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Global Security in Perspective

31 December, 2005



Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. America’s Power Monopoly: How Long is it Sustainable?

3. Candidates for the Global Power Play

4. The Western Exception

5. The Eurasian Triangle

6. Re-examining the Role of Regular Armed Forces

7. Institutionalising Security Dialogue


Global security is being increasingly determined by a rapidly shifting configuration of primarily economic and technological forces as well as by growing internal fragility and external dependence on vital resources. Both developments are principally due to four fundamental changes: a shift from a basically multilateral power constellation to a one-power pre-dominance; from inter- to intrastate armed conflicts; from the use of force guided by "doctrines" or established strategies to ad-hoc or "non-doctrinal" fighting; and, finally, from state-controlled armed forces to free-wheeling, non-state armed actors.

One of the principal consequences of these developments is the ever widening understanding of "security", hence the possibility of using it as a pretext for any kind of politico-military action.

Various factors point to a change in the global power distribution - this in spite or because of continuing US dominance. In a certain sense, we observe a "renaissance" of geopolitics with, at its centre, the Eurasian mainland and, as its "outsider", the "off-shore balancer", the United States. While for the moment the United States is able to pursue its dual mission as both the dominant player and the ad-hoc ally, the latter may become either more difficult or less acceptable to others. Such seems particularly possible if and when the "Eurasian powers" - i.e. the EU, Russia, China, India and neighbouring Japan - achieve a real comeback on the international stage. Some of them lack, however, either the tradition or the will to engage in any kind of politico-security based multilateralism, their security concerns still being either internal or bilateral. This helps to explain why the conditions for tangible and sustainable security cooperation, ideally based on multilateral institutions, is very different in Asia from that of other regions in the world. There is no clear and present danger in sight that would prompt Asia's major actors to initiate institutionalised security cooperation of strategic relevance.

Finally, the changing role of the armed forces in general and, ever more so, their privatisation in particular raises the question if and to what extent the big players - in particular those in Asia - will have to re-appraise their own place and role in tomorrow's world. Above all, they are bound to address the question where, how, and on what kind of legal basis and, possibly, institutional framework they see the role of armed forces, both official and private in the years to come.