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Creating conditions for a just and durable peace: also an issue of flow security

Dec 19, 2022

Creating conditions for a just peace is a much more complex and broader scope endeavor than many analysts may have thought. Deterring Russia is also an issue of endurance, resilience, and flow security over the long term for the West. It is now obvious that the EU and NATO need to see to flow security in a more comprehensive way than currently reflected in overall EU and NATO strategies.

On deterrence


A large number of analytical pieces on the issue of deterrence have appeared in international media after the unprovoked Russian aggression on Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022. 


Many feel that clearer red lines must be established for the future.


The problem of deterrence often starts outside NATO territory. The fact that Ukraine is not a member of NATO almost immediately led to the application of Finland and Sweden for membership in the alliance.


Russia was not effectively deterred from attacking. In particular, many see the role of nuclear weapons as problematic, forcing a more cautious Western approach to assisting Ukraine. Nuclear deterrence – through Russian threats of the use of atomic weapons – may have facilitated the invasion making it more difficult for the West to make early and sufficiently robust decisions. Russia may be deterred from actually using nuclear weapons, but even that is debated.


So far, it seems, however, as if the Russian efforts to deter Ukraine from attacking Russian territory proper are failing as is, of course, the attempt to keep Ukraine outside annexed territories in Ukraine by declaring them parts of the Russian Federation.


Large-scale Russian efforts to destroy Ukraine's capability to manage life during a difficult winter also do not seem successful, so far.


On the front lines, many quickly mobilized Russian soldiers are suffering in a way reminding of trenches in France during the first world war, often much less prepared than their Ukraine counterparts.


For NATO and the West, this illustrates the requirement to couple the concept of deterrence in the NATO Strategic Concept from June of this year with the concept of defense.


But this doctrine has a third concept: cooperative security, which is much less evident in its interpretation. In a line speech by the German Chancellor recently, Russia was mentioned about 50 times – but not once was the issue of peace negotiations explicitly discussed.


For most in the West, this discussion has to wait.


Much more urgent questions include how to beef up support to Ukraine by scaling up deliveries and production of ammunition, etcetera. Several tens of thousands of explosives are detonated every day on the battlefield. Currently, the West is far from being able to match Russian artillery in quantity. Instead, the focus has had to be on precision with drones and resilient communication systems – partly delivered by Elon Musk.


The future costs involved in seeking to create security at large are likely to be enormous on all levels, from international organizations to governments to the private sector and the general public. And the efforts will affect overall relations not only with Russia but to a considerable extent with China, India, and other significant actors.


On flow security


A war of attrition becomes, in this perspective, to a considerable extent, a political war, affecting flow security.


  • This concept in the international debate is often associated with data, and there is abundant literature on how to secure the integrity of the flow of data on the Internet.


  • From a military perspective, flow security traditionally has to do with securing the delivery of military trade and aid in peace and wartime. At the same time, military operations traditionally focus on interdicting corresponding flows to the enemy.


  • From a maritime security perspective, experts typically point to the fact that more than 90% of all goods travel on the high seas and need protection also from terrorists and organized criminals, including pirates.


  • In crises such as a pandemic, the delivery of vaccines and other medical equipment highlight the need for flow security when transports become difficult due to the risk of infections.


  • From a private-sector perspective, the need to secure all the necessary and sufficient conditions for the production of complex products, including strategic metals, chips, et cetera, is increasingly highlighted.


  • That the free movement of people, materials, and information requires an integrated approach to border management has, for several decades, been a significant objective for the work of the EU and, in particular, the vast network of cooperation managed by the European Commission. The requirement is to keep borders as open as possible by letting good flows through while interdicting bad flows through intelligent surveillance methods.


  • At the same time, the long period of relatively safe conditions for flows after the Cold War has encouraged less cautious policies, for instance when it comes to the privatization of critical infrastructure and just-in-time systems of deliveries of spare parts, etcetera.


All of this started to change already after 9/11 and further after the first Russian aggression against Ukraine following the war against Georgia.


The complexity of flow security was multiplied during the migration crisis of 2015 following the Arab spring. The consequences of these crises are now starting to dawn upon societies, not least when it comes to organized criminality.


At the same time, the roles of the American Congress and the European Parliament as watchdogs in protecting citizens' personal integrity by regulating horizontal flows of personal data between different government agencies have become much more challenging to implement. Just managing GDPR has become a major consulting business in many countries.


It is now obvious that the EU and NATO need to see to flow security in a more comprehensive way than currently reflected  in overall EU and NATO strategies. However, the problem was already highlighted more than a decade ago by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Carl Bildt.


Wider implications on the relations of the West to China, India, and other major actors


Deterring Russia through denial of necessary and sufficient conditions for war has further enormous complications for the West. The problem spells China (including the Taiwan issue) and, to a certain extent, India and other significant actors passively supporting Russia in different ways.


To be continued.



Lars-Erik Lundin