The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict. Authors; Authors and affiliations. Barry R. Posen Nuclear Weapon Military Power Ethnic Conflict Military Capability. Posen first discusses security dilemma and then uses this concept to explain two cases: Why Croats and Serbs fought a war, and why Ukraine. 24 Posen, Barry, ‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’, Survival, 35 (), pp. 27–47 CrossRef | Google Scholar, esp. pp. 27–

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‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’ – A Literature Review | Daniel Blanthorn –

He believes that technology is a rare determinant of the balance. Enter the email address you signed up with and we’ll email you a reset link. Whilst Ukraine did inherit nuclear weapons after the collapse of the USSR, it is a matter of some debate as to how much of a capability they inherited and how useful these would have been in a confrontation with Russia.

When empires collapse, some groups will have greater offensive capability because they will be surrounding other groups.

The Balkan Wars dominated popular discourse and a great deal of western foreign policy of the s, and in recent years a poosen has developed in the Ukraine with multiple complex issues. The argument is made by Posen that nationalist or aggressive manoeuvres by Russians in Ukraine may have been limited due to Ukraine retaining some of the nuclear weapons from the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Posen alludes to a number of variables that lead to the variance in ethnic conflict across regions. Thw would have made an interesting contrast to the situation in Yugoslavia, where the inherited weapons were nearly all serviceable and useful to the forces receiving them, but Posen does not make this argument.

Most Popular The Limits of the State: The Croat belief, particularly among those on the far right, was that the modern day German state would support the newly founded Croatian state and the Croatian people across a collapsing Yugoslavia.

This approach would, however, not be sufficient in explaining the Yugoslav Wars as a whole, or the relationship between Russia and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union mainly due to the role of liberal international organisations but it is more than reliable for these two examples.


Russia, despite losing vast amounts of power, had a great deal more nuclear infrastructure and inherited the vast majority of delivery methods thus making Ukrainian nuclear ability somewhat hollow. Serbs outnumbered the Croats only two to one and enjoyed no economic advantage.

Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict – Summary Hub

Nevertheless, this article is a nice example of the application of a realist concept to a state-level-situation. This relentless pursuit of defensive security is then transformed into a capability that is viewed by the other as solely offensive in nature.

The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict is useful for anyone with an interest in the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine. For Posen, people look at the past and find out how that group behaved last time when it was not constrained. Realism argues that anarchical nature of the international system makes security the primary concern of the states.

Whilst Germany did support Croatia, this support was not in the form of military intervention. Then Confkict asks a critical question: Among those groups, there will be competition for security. Outside intervention in the affairs decurity at least one nuclear power is, therefore, even more unlikely. Any forces on hand are suitable for offensive campaign. Indeed, the subsequent Ukrainian abandonment of its nuclear weapons lends much credence to the realist approach to international security it is questionable as to whether Russia would have engaged in conflict with Ukraine if the latter had retained nuclear weapons, regardless of their condition or state of delivery methods and reading an account of relations at the time is fascinating.

The threat of international intervention is particularly relevant in the years after the Cold War, with humanitarian intervention becoming more popular among western heads of state and institutions such as the International Criminal Court pisen prominence.

Throughout the history of the Balkans there has been a spread of ethnic groups across the states, with the exception of Slovenia. As such, an assessment of military capability and intent may be based on something such as a hotly contested historical event Croat alliances with Nazi Germany and the historical implications that come with this are used by Posen as opposed to the more reliable methods of reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence gathering.

But Russia’s human and material resources were three times more than Ukraine’s, and it was unlikely that the balance of military power will soon shift against Russia.


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Security is viewed as the sole aim for states, thus increasing snd spending and procurement. Therefore, states will choose the offensive if they wish to survive.

Please login to be able to comment. Publication year of the article shows that Posen was trying to come up with a theory by which future ethnic conflicts can be predicted, perhaps even be prevented.

The Balkans, particularly the three way conflict between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims Serb and Slovene conflict receives a brief mention, but due to the extremely short and sharp nature of that conflict it is not explored furtherand tension between Ukraine and Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union are his focal points. Whilst nuclear weapons were not present in Yugoslavia, this absence may be seen as a motivating factor not only for outside intervention but the aggressive tactics carried out by communities across the collapsed state.

This is a fair assessment page Whilst this omission can be attributed to Posen focusing on the actual ethnic violence and how it manifested in a region, as opposed to a global war between Serb, Croat and Bosniak, an insight into the diaspora communities would be useful particularly in regard to the historical grievances argument.

Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict

Secondly, the issue of ethnic minorities and enclaves is raised by Posen. Emerging groups quickly trying to evaluate the threat held not just by armed enemy combatants, but all groups in close proximity. Comments Please login to be able to comment. Firstly, a history of warfare and conflict between the groups. Put simply, the security dilemma is where a group state, ethnic, cultural, political, religious and so on pursue security guarantees that, ultimately, make the group less secure.

Technological and geographical variables are analysed by Posen in the article. First, seucrity offensive and defensive military forces are more or less identical, states cannot signal their defensive cilemma by the kinds of military forces they choose to deploy. How does Posen approach these problems? A group identity helps the individual members cooperate to achieve securitg purposes.