Center for Strategic Decision Research


Security Challenges in a Globalized Economy

Professor Stefano Silvestri
President, Istituto Affari Internazionali

Why are we so afraid of the present situation? It seems as if we are more afraid of international terrorism now than we were of a nuclear doomsday. Apparently we have the perception that we used to have better control over security factors than we have now. Now we are trying to inject security into a globalized world, which is completely new; previously we had some ability to inject some stability and security into our divided world, but we are now playing in a completely different game. The major threat we face is a combination of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, and the pressures caused by migration. 


If I had to identify the biggest challenge confronting us today, I would say that economic development-policy failures and terrorism are equally strong, not because terrorism grows from poverty but because development-policy failures threaten cooperation among governments, in a way multiplying the terrorist threat by creating insecurity. Then we have risks that are not directly terrorist related, but risks such as structural weaknesses in Japan's banking system-which may need something like 15-20% of Japan's gross domestic product to be refinanced-the U.S. deficit that has already reached 5% of the U.S. GDP, and the risk linked to the structural weakness of the dollar. If the dollar fell, it would create the basis for a protectionist world, which would be politically and economically threatening. Combine all this with terrorists and you have a worst-case scenario in which protectionism and terrorism combine to destroy the benefits of globalization. 


To surmount this situation, we need very good international leadership, which of course does not develop in one day. There are some good elements already out there: the current U.S. administration's reaction to the attacks of September 11 has been politically very good in the international arena and has increased the possibility of achieving a better global, multilateral situation. But it is not enough. In fact, the money in both Europe and the U.S. is going into strengthening existing structures, and not towards creating the new ones that are needed. This is a problem. 

In order to have better governments, we need to have coherent strategies. We should not confuse the problems by using definitions that are too vague. Take, for example, the definition of the war on terrorism. The first phase has finished in Afghanistan, and the second phase has opened. The problem in defining the war is defining what we want to achieve. In my opinion, we should concentrate on Al-Qaeda. It is a real problem that, up until now, only one person has been indicted for the Twin Towers attack. This is a failure not only of the U.S. but of international police forces and intelligence cooperation. We need to concentrate on this problem. But better international cooperation also requires a legal definition of a terrorist attack. This is something upon which we have never agreed, not only in the United Nations but even among our own countries. This is a very serious limitation, so we must create a better legal framework in which to solve it. 

We are not investing enough in this war. We must increase international cooperation and mobilize greater resources. I do think we also need to concentrate on homeland defense, but not as a national issue, rather as an international issue. 

We also need to put our money where our mouth is. I think that Europe should put its house in order so that it can do what it says it wants to do. NATO has been very important in the past because it was a transatlantic political organization that was integral in the establishment of a transatlantic solidarity system. In the present situation, however, we need a much larger solidarity system. NATO could help establish this system, provided it concentrates its attention and efforts to that end. Our present system gave us only a half-successful start. We invoked Article V, but we demonstrated that Article V has no real military significance, although it was politically very important. This, however, should not weaken NATO, but should redirect the debate to what a new Article V would mean. This would be a difficult discussion, and no one yet is calling for it, but I believe it is the key to the future of NATO. 




























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