Marshall Center Papers 3 Graphic

Remarkable growth of cooperation among the countries of Eurasia and North America

Cooperative Security: From Individual Security to International Stability

April 2001, Number 003


No single trend, over the past decade, deserves more careful analysis than the remarkable growth of cooperation among the countries of Eurasia and North America. Many new international organizations have been born, and a few of the old ones have been successfully transformed. NATO Secretary General Robertson remarked on September 28, 2000, in Tbilisi, that NATO has changed fundamentally — indeed, “beyond recognition” — as shown by its cooperation with non–member countries. So much has happened so quickly that we need new theories to explain the recent past, let alone to shape the opportunities, challenges, and threats of the era that lies ahead.

It is for that reason that the Marshall Center takes such pride in publishing this edition of the Marshall Center Papers. Here we present two different approaches to the topic of Cooperative Security. Both are controversial. They take exception to traditional thinking, in many respects, and they do not entirely agree with each other.

Richard Cohen presents a compelling and highly original model of Cooperative Security — a term that once was applied almost exclusively to the Organization for Security and Co–operation in Europe (OSCE). Cohen advocates concrete steps for translating this idealistic but vague concept into reality, contending that NATO has become the world’s best example of a Cooperative Security organization. He argues that NATO remains a Collective Defense system, to the extent that it focuses on external threats, but only in part. In addition, NATO has acted as a Collective Security organization restoring international stability first in Bosnia–Herzegovina and then in Kosovo — on behalf of the United Nations, when possible, but without United Nations approval, when necessary. Cohen explores all of these diverse functions, presenting his own, normative vision of how NATO should develop in the future, as a Cooperative Security institution, and urging closer contact between NATO, the European Union, and Russia. Cohen notes, however, that “the breadth of . . . Cooperative Security is probably limited” by a lack of “core values and . . . common geo-strategic interests.”

Michael Mihalka both broadens the analysis of Cooperative Security and deepens its theoretical underpinnings. He traces the history of Cooperative Security organizations, arguing that they date from the early 19th century and extending the concept beyond the Northern Hemisphere to include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Mihalka points out that many members of OSCE and ASEAN are quasi–authoritarian or transitional democracies, and not consolidated liberal democracies. Even states that do not share common values can still cooperate, but only if their ruling elites have confidence in their common future and believe that working together is better than proceeding alone. However, Mihalka warns that non-democratic countries are limited in their ability to pursue cooperation. They may succeed in averting war with each other — as in the case of ASEAN — but they are unlikely to develop a common position on regional threats to stability. Thus Mihalka argues that the future success of Cooperative Security depends not only on spreading liberal democracy, but also on intensifying economic ties with the non- democratic countries and fostering their sense of a “security community” that serves the interests of all its members. Mihalka, in contrast to Cohen, concludes that “Even among states that lack common values, cooperative security is possible.”

These two, contrasting essays raise many questions about the future of the newly independent countries and the new democracies. Are they entering a new era, in which one state’s gain is not necessarily another state’s loss? What is the connection between their rhetorical support for Cooperative Security abroad and their actual progress toward liberal democracy at home? How much importance should they assign to projecting stability beyond their borders? Can they pursue cooperation as opposed to confrontation, reassurance instead of deterrence, and mutual benefit in place of unilateral advantage? What concrete steps should they take to benefit from the experience of previous centuries and other regions?

Richard Cohen and Michael Mihalka have performed a major service by presenting their views in this single volume. Their disagreements testify to the complexity and the importance of the issues that they raise.

Robert Kennedy, PhD
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

Executive Summary

The term Cooperative Security has become a popular catch–phrase since the end of the Cold War. It has been generally used to describe a more peaceful, but rather idealistic, approach to security through increased international harmony and cooperation. This paper presents a more pragmatic and concrete model of Cooperative Security. The Cooperative Security model proposed is based on established institutions and on two well–recognized forms of international security. To these two concepts of security it adds two new dimensions.

The Cooperative Security model advanced here embraces four concentric and mutually reinforcing “rings of security”: Individual Security, Collective Security, Collective Defense, and Promoting Stability. Of these four rings, Collective Security — a political and legal obligation of member states to defend the integrity of individual states within a group of treaty signatories and Collective Defense the commitment of all states to defend each other from outside aggression — are well–known and generally well–understood. The new elements of this Cooperative Security model are a common commitment to Individual Security and to Promoting Stability.

This paper argues that although many international security organizations, including the League of Nations, the United Nations (UN), the Organization for Security and Co–operation in Europe (OSCE), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Warsaw Pact, were founded on the basis of either Collective Security or Collective Defense, only NATO can claim to effectively operate in all four rings of this Cooperative Security model.

The idea that true security must be based, first and foremost, on the security of the individual human being has gained widespread popularity in recent years. Individual Security is synonymous with Human Security and Human Rights. The paper argues that Individual Security must form the core or first, inner ring, of any long–lasting and robust cooperative international security arrangement. For this reason, members of a Cooperative Security system must share basic liberal democratic values.

The Cooperative Security system must also be proactive. Its members must be prepared to engage in collective diplomatic, economic, and, if necessary, military action in areas outside their common space which may threaten their welfare and stability. This is the fourth and outer ring of Cooperative Security, Promoting Stability. Non–member states that exist “within” this fourth ring will also benefit from increased security and from cooperation with states inside the system, and indeed they may aspire to become part of its core membership.

The paper argues that with its new interest in defense and security, the European Union (EU) is moving toward becoming a de facto Cooperative Security organization. Together with NATO, it actively seeks to bring stability and prosperity to the area around it. At the same time, like NATO, it works closely with and holds out the prospect of membership to countries not already part of the Union. As the EU and NATO move closer together in the defense and security field and as both organizations enlarge, the Cooperative Security space will widen and deepen. The ultimate goal, in the longer term, is that all the countries of the OSCE, including Russia, are brought into a larger Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security organization that could bring harmony and stability to much of the northern half of our planet.

. . . to see established a peace which will afford all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want.1

– The Atlantic Charter

What is Cooperative Security?

The term Cooperative Security has become popular since the end of the Cold War. Although it does not yet have a generally accepted definition, it has been widely used to herald a new approach to international relations. It appeared to offer an escape from narrow Cold War “zero–sum” strategies into the broad sunlit vistas of international peace and harmony. However, as is often the case in life, events have demonstrated that this early burst of optimism was, at best, premature.

This paper proposes a model of Cooperative Security that encompasses the traditional international security arrangements of Collective Security and Collective Defense and adds two new elements, Individual Security and Promoting and Projecting Stability.

Rebirth of a Concept

The concept of Cooperative Security is not a post–Cold War invention. Indeed, Immanuel Kant introduced the idea in the late 18th century in his “Second Definite Article of Perpetual Peace.” Kant proclaimed that “The law of nations shall be founded on a federation of free states.”2 Today, at the start of the 21st century, the term Cooperative Security has become much more fashionable as strategists and policy–makers struggle to frame a new approach to security for a turbulent present and an unpredictable future.

In the early 1990s, many strategic thinkers were caught up in a tide of optimism generally hailed as the New World Order. The term Cooperative Security became a catch phrase for a rather idealistic approach to the swiftly changing international climate. In 1992, three leading American strategists — Ashton Carter, William Perry, and John Steinbruner — spoke of Cooperative Security in terms of providing new avenues toward world peace: “Organizing principles like deterrence, nuclear stability, and containment embodied the aspirations of the cold war . . . Cooperative Security is the corresponding principle for international security in the post–cold war era.”3 In 1994, writing in Foreign Policy, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans described Cooperative Security as tending “. . . to connote consultation rather than confrontation, reassurance rather than deterrence, transparency rather than secrecy, prevention rather than correction, and interdependence rather than unilateralism.”4

These attempts to define and shape the concept of Cooperative Security generally reflect a liberal/idealistic view of the future of world security. Unfortunately, this vision has been rudely jolted by an unwelcome “return of history” in the Balkans, in parts of the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere.

A pragmatic approach to Cooperative Security is necessary in an unstable and dangerous world

It seems to me that a more pragmatic approach to Cooperative Security is necessary if the concept is to be of real use in an unstable and dangerous world. In other words, we must seek a way of “operationalizing” the term. To achieve this we must narrow our expectations of what Cooperative Security can achieve. We need to build a system based upon mechanisms and institutions already in place, i.e., institutions that have proven themselves effective in providing relative peace,  stability, and prosperity to nations and groups of nations in the last half of the 20th century.

But before we look at how to construct a realistic and effective approach to Cooperative Security, it might be helpful to briefly examine two of the other major security concepts that came into prominence in the 20th century.

Collective Security and Collective Defense

Though the concept of cooperation and alliances between families, tribes, and states, in peace, but more generally in war, has been a common feature of the history of mankind, the terms Collective Security and Collective Defense are inventions of the last century. Both concepts imply a long–term, formal commitment between groups of states to protect the security interests of individual members within their common spheres.

Collective Security. Collective Security looks inward to attempt to ensure security within a group of sovereign states. The first modern Collective Security organization was the League of Nations founded in the aftermath of World War I.  Its members pledged to protect each other from attack by other nations within that organization. The idea was simple: an act of aggression by one or more members against another would be opposed, if necessary by force, by the other member states of the League. For a variety of reasons, the League of Nations was ultimately not successful in achieving security and stability. This was almost certainly due in large part to what Marshall Center Professor Michael Mihalka has called the “…fundamental incompatibility of liberal democracy, fascism and communism…”5 that co–existed within its membership.

At the end of World War II, the newly formed United Nations (UN) took up the mantle of Collective Security from the League of Nations. Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter provide for action by member states to preserve and restore international peace and security.6 In the 1970s, the Conference on Co–operation and Security in Europe (CSCE), now the Organization for Co–operation and Security in Europe (OSCE), was formed to provide Collective Security to virtually all of the states of the Eurasian–Atlantic region. At best, however, both of these organizations have been only partially effective.

Collective Defense. A Collective Defense organization looks outward to defend its members from external aggression. Collective Defense organizations blossomed during the days of the Cold War. The North Atlantic Treaty  Organization (NATO), the Western European Union (WEU), the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and the Warsaw Pact were founded in the aftermath of World War II. Collective Defense commits all nations, bound by treaty, to come to each other’s defense in the event any member is threatened by, or is actually subjected to, military attack by a state or states outside the treaty area. The Brussels Treaty of 1948, the founding document of the Western Union (now the WEU), and the Washington Treaty of 1949, NATO’s founding document, both contain these provisions as their central theme.

Cooperative Security: Two New Elements

To be both useful and effective, Cooperative Security must look both ways, inward and outward. But, it also must incorporate two further dimensions not covered explicitly by either Collective Security or Collective Defense. The first of these is the concept of Individual Security and the second is the Active Promotion and Projection of Stability into areas adjacent to the Cooperative Security space where instability and conflict might adversely affect the security of its members.

Individual Security. Individual Security, or what former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, has popularized as “Human Security”7 stands at the center of any real international security system built around liberal democratic ideals. The furtherance and protection of the basic freedoms of the individual is the nucleus from which all other forms of security must radiate. Dr. Bill McSweeney, in his investigation of the meaning of security, makes the telling point that “Contrary to the orthodox view of security studies, security must make sense at the basic level of the individual human being for it to make sense at the international level.”8

Damage to the security of individuals in one country now means that other countries may find their own security diminished

In an age of growing inter-connectivity between states and peoples, concern about the human condition within a state has become the direct and immediate interest of the world community. Violations of human rights in one state become very quickly known to the citizens of other states. Damage to the security of individuals in one country, by external or more often by internal forces, now means that other peoples and their governments feel that their own security is diminished.

Recent gross violations of the individual security of large numbers of human beings in such widely flung countries as Rwanda, Kosovo, and East Timor have had a dramatic impact on the international community. These examples and others are clear illustrations of what we might call the “globalization of concern.” Individual Security is now at the heart of the international agenda. The Westphalian concept of the absolute right of states to act as they see fit within their own territories is no longer accepted by liberal democratic states nor, increasingly, by nations within international organizations such as the United Nations. The concept of state sovereignty cannot be a screen behind which mass violations of human security can take place with impunity, even within otherwise recognized international boundaries.

The states within the Cooperative Security system will remain actively concerned with the stability of the world around them

Promoting Stability. The second new component of Cooperative Security is the active promotion of stability outside the boundaries of the states forming the Cooperative Security system. Instability in areas adjacent to the territory of the Cooperative Security system, or further afield, that might threaten the security of its members, will become a matter of serious concern. Stability may be upset by the danger of conflict between states, but also by mass violations of individual security within neighboring states, such as that which occurred in Kosovo in 1998 and early 1999. This provoked a strong reaction from NATO and others. How stability can be developed, restored, and preserved in the world around them should remain the active concern of the states within the Cooperative Security system.

Here we must sound a word of caution. Promoting Stability could be seen as a license for unwarranted intervention by larger powers or international organizations in the legitimate internal affairs of other, mainly smaller states. Active intervention — diplomatic, economic, or military — must, therefore, be very carefully sanctioned and monitored. I will say more about this below.

The following model, Figure 1 — Cooperative Security: The Four Rings, is built on a series of widening concentric circles, or rings. It attempts to bring together the four elements of Cooperative Security in a practical framework to form a real and effective security system:

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Cooperative Security, The Four Rings

Cooperative Security is a strategic system which forms around a nucleus of liberal democratic states linked together in a network of formal or informal alliances and institutions characterized by shared values and practical and transparent economic, political, and defense cooperation. In a Cooperative Security system, individual states’ national security objectives are linked by four reinforcing rings of security:

Ring One: Promoting and protecting human rights within their own boundaries and further afield (Individual Security)

Ring Two: Maintaining peace and stability within their common space (Collective Security)

Ring Three: Mutual protection against outside aggression (Collective Defense) 

Ring Four: Actively promoting stability in other areas where conflict could threaten their shared security, using political, informational, economic, and, if necessary, military means (Promoting Stability)

The Four Rings: Explaining the Concept

“Strategic System.” Cooperative Security is described as a “strategic system,” as it does not easily fit the generally accepted definition of a “strategy” which has been described as “the integrated application of means to achieve desired ends.” The word “system” implies that the concept cannot be fully realized in the abstract. As we have seen, it must be manifested in concrete form to achieve its complete potential. Thus, it will be based on existing or newly created, strong and resilient institutions.

“Nucleus of Liberal Democratic States.” Cooperative Security must have at its core a nucleus of liberal democratic states adhering to common values. There are two points to be made here. First, there are those who argue that the state itself has become a less relevant player in the realm of national and international security and that sub–state and trans–state actors now play the leading role on the modern security scene. It is true that non–state organizations, trans–national corporations, non–governmental organizations (NGOs), pressure groups, and even international criminal and terrorist groups are increasingly influential in the security area. There is, however, in my opinion, no early prospect that a realistic alternative to the system of sovereign states and the institutions they form will be replaced as the dominant providers of security to the citizens of this planet.

Human rights are best protected by liberal democratic states

Second, I believe that only liberal democratic states can be trusted with the protection and furtherance of human rights in their widest sense, the core of the Cooperative Security system. States that UN Seceretary General Kofi Annan has called “fig leaf democracies,” and clearly, non–democratic states may work with the member states of the system for short–term, specific purposes. Several of the countries that provide contingents to SFOR, in Bosnia, and to KFOR, in Kosovo, are certainly not liberal democracies. However, they may make a helpful political and military contribution to the Cooperative Security system in specific and limited ways. In the longer term, their own values and perceptions may change through contact and cooperation with the liberal democracies within the system.

Because of the ultimate unreliability and fragility of undemocratic states as allies — for example, Iran, Libya, and Yugoslavia have all been, at one time or another, helpful to western interests — it seems abundantly clear that only liberal democratic states are capable of developing and sustaining the common objectives, the spirit of compromise, and the flexibility essential for the long–term maintenance of a Cooperative Security system. As we have seen, the League of Nations ultimately foundered on a lack of basic political compatibility amongst its members.

“Practical and Transparent Cooperation.” Real Cooperative Security should link states in many ways. They must be committed to a dialogue amongst themselves, spanning a whole range of activities and interests. If we accept that the broader definition of security includes political, economic, and human rights aspects, then the nations forming the Cooperative Security system must be linked by all elements of the web of security. These include: close and continuing political consultations; free and open trade relations; and closely aligned foreign and security policies, including integrated or multi–national military formations. Most   importantly,   they   must   develop   mechanisms for peacefully and amicably resolving differences between individual states or groups of states within the system, including perceived violations of individual security within one or more of the member states. Recent European Union (EU) members’ sanctions against Austria, whatever the actual rights or wrongs of that particular case, were a demonstration that even the most solid of liberal democracies can come under close scrutiny and pressure from its peers when its commitment to individual security and human rights is brought into question.

“Individual States’ National Security Objectives.” Within a system of Cooperative Security, individual nations must sometimes forego or modify pursuit of their own individual national interests for the sake of the longer–term common good. They do so because they judge their shared interests to be ultimately more important to them than their own short–term concerns. This element is fundamental to the success of a Cooperative Security system. During the 1999 Kosovo crisis, the Greek government reluctantly went along with NATO’s decision to bomb the Serbs. It did so because it rightly perceived the potential long–term damage to NATO and ultimately to its own security and prosperity of blocking consensus. Failure to reach agreement within NATO on such a vital issue would ultimately have done more damage to Greece’s own national interests than any benefit that might have been gained in protecting traditional economic, cultural, or political ties with Serbia.

Ring One: Promoting and Protecting Human Rights. The essential basic value upon which a Cooperative Security system rests is an unquestioned conviction by its members to uphold and maintain the Individual Security of its own citizens and those of their fellow members. This is the inner ring of the Cooperative Security system, which will ultimately  hold it together over time under inevitable pressures and stresses, internal and external. Only the ideals and values of liberal democracy can keep this vital nucleus together.

Ring Two: Maintaining Peace. This ring of Cooperative Security embodies the concept of Collective Security, i.e., protection from threats and aggression by fellow members of the Cooperative Security system. Collective Security will also include close cooperation between members in countering common threats such as terrorism, organized crime, illegal immigration, drugs, pollution, and joint planning and actions in the event of natural or man–made disasters, etc.

Ring Three: Mutual Protection. An essential feature of a Cooperative Security organization is that, unlike the UN or the OSCE, it provides its members with “hard” security. That is, it promises reliable and credible military protection against aggression or the threat of aggression from outside the system. This is the Collective Defense ring of Cooperative Security.

Ring Four: Actively Promoting Stability. Finally, a Cooperative Security system attempts to prevent and preempt instability, which will almost certainly include widespread abuse of human rights, in the area around it. It does so by actively Promoting Stability through a wide variety of means, including, as a last resort, the use of force. This is the fourth and outer ring of Cooperative Security, and arguably its most sensitive element.

NATO’s intervention in Kosovo, in 1999, was an example of an attempt to restore and then to promote stability in an area dangerously close to its borders. In Kosovo, massive violations of individual security were an important factor in swinging public opinion behind the NATO action. No less important was the fact that the organized and widespread persecution of ethnic Albanians by the Yugoslav government risked destabilizing the region and threatened NATO members Hungary, Greece, and Turkey, as well as NATO Partners Albania, Macedonia, Romania, and Bulgaria. This fear of destabilization and the spread of conflict were certainly the determining factors in the decision to use military force once political, diplomatic, and economic tools proved ineffective.

Institutionalizing Cooperative Security

As we have seen, Cooperative Security must be built around a strong institutional framework. Figure 2 attempts to match the current leading international security organizations with the characteristics of the Cooperative Security system that we have described above. This chart is based on the perceived effectiveness of the institution in a particular role, rather than on its formal organizational commitment to one security role or another. “Yes?” indicates, at best, only partial effectiveness in fulfilling a particular role:

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Institutionalizing Cooperative Security
NATO is currently the only working model of Cooperative Security

If we agree with this description of Cooperative Security, then NATO is, for the moment, the world’s only working model of a Cooperative Security system.

NATO — A Practical Example of Cooperative Security

It can be reasonably argued that although the large majority of NATO’s 19 member states qualify as liberal democracies and upholders of Individual Security and human rights within their own borders, the record is not perfect. Some would claim that the use of the death penalty in the United States puts into question America’s commitment to human rights. Others will point to Turkey’s treatment of its Kurdish minorities; to the Czech Republic’s handling of its Roma community; or to British actions in Northern Ireland. However, in an imperfect world, most reasonable observers would agree that NATO members come close to the championing of Individual Security, which stands at the core of a Cooperative Security system.

For many years NATO has been held up as a successful example of a Collective Defense organization. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty of 1949, NATO’s founding document, put this role firmly at the center of the Alliance’s core functions. However, even during the Cold War, the Alliance served as an unofficial, yet de facto, guarantor of the security of its individual member states against threats from fellow members.

Greek–Turkish friction over a variety of issues would almost certainly have resulted in at least one war between these states, had they not been firmly embedded within the North Atlantic Alliance. On more than one occasion, informal, but intense, bilateral and multilateral consultations within the NATO Alliance averted a Greek–Turkish conflict. Such a war would have dealt a severe blow to NATO solidarity and would certainly have put at risk the long–term future of the Alliance, a fact not lost on the two protagonists. In a wider context, French,

Danish, Belgian, Dutch, German, Italian, and British membership of NATO has made armed conflict, historically a not infrequent occurrence between these states, virtually unthinkable. More recently, “fishing wars” between NATO members (between Britain and Iceland, and Canada and Spain) never risked escalating into armed conflict. In short, the Alliance has functioned very effectively as a de facto Collective Security organization throughout much of its 50–year history.

In the years since the end of the Cold War, NATO has vigorously pursued the fourth dimension of Cooperative Security, Promoting Stability, in the states adjacent to the territory of its members. The Alliance has sought to encourage and to promote stability both institutionally and practically. The North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) and its successor, the Euro–Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the NATO–Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC), the NATO–Ukraine Joint Commission, and the Mediterranean Dialogue are examples of the institutional framework that NATO has put in place to promote stability in the areas beyond its boundaries.

Crisis Management has become NATO’s operational tool for the promotion and maintenance of stability in areas on its periphery. Crisis Management includes Conflict Prevention (active diplomacy and preventive deployments) and Crisis Response operations, like Bosnia and Kosovo. Crisis Management was adopted as a “fundamental security task” in the new NATO Strategic Concept approved at the Washington summit of April 1999.9 Crisis Management seeks to include NATO partner states whenever possible. It, together with the NATO enlargement process, Partnership for Peace (PfP), and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Initiative, have become major vehicles for promoting stability outside the traditional NATO area as originally defined by Article 6 of the Washington Treaty.

NATO, therefore, embodies the description of Cooperative Security that we describe above. This model depicts the concept:

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Cooperative Security: A NATO Model

The Balkans: Cooperative Security on the Firing Line

NATO operations in Southeast Europe are clearly an important test of Cooperative Security in action. The air attacks on Yugoslavia, the NATO–led humanitarian missions in Albania and Macedonia, the KFOR mission in Kosovo, and the SFOR mission in Bosnia, are part of a coordinated effort to reestablish stability in this sensitive part of Europe. NATO and other international institutions have made a long–term commitment to Balkan stability. If the situations in Bosnia and in Kosovo can be stabilized, then the NATO model of Cooperative Security will be enormously strengthened. Although they were not welcomed by everyone, NATO’s Operation “Allied Force” in 1999 and the Alliance–led security and nation–building tasks in Kosovo and Bosnia might, in the longer term, point the way toward a more hopeful era in Southeastern Europe and in the wider world.

It is possible, however, that the SFOR/KFOR international operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and the EU–led Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe will ultimately fail to bring a measure of stability and reconciliation to the Balkans. Such a failure would be the result of a loss of interest and determination on the part of NATO, the EU, and the international community to persevere despite the difficulties and setbacks. If this does happen, the concept of Cooperative Security will be dealt a severe blow. It will be seen to have fallen short of the hopes and expectations of its creators. Such a development would not necessarily invalidate the concept altogether. But it would mean that the Cooperative Security model we have discussed had failed to clear the obstacles of indecisive political leadership, insufficient military capabilities, and the inevitable compromises inherent in any cooperative and consensual relationship between states.

The European Union and Cooperative Security

As the European Union moves somewhat unsteadily toward a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), prospects for extending Cooperative Security in Europe beyond the NATO space look hopeful. Still, despite the recently announced “Headline Goals” and the subsequent promised commitment of forces by EU and non–EU states, European determination to develop a real defense capability remains to be tested. Are the Europeans really ready to make the financial and political sacrifices to give their armed forces the weapons, the interoperability, the deployability, and the sustainability to credibly conduct a Kosovo–style operation without ultimate reliance on American political will and military power?

If EU declarations of intent are indeed turned into substance, a true CFSP will herald, probably unannounced, a de facto mutual defense arrangement between members of the Union, including the so–called “neutral” nations of Sweden, Finland, Austria, and Ireland. The eventual incorporation within the EU of the Western European Union, along with Article 5 of its founding document, the Brussels Treaty, would make this commitment official and legally binding. The EU would then move into the Third Ring of Cooperative Security, Collective Defense.

Parallel enlargement of EU and NATO will further expand the Cooperative Security space

Promoting Stability outside its territory. It would then effectively operate in all four Rings of the Cooperative Security system. Assuming that NATO and the EU can come to satisfactory operational and institutional arrangements, this would broaden and strengthen the Cooperative Security space now occupied only by NATO. In addition, the parallel enlargements of both the EU and NATO will further expand the circle of states within the Cooperative Security system.

The Fourth Ring States

What of the states which presently lie outside both the NATO and EU areas? Many have expressed their wish to become members of these organizations, either by taking an active role as candidates in NATO’s Partnership for Peace as Membership Action Plan (MAP) members and/or by being on the EU’s official list of candidates for early accession? Are these states and those who are not at present moving toward membership of NATO or the EU excluded from the benefits of the Cooperative Security system? It seems clear, by virtue of their active candidacy and/or their increasingly close cooperation with these institutions, that these states in the “Fourth Ring” have gained implied, but not guaranteed, security commitments from the states within the Cooperative Security space. Even states such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, that are not yet candidates for membership of either NATO or the EU, may benefit in security terms from their increasingly close arrangements with these organizations. They already enjoy the advantages of cooperation in the fields of joint planning and actions in the event of natural or man–made disasters.

The Limits of Cooperative Security

. . . if a powerful and enlightened people should form a republic. . . this would serve as a center of federal union for other states in accordance with the idea of the law of nations. Gradually, through different unions of this kind, the federation would extend further and further.10

– Immanuel Kant

In their 1992 work on Cooperative Security, Carter, Perry, and Steinbruner foresaw that “The formation of a new security order requires that cooperative security arrangements be extended to other forces and potential theaters of military engagement.”11 But how much of the world can a practical and effective Cooperative Security system cover? What should be the limits of its ambitions and its interests? These are questions which are not easy to answer.

Given that the members of a Cooperative Security system must be open and democratic with a close commonality of values and interests, there is clearly a practical limit to the size of a Cooperative Security organization. There is also the important question of geography. For otherwise like–minded nations living far apart, the absence of common, geo-strategic concerns may also limit membership of the system. As an example, Japan, an open and democratic society with a strong economy and relatively powerful and well–equipped armed forces, would not fit easily into a Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security system. Its core security concerns are too remote from those of most European states. This, of course, would not preclude close cooperation and possibly joint action with such an organization.

Russia could become part of a huge Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security system

It is conceivable, and certainly desirable, that in the longer term Russia and the other independent states of the former Soviet  Union  could  become part of a huge Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security system. This vast region of strength, stability, and harmony, stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok, could result from a gradual drawing together of NATO, the EU, and the OSCE. However, many of the states on the southern periphery of this area and, indeed, further afield in Africa, the Middle East, and South and East Asia, may not share the values and the interests of such a “western” and “northern” oriented system, nor might they have any desire to join it.

In the longer term, the ultimate goal should be a stable and strong Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security system incorporating Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union. Such an organization might look something like this:

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Eurasian-Atlantic Cooperative Security System


Cooperative Security, as we have described it, can become the basis for a more peaceful and harmonious future. It combines four basic security arrangements: Individual Security, Collective Security, Collective Defense, and Promoting Stability in widening rings of security. A Cooperative Security system requires from the democratic states that form it a willingness to closely cooperate with each other and to reach out, if necessary, to intervene in areas outside their territories that might affect their common peace and security.

NATO provides a real–life model for such a Cooperative Security system. It embodies all four of the basic functions. The EU is in the process of enlarging this NATO core into a wider and deeper Euro–Atlantic Cooperative Security space. Ultimately, this space should be expanded to include other parts of the Eurasian–Atlantic region, including Russia. Beyond this region, the breadth of a Eurasian–Atlantic Cooperative Security is probably limited by virtue of the non–acceptability to other states of its core values and of its common geo–strategic interests.

In the final analysis, the success of any international security system depends on strong and united leadership, a spirit of compromise, and a determination of its members to persevere. This is especially true for an institution as closely knit and comprehensive as a Cooperative Security system. If these elements are lacking, the system will fail. It will do so not necessarily because the concept itself is faulty, but because its practitioners lack the courage and the wisdom to surmount the inevitable difficulties and disagreements to see it through to long–term success. However, if prudent, far–sighted leadership can overcome these obstacles, a real and practical manifestation of Cooperative Security may yet bring new hope to an unsettled world.


1 Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill, The Atlantic Charter, Argentia Bay, Newfoundland, July 14, 1941. The Atlantic Charter was subsequently incorporated in the Declaration of the United Nations.

2 Immanuel Kant, “Perpetual Peace,” 1795, quoted in Classics of Modern Political Theory: Machiavelli to Mill, ed., Steven M. Cahn, London/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

3 Ashton B. Carter, William J. Perry, and John D. Steinbruner, A New Concept of Cooperative Security, Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 1993.

4 Gareth Evans, “Cooperative Security and Intra–State Conflict,” Foreign Policy, No. 96, Fall 1994.

5 Michael Mihalka, “Concepts of Cooperative Security,” paper prepared for the Senior Executive Course, College of International and Security Studies, George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch–Partenkirchen, Germany: July 1998.

6 Charter of the United Nations, June 26, 1945.

7 Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Human Security: Safety for People in a Changing World, Ottawa: Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, April, 1998.

8 Bill McSweeney, Security, Identity and Interests, A Sociology of International Relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

9 North Atlantic Council, The Alliance’s Strategic Concept, Washington, DC: April 24, 1999, para. 10.

10 Immanuel Kant, “Perpetual Peace,” 1795.

11 Ashton B. Carter, William J. Perry, and John D. Steinbruner, A New Concept of Cooperative Security.

About the Author

Richard Cohen is the Director of the Senior Executive Seminar and a professor of NATO and European Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. Prior to his position at the Marshall Center, he was a British Army Officer who served as Chief of the Military Cooperation Branch and was the founder and Chairman of the Military Cooperation Working  Group at NATO Headquarters, Brussels. His Army career included a wide variety of command and operational staff appointments in Canada, Germany, Northern Ireland, Hong Kong, Borneo, the Falkland Islands, Zimbabwe, and the United States.

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The Marshall Center Papers seek to further the legacy of the Center's namesake, General George C. Marshall, by disseminating scholarly monographs that contribute to his ideal of ensuring that Europe and Eurasia are democratic, free, undivided, and at peace in the 21st century. Papers selected for this series are meant to identify, discuss, and influence significant defense-related security issues. The Marshall Center Papers' focus is on comparative and interdisciplinary topics to include international security and democratic defense management, civil military relations, strategy formulation, defense planning, arms control, peacekeeping, crisis management, and cooperative security. The Marshall Center Papers are authored by Marshall Center faculty and staff, Marshall Center alumni, or by individual, invited contributors.

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