clearer that Global security and Peace are linked to the expansion of Democracy.


Those who lived – under the communist dictatorship – the most criminal system of the whole history of humankind can understand why, in the past, in many cases, the security system built by the United States and their allies against communism was based, in Asia, South America and Africa on agreements with corrupted and criminal dictators.


Popular revolutions which started in 2011 in the North of Africa and the Middle East are asking for a new system of global security based, to a grater extent, on democracy and civil society.


At this crossroads, the difficulty is not choosing to follow one way or another, but the capability to anticipate where these roads lead, as well as other new roads, that may open in the a century of unexpected transformations, where the risks game and actors abruptly change. 


There are two types of challenges security faces. The first challenge refers to quickly solving some few neuralgic points of the present. The second one concerns the elaboration of a strategic concept for the global security during the first part of the 21st century.


A long term strategy

As regards the strategic approaches, there is a need for an effort of trust and anticipation to see evolution or involution tendencies in the word we live in. The changes within the security environment can only be understood if we should take into account the changes within the nature of international relations, within rules, norms, typology of actors, goals and ways of action.


An institutional world crisis

The Russian – Georgian war of August 2008 has represented a shock for security structures, too. Its immediate consequences have highlighted inherent weaknesses in systems for managing frozen conflicts. Even more so, institutional blockages within the EU became apparent, in terms of foreign policy, as well as differences within NATO. Even though the expansion of the conflict was blocked, a major institutional crisis became apparent on an international level. Its components proved to be a crisis of means of action, a crisis of principles of International Law and a moral crisis. Revising security strategies on grounds of new approaches became a necessity. This also became relevant for consequences regarding an evaluation logic and security planning.


What is the world we live in?

Two theoretical approaches have arisen. According to the first and oldest one, the world is unipolar, with the USA as a super-power, where they have invested over the last ten years twice the amount of military budgets of all the other world states, for military scientific and technological research. The world can also be defined as unipolar due to the model of liberal democracy, where we can not only include the US and Europe, but also important Asian states like: Japan, Australia, South Korea, or states from Latin America with a high living standard.


In my opinion, this is a void approach. Even the United States have refrained from proclaiming themselves a unique power. And this is not only about public statements. I have witnessed many of President Clinton’s statements made within close doors meetings and I can testify for his concern to find and consult political and military partners during moments of crisis. The short outbreak President George W. Bush had at the beginning of the new century has been swiftly sanctioned by reality.


The model of a unique type of democracy seems also void. At Harvard University, during a conference chaired by the late professor Huntington, I had the opportunity to demonstrate my reservations regarding his theory on the clash of civilizations. According to this theory, Europe was divided into the Western civilization area, based on the Catholic-Protestant mentality, and the Eastern Orthodox[2] one. The integration into the EU of Greece, Romania and Bulgaria have come to contradict in real life this theory which will also be sanctioned by the pending integration into the EU not only of other orthodox nations like Serbia and Macedonia, but also Muslim nations like Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo. Ever since 1994, during a conference in Seoul, I have spoken against the theory of inadequacy for Asian nations to embrace the liberal democracy model.[3]


The second approach describes the world as uni-multipolar, with an anarchic periphery, proved to be more realistic. In this view, the USA cannot act alone, but jointly with other powers. The West is multipolar and irregular. Western multipolarity is not an accident, but it been naturally generated by domestic democracy and by that existing within international bodies and institutions that is had set up.


Recent developments showed that countries within NATO and EU had different standpoints regarding the events in Kosovo or Georgia, as well as regarding the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


States’ Security versus Citizens’ Security

Even in this case we are still within the Westfalian concept, according to which only states are subject to international law. States will probably continue to be not only security subjects, but also its guarantees, for the very distant future. The postmodern world has, nevertheless, generated a new solidarity between racial, ethnic, sexual groups that transcend states, European and world security, as well as security within each and every state, and they will have to adapt to postmodern society.


In today’s world, states can no longer be separated in blocks because the reactions rising according to different interests lead to changing alliances and opposite parts for different topics or subjects. On one hand, it is a reflex of the contemporary world democratization, but also of the pragmatism of governments forced to respond to the needs of its own citizens.


The state security can no longer be perceived as a goal, but it should be considered a mean to guarantee the security of different groups and citizens, people with own interests and choices.



Global citizens in a Risk Society

The globalized world can be characterized as a risk society, to which a large number of citizens have adapted. These global citizens, especially young people under 40, do not assume long term identities and loyalties, but only pragmatic and present ones. They are very active and mobile and settle, according to each person’s character, in areas offering them a minimum of risk or a maximum of opportunity. This kind of population which is expected to raise in numbers during the next years co-exists with groups or persons leading their life according to the former bipolar world, in black and white, even though ideological intolerances have been replaced by the religious or ethnical ones. The contemporary world is complicated also by its coexistence with proto-state or pseudo-state structures, based on clans, extended families or other structures which preceded the formation of people or nations. We find them in Africa, in some regions in Asia or even in Latin America. The approach made by the international community on each topics should take into account the perceptions of each actor involved.


Problems in transition towards democracy, along with separatism and delay in consolidating new independent states create, on their turn, risks directly connected to political legitimacy of states and governments. Mafia type nuclei fuelling separatism and blocking the consolidation of new states put the capability of fighting institutionalized corruption under question. Another threat associated to the global democratic model is populism. Populism can lead to weakening power and efficiency of key democratic institutions, of independence of justice, mass media and the army. These elements, combined with the existing old frozen conflicts, raise concerns both on the dividing tendencies within new independent states, but also on maintaining backward mentalities that can render authoritarian administrative models attractive.


The Preventive Vocation of Security Structures

Conflict prevention and post-conflict situations management require a more comprehensive perspective that will develop the complementarily in global and regional bodies’ activity. A balanced view should take into account the interests of different ethnical and religious communities, the states’ obligations and their citizens’ natural rights, the conjectural and long-term interests of regional actors. It can only be elaborated by involving representatives competent to express plural standpoints, questions and aspirations for hundreds of millions people living in today’s world. Political structures can be complemented by civil society structures. Only such a process to consolidate respect for people, democracy and common security may reach the depth that only peoples’ true will can guarantee. It can create an efficient tool in setting up a new culture of dialogue and collaboration within the entire world.


The preventive vocation will constitute the milestone of its short term security. This fact involves a raising complexity of analyses and ways of action. The repetitive crises have unfortunately shown that punctual preventive interventions are not enough and should be part of a complex of long term actions, they have to take into account the overall aspects of regions and overall aspects of problems that might destabilize, from economic difficulties and to stereotypes anchored in conflictual mentalities, from precarious communication ways to unconventional security risks.


The global economic crisis has led to reconsidering the role of the state as a defender of citizens against abuse by those who had ensured progress and prosperity for states in the 20th century, multinational commercial companies and transnational financial groups. Could democracies stand up to such diverse challenges? What are the arguments? What are the means?


It is necessary a political culture of security through forging mutual trust, negotiation and cooperation to identify major risks, and the creation and implementation of programs for raising mutual respect, both in countries with a high degree of risk, as well as in areas with a potential for conflict.


I think that within this laboratory there is a privileged place for the experience of countries which passed through transition, from the communist dictatorships to the democratic states. The experience of the civil society and of reforming statesmen can play a role, both in dismantling conflicts and in rethinking the strategy for the long term.


The great contribution of democracies to the security architecture of the world will doubtlessly be that of wars that will never take place, due to new mechanisms of democracy and dialogue, due to enforcing cooperation with the civil society and preventive diplomacy.


Is there a need for democracy? Yes, there is. What for? For a safer world. For whom? For all.


[1] Speech at the conference “Opportunities and Challenges for the 21st Century for a New Paradigm” (WAAS). Geneva, Switzerland, June 3rd, 2013

[2] Symposium Cultural Values and Human Progress, Harvard University, Boston, USA, April 23, 1999 

[3] Democracy in Asia, Asia-Pacific Peace Press, 1995