I am currently in Austin Texas for a conference Seeking security @UTCES. I had been invited as a practitioner to this conference. This is more or less what I said at a public forum during the conference:
To think slowly, to learn from history together as Europeans and Americans, to listen in both directions, to apply a comprehensive concept of security and again to engage with key security actors including Russia as you Americans engaged with China and other major security actors after 1972-73. This is what I would like to focus on today.
50 years ago I graduated from American high school in Michigan. Lyndon Baines Johnson was elected president during that school year (and installed himself with the furniture in the picture now to be found in the replica Oval Office in the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin). 25 years remained of the Cold War. The Vietnam war started to escalate. It killed and wounded many of my schoolmates. The president resigned in 1968.
Now we are 25 years since the end of the Cold War. What have we learned? Let's face it: we had no idea what was coming.
Let us first look briefly at the situation from the perspective of 1973. This was the year of the October War which I studied as a part of my dissertation in the 70s.
As late as 1973 security- according to a survey of Swedish security elites that I participated in - was military, bipolar, it was global and it was nuclear.
But at that time security perceptions started to change.
There was an energy crisis in 1973 linked to the October War.
The US started to engage with China. Still countless Chinese would perish during the Cultural Revolution. But the United States still engaged with China.
Moving to 1989, to the end of the Cold War: Despite the focus on Star wars and the arms race I think we can now say that the end of the Cold War was not just due to military factors.
The Soviet Union could not feed its more and more urbanised population. The oil price ,which had increased dramatically after the energy crisis, was going down drastically. The Soviet Union was in desperate need of international credits. Gorbachev agreed to the end of the Soviet Union and to the far-reaching commitments in the OSCE.
The Paris Charter of the OSCE meant a further much broader security concept - but it would not end there.
Globalisation had started in earnest with Japan, India, China, and at some point also with Russia.
Globalisation also meant the emergence of nonstate actors.
The security of individuals became more important both in terms of threats and opportunities.
As regards threats we should have learned already from Vietnam that the willingness to take casualties is a very important element of power.
But have we drawn the proper conclusions from that?
Former Defence Secretaries Gates and Panetta in their memoirs don't seem to think so, at least not when discussing Iraq.
We continue to pursue policies that do not come sufficiently consider the risk of radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists. And the notion that terrorism has little to do with organised crime and finance has proven totally wrong. In addition terrorists often have proven more proficient in using the Internet than those trying to fight terrorism. So again we see a further broadening of the security concept.
10-15 years ago many thought that the US with appropriate coalitions of the willing could do it alone.
After all, the first Iraqi war in the beginning of the 90s had proven the enormous military power of the United States in swift military campaigns.
But what I saw when I came to visit the American ambassador in Baghdad in 2006 with my EU colleagues and also met with the Sunni vice president of Iraq who later was condemned to death was a remarkable illustration of the limits of military power. The foundation for the success of ISIS may have been created during those years.
The notion of a clear distinction between humanitarian assistance, independent journalism etc on the one hand and military action on the other started to disappear. Kidnappings for ransom, executions broadcasted live on social media started to threaten human interaction worldwide.
Globalisation in terms of protection of critical infrastructure also forced us think more carefully – a discourse initiated under the Clinton years in the 90s.
In many fragile countries local warlords build their business on conflict diamonds, oil, etc.. In many countries this had little to do with national liberation after colonialism.
The result is often forced migration which is compounded by human trafficking. Some 20 million people around the world are trapped as of in the tech sex industry or in other types of forced labour. Many of them go to Europe.
So again discussing positive and negative flows in many different dimensions ranging from energy to cyber to trade in general force us to develop a broader concept of security.
- - - - -
All of this should make us think. So how does it look from a European perspective?
In Europe most people are of course concerned both about security from the south and from the East.
But we are also starting to be concerned about virtual security, about the security of money and information and ideas.
We are concerned about global security not only as tourists and businessmen but notably when looking at piracy and interdiction of positive flows in general. For the Swedish customers it doesn't really matter whether the ship is hijacked in the Malacca Straits or in European waters. We must realise that Europeans so far have not had to pay for the security of the high seas.
Security is clearly militarily but not only military. Security is a necessary condition for development and development is a necessary condition for security. To get the bottom billion out of fragility and civil wars will be dependent to a large extent on soft power.
We need to stop helping warlords and terrorists to develop enemy images of the West. Such enemy images makes it worthwhile for poor and destitute people to sacrifice their life in return for Paradise. And we need to stop giving people a reason to ask for revenge. This is not specifically something linked to Islam. Revenge is an honours code has existed in many countries including the United States and Europe.
So in our military and non-military behaviour we need to try to avoid sparking endless vicious circles of revenge.
This we should have learned already after the First World War. And here it was the Europeans who did not listen to president Wilson.
- - - - -
Basically, we need to engage with everyone. The OSCE process in Europe with a strong participation of the United States and Canada in the area from Vladivostok to Vancouver is built on the realisation that we all need to engage, and that no country is too small to be of importance for security.
If you look at the protracted conflicts in Georgia Nagorno-Karabakh or Moldova not to mention Chechnya, Kyrgyzstan etc you find that there are actually very few people involved. But the important thing is that those who are involved are willing to sacrifice their lives.
So are we talking about the clash of civilisations in the spirit of Samuel Huntington? Well even this discourse may not be broad enough. Often what people protest against is corruption such as in Indonesia when I visited there with my EU colleagues after the terrorist attack in Bali in 2002 . We were told by the large moderate Moslem organisations in the country that they would be able to prevent radicalisation if the country had a proper rule of law system and justice. Disgust with corrupt political leaders led to violence recently in Bosnia and as we have seen in Ukraine and Georgia Moldova etc.
And let's not forget that trying to promote more rule of law after the chaos in the Russian Federation in the 90s also helped bring president Putin to power.
Much of this actually does not have a simple link to ethnic conflict.
All of this means that Europeans need to engage with Americans, that we need to listen more to each other as we tried to do at this conference. We need to listen in both directions and look for comprehensive, early and sustainable solutions.
If we approach security from the perspective of smart power combining hard and soft we have to think slowly -- quick solutions are perhaps not always a way to move ahead.
- - - - -
Many may ridicule the endless meetings not only on the level of the EU but also in the OSCE. But we come from a situation during the Cold War where many East Germans had never met or visited West Germany during the Cold War. Most people had no idea of the map of the Soviet Union. We had to start to go back to school and learn our history and geography lessons better.
So foreign policy and not least security policy is as Lawrence Freedman writes in his recent book on strategy not just a question of rational decision-making but also of cognitive structures. We need to carefully consider how people think.
The EU and the OSCE as well as of course the UN system are very appropriate for slow thinking.
We also have to remember that you are damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. I know as a former EU official that it was fashionable not least on the part of my American colleagues to lament the slowness in implementation of EU programmes and projects. Well, later evaluations of such programs for instance in Northern Africa before the Arab Spring showed the wisdom in sometimes being slow. Lots of money has been wasted in many places around the world due to the tendency to close your eyes to corruption. Or even to tolerate corruption in order to keep the peace between different warlords and regional leaders in a fragile country
- - - - -
Finally looking to the east of Europe we are in a delicate situation as regards Russia. Through our restrictive policies, the low oil price and a general lack of willingness to engage with Russia I believe that much more leverage on Russia is exerted than many people understand.
Russia might actually be thrown out of globalisation.
The ambitions of the previous Russian president to modernise Russia may not be possible to realise. I have the feeling that many Americans and Europeans have not seen this coming.
In this process we need to think carefully how to further use our leverage not to produce unwanted results. Most of us want Russia's policies to change including as regards annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine.
But we have a long-term interest to see Russia develop and be an integrated part in the global system.
So we need to engage with Russia, which is increasingly difficult due to the reduction of policy dialogue with Russia worldwide starting with the G8.
Intensive policy dialogue on all levels will be of fundamental importance to avoid going back to zero sum solutions.