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Article

Russian Security and Nuclear Policies: Successor to the Superpower Arsenal?  

Mariya Y. Omelicheva

The Cold War was a period of hostilities between the United States and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers engaged in a nuclear arms race. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, some scholars perceived that Russia’s military-industrial complex has deteriorated considerably, and that the country has fallen behind the United States and Europe in the area of information technologies and other strategically important sectors of national economy. Others insist that the image of Russia’s political irrelevancy and demotion of the country to a status of a “small” or even “medium” power is mistaken. The new Russia, they argue, has never surrendered its claims as a great power. Discussions about Russia’s global role have been fueled by its continuing nuclear standoff with the United States, along with growing concerns about its plans to develop more robust nuclear deterrents and modernize its nuclear arsenals. There is substantial scholarly literature dealing with Russia’s foreign, security, military, and nuclear policy, as well as the role of nuclear weapons in the Russian security framework. What the studies reveal is that the nuclear option remains an attractive alternative to Russia’s weakened conventional defense. Today, as before, Russia continues to place a high premium on the avoidance of a surprise attack and relies on its nuclear capabilities for strategic deterrence. There are a host of issues that deserve further investigation, such as the safety of Russia’s nuclear sites and the regional dimension of its nuclear policy.

Article

Terrorism and Counterterrorism Datasets: An Overview  

Sara M. T. Polo and Blair Welsh

There has been a dramatic increase in research on terrorism and counterterrorism since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Given its prominence, many scholars have assessed the advancement of the field in terms of publication output and research questions. However, there has also been a significant growth in data collection efforts. Datasets on terrorism and counterterrorism have been developed and revised across a number of levels: the event level, organizational level, and individual level. At the event level, datasets offer cross-national, regional, and subnational coverage of individual terrorist events and their characteristics, such as lethality, targets, tactics, and perpetrators. Organizational-level datasets unveil important characteristics of terrorist organizations—including ideology, capabilities, duration, social service provision, and networks—over time and space. Individual-level datasets contain information on global jihad, online activity, terrorist leaders, and terrorism in the United States. While more limited on coverage, data on counterterrorism focus on hard-power counterterrorism, targeted counterterrorism (e.g., drone strikes and leadership decapitation), and soft-power counterterrorism, which encompasses strategies aimed at raising the perceived benefits of abstaining from terrorism. Many datasets and integration techniques have also been developed to study the practice of terrorism in various contexts, such as civil war and ethnic conflict. Data integration expands and deepens our understanding of the causes, dynamics, and consequences of terrorism in various contexts and sheds light on the relationship between terrorism and other violent and nonviolent tactics. The growth of data collection efforts is beneficial for researchers in the field of terrorism and beyond as well as for policy makers and practitioners.

Article

Private Military and Security Companies  

Berenike Prem and Elke Krahmann

While early private military and security companies (PMSCs) were likened to mercenaries, today most scholars agree that PMSCs constitute a new phenomenon. They are organized as legitimate corporate entities, have a distinct legal status, and provide a wide range of military and security services. This definition reflects the evolution of the PMSC industry, which has moved beyond combat services to supply everything from transport, logistics, and maintenance to military and police training, demining, intelligence, risk analysis, armed and unarmed protective services, anti-piracy measures, border protection, and drone operations. Not only have PMSC services diversified, but so has their client base. In addition to industrialized and failed states, transnational corporations, international organizations, and even NGOs increasingly make use of PMSCs. There are several explanations for the growing recourse to these companies. Functional explanations see the employment of PMSCs as a rational response to the glaring gap between demand and supply in the market for force. Ideational and constructivist approaches, by contrast, impute national differences in the outsourcing of military and security services to dominant beliefs and norms about the appropriate relationship between the state and the market. The consequences of using PMSCs, including the accountability, effectiveness, and state control of PMSCs, issues of gender and racial equality, and theoretical implications for the location of political authority and the public good character of security are key issues. So is the question of suitable forms of regulation for the industry, including national and international laws, informal industry self-regulations, and hybrid regulatory approaches such as multi-stakeholder initiatives and standard setting schemes.

Article

Israeli Foreign Policy  

Aviad Rubin

The main principles of Israeli foreign policy emerged during the pre-state period and were shaped by Zionist ideology and the lessons of the Holocaust. The primary goal of this policy was, and still is, to secure a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel, and a safe haven for world Jewry. Another dominant factor in the shaping of the foreign policy of Israel was the need to encounter the country’s challenging geostrategic situation—small territory; lack of natural resources, until the discovery of natural gas depots in water in the Israeli exclusive economic zone during the last decade; fragile Jewish communities around the world; and a hostile neighborhood. Combined together, these considerations are the issues that rank high on the agenda of Israeli foreign policy and affect Israel’s relationship with the international community, ranging from the global superpowers to third world countries. After maintaining a relatively steady foreign policy program throughout the 20th century, in the 21st century the state made some significant policy shifts, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu’s consecutive governments. These included a halt in Israeli–Palestinian negotiations for peace; a high-profile campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program; more emphasis on the maritime domain; and strengthening ties with illiberal leaders around the world. In 2021, the seeming epilogue of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister leaves an open question about the relative weight of structural and ideational factors vs. powerful political agents in the design of Israel’s foreign policy.

Article

Neutrality Studies  

Pascal Lottaz

The study of neutrality, as an academic subject in the fields of history and the social sciences, is concerned with the politics, laws, ethics, economics, norms, and other social aspects of states and international actors that attempt to maintain friendly or impartial relations with other states who are—or might become—parties to international conflict. In this regard, neutrality studies is a subject of international politics in its broadest sense, encompassing international law and international relations. It is an open space that has been explored through various academic lenses, including (but not limited to) realism, liberalism, constructivism, and poststructuralism. Most neutrality research in the early 21st century is focused on particular periods or forms of neutrality. To discuss this topic, it is helpful to distinguish two levels of analysis. First, there is historical research that describes the observable phenomenon of neutral behavior and its related effects, in other words, specific instances when countries (or actors) remained neutral. This is mostly the domain of historians. The second level is the moral, legal, political, and ideational assessment of neutral situations, which are theoretical discussions that treat issues (including but not limited to) the underlying reasons and the larger impact of neutrality on specific conflict dynamics, security systems, identities, and norms. Ideological debates often occur on this level since theoretical assessments of neutrality depend heavily on the subjective framing of the conflicts they accompany.