Rethinking security architecture in a post-invasion world

Author: Tanya Ogilvie-White, APLN

The grim realization that our world has changed is beginning to reverberate among strategic analysts. Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, in the wake of a historic Sino-Russian joint declaration, ushers in a new era of ideological competition and great-power confrontation that upends many assumptions of the order post-Cold War international.

Chief among these are the assumptions that formal security architectures and economic interdependence can be invoked to limit great power aggression. Russia’s behavior throws these ideas into disarray and leaves many pondering the implications for future stability in Europe and the rest of the world. In the Asia-Pacific region, there could be significant ramifications for other incendiary security issues, such as an escalating arms race and the future of Taiwan.

There is a lot of work to be done to make sense of this evolving situation, but one thing is clear: we live in a more dangerous world and we must respond wisely. We must find ways to minimize strategic risks, which means improving communication channels between allies and adversaries. We must use these channels – new and existing – to build common purpose in the pursuit of peace and stability. The alternative is an unconstrained global arms race, increasing the risk of existential conflict between the great powers and a war in which there will be no winner.

Before the world got worse in February, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network (APLN) was involved in a project promoting security cooperation in Northeast Asia – a region lacking the formal security mechanisms most other regions, such as those that collapsed. so dramatically in Europe. The project, which was funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and run jointly with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Royal United Services Institute, engaged regional leaders to foster a sense of common purpose and establish better relationships to reduce risk and prevent conflict. amid the increasingly complex security challenges of Northeast Asia.

Two broad areas of agreement emerged from a series of workshops, consultations and meetings. First, states should take an “ecosystem approach” to building security in which they leverage existing security mechanisms to help safeguard regional and global commons. Some channels of cooperation already exist, such as collaborative efforts to address cross-border environmental hazards, respond to natural disasters, and build public health infrastructure. By broadening and deepening these initiatives, states in the region can create habits of cooperation that, over time, foster trust and transparency and improve relationships.

Second, since governments do not always place regional and global interests at the forefront of national policy, states need the support of non-governmental initiatives to fill dialogue gaps when conditions are not conducive to state-level talks. Politically sensitive security challenges, such as arms races and territorial disputes, sometimes need to be handled informally by neutral organizations that can summon officials from adversarial states and encourage off-the-record conversations about strategic risk management. These meetings, known as Track 2 and Track 1.5 dialogues, can be enhanced by civil society initiatives that emphasize our common humanity across national, cultural and social boundaries.

Based on these areas of agreement, the APLN has created a list of recommendations for improving security cooperation in Northeast Asia, which has been endorsed by influential policy experts from across the region and beyond. of the. These experts see the ecosystem approach as the best hope for managing the region’s security challenges, which can often appear so large and intractable as to seem crippling. Rather than trying to tackle the most sensitive issues head-on, the recommendations focus on taking small steps where there is common ground. Habits of cooperation build trust, which makes cooperation on traditional security challenges more feasible in the long run.

The North-East Asian Security Architecture Project may have wider relevance now that the war in Ukraine has so brutally exposed the fragility of the rules-based order and the vulnerability of Europe’s formal security architecture. formerly rented. Whatever the outcome of the war, building a sense of common purpose among states in the post-war Euro-Atlantic environment will be a difficult but necessary task. Focusing on working together to address threats to all of humanity, from pandemics to climate change, may offer the best hope of bridging national divides and bringing some semblance of stability to the region and the world.

Tanya Ogilvie-White is Senior Research Advisor at the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network and Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at Australian National University.

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