Deterrence and Diplomacy Research Paper


Nowadays the world is changing, respectively political, social and economic life is also evaluating, making people review existing set of values and approaches to different problems including the most important and global. Among such problems, specialists (Goodpaster 1996) often single out the problem of international policy, particularly that of deterrence and international diplomacy.

Many experts (Diamond, Hamburg 1999) believed that such phenomenon as deterrence will die as soon as the bipolar world stops its existence for deterrence was treated by many (Diamond, Hamburg 1999) as the product of the Cold War opposition of two superpowers the USA and the USSR. Practically the same might be heard about diplomacy which seemed to be out of date in the world where democratic countries headed by the USA dominated in the whole world and the latter, being the only superpower seemed to have no real enemies but weak opponents that could be easily controlled.

As a result these two notions were considered as artifacts from the past. Furthermore, the current situation in the world with political, economic and military dominance of the USA also contributed to such trend, implying that such country as the US can control any other country without deterrence or diplomatic relations on the highest level. However, the reality of the contemporary world makes politics, diplomats, and many other experts to reevaluate the current situation and the relevance of deterrence and diplomacy. More and more opponents of neglecting the role and importance of deterrence and diplomacy appear and they have quite strong arguments in favor of their position. One of such arguments was the weakness of former opponents of the USA, particularly the USSR, and the lack of military forces, political power, and economic influence in the world from the part of new hypothetic enemies such as China or Iran. At this point the position of neglecting deterrence and diplomacy seems to be relevant.

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On the other hand, the world and international relations have completely changed and respectively the conceptions of deterrence and diplomacy should be reevaluated because they obviously have to be different from those of the period of the Cold War but the question this work aims at is to decide whether deterrence and diplomacy still relevant. Consequently, it is necessary to analyze both positions mentioned above, reveal the role deterrence and diplomacy have already played, try to evaluate critically these notions and to find possible alternatives or its future prospects.

Deterrence and diplomacy at the epoch of the Cold War

Speaking about the relevance of deterrence and diplomacy in international relations it is necessary to make a brief retrospection into the past when these notions defined the world policy and played an extremely important role in international relations, mainly between two superpowers of the Cold War period. Actually, these notions were closely related and they mutually supported one another. For understanding of the role of diplomacy in the world of that time the experience of people, who occupied key positions in the government, is very important. For instance, Henry A. Kissinger said that diplomacy is “the art of restraining power” (1994, p.14).

As for the successes of international diplomacy of the Cold War, among the most famous may be named the end of the crisis of 1963 (Kortunov 1994, p.76) when the world was practically one step before the real active war. However, it may be said that this crisis, being solved by diplomatic methods, was provoked by the policy of deterrence. On the other hand deterrence provided certain stability and security of both counterparts. At the same time it would be a mistake to think that deterrence and diplomacy became of no use after the end of the Cold War. On the contrary, the probably helped prevent more serious and, who knows, maybe tragic consequences of the fall of the Soviet Union and communist regime. Mainly due to diplomacy, which to certain degree was supported by political power of the US, the latter managed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapon, which could be caused by “brain-drain” from the former Soviet Union or political and socio-economic destabilization in these countries. Among the biggest diplomatic successes in post-Cold War era may be named denuclearization of Ukraine and the Dayton Accords. This fact may serve as evidence of the possibility to solve international problems with the help of diplomacy but at the same time it is an undeniable fact that the US has enough resources to influence other countries, including non-military and particularly non-nuclear.

As a result of the end of the Cold War and successes of the US diplomacy on international arena many specialists (Jeambar 2001, p.32) began to speak that deterrence is not necessary in the contemporary mono-polar world. As alternatives to traditional deterrence were suggested various political and economic impact that the US could produce on other countries and organizations as the only superpower in the world. Naturally, it is possible to speak about the end of deterrence era but it would be a mistake to be very categorical at this aspect. It is obvious that the US do not need a huge nuclear arsenal for they do not have enemies which could be more powerful than this country. The same may be said about Russia (Kortunov 1994, p.211). Consequently, neither the USA nor Russia perceive each other as enemies and may reduce their nuclear weapon arsenal. At this point deterrence is certainly out of date but it does not necessarily mean that nuclear threat does not exist anymore. It remains though it is quite hypothetical at the global scale. At the same time, there are new threats in the contemporary world such as terrorism as one of the most real and dangerous. In such circumstances a complete refusal from international diplomacy and policy of deterrence seem to be a bit premature. It should be pointed out that deterrence and diplomacy should be reevaluated but can hardly be substituted. As for their reevaluation, it would be analyzed further, now it would be better to dwell upon possible and what is more important real alternatives to deterrence and diplomacy. First of all it is necessary to say that according to some specialists (Jeambar 2001, p.40) the Cold War is not over it has just changed its form and actors, particularly they mark that now it is not an opposition of capitalism and communism but rather growing contradictions between rich, well-developed countries and some outcasts of the third world which are disintegrated from the world community because of the regimes existing in such countries (Kortunov 1994, p.115). They may be the main source of a new threat to the world community. Naturally, nuclear deterrence seems to be ineffective against terrorist organizations that work in clandestine. Possible alternatives suggested by opponents (Stremlau 1996, p.107) of deterrence and diplomacy are the development of intelligence network, different economic sanctions against antidemocratic regimes etc. but, on analyzing recent events in the world it becomes obvious that neither economic sanctions nor special operations of American or any other intelligence are effective enough in the struggle against terrorism. For instance, Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein existed regardless all economic sanctions against the country and who really suffered and probably suffered the most was Iraqi people. Symbolically enough the regime was ruined only after a military intervention that is one of the ways of deterrence of outcast states though such operations were used even during the Cold War, like in Vietnam. Certainly it is difficult to speak about the effectiveness of such methods but their use in the contemporary world mean that the US, being the most powerful country in the world, is unable to use any other methods to cope with a threat to its national interests. Consequently, it is possible to conclude that the US continue to use deterrence and diplomacy as the main means of defense.

The changes in deterrence and diplomacy after the end of the Cold War

Thus, it is obvious that deterrence and diplomacy have changed in comparison with the period of the Cold War but it is necessary to realize that international policy of the Cold War and first years of post-Cold War was based on deterrence, mainly nuclear one. Nowadays specialists (Gray 2002) rather speak about preventive diplomacy and preventive defense than about deterrence and diplomacy at large though the essence remains practically the same. In other words diplomacy and deterrence are still relevant since preventive diplomacy and preventive defense are based practically on the same principles. Moreover, “preventive diplomacy and preventive defense are approached as twin pillars of an integrated security paradigm” (Gray 2002, p.72). Thus, it is possible to estimate that deterrence and diplomacy are now based on prevention of any threat from any country or any organization of national security of the US, or any other country that could support it.

However, now, despite the fact that the emphasis has been shifted from nuclear deterrence of a superpower to more effective deterrence of states-outcasts and numerous terrorist organizations, nuclear weapon still remains one of the burning problems of our time. For instance, a permanent tension between India and Pakistan threatens to the security of South Asian region and the whole world at large. It is obvious that international community and the US as the only superpower should prevent a possible conflict between these countries with the use of nuclear weapon.

Moreover, they have to do it for their own sake because it is not a secret that Pakistan supported Islamic terrorist groups in Kashmir as well as Afghan terrorists were also closely related to Pakistan that certainly threatened to the security of the whole world as September 11 proved, particularly taking into consideration that due to such situation we observe ‘export’ of terrorism to other countries such as Afghanistan or Iran, the latter, by the way, also represents a hypothetic threat to the world security. In other words, the escalation of local conflicts such as the conflict in Kashmir may be a starting point for many terrorist organizations, which are ‘brought up’ by opposing states, and it certainly makes it extremely dangerous for the world community.
Consequently, many specialists (Gray 2002) presuppose that international diplomacy may be an effective mean of impact on states which may threaten to international security but an essential conditions of its effectiveness is the policy of deterrence, not nuclear as it used to be, but rather deterrence provided by conventional means and weapon. That is why the US as well as the world community at large should use all diplomatic means, supported by deterrence, to fix the conflict and solve all problems existing between opposing states such as India and Pakistan. Not surprisingly that in new conditions the USA aims at the development of weapon that is oriented not on mass destruction but on the effectiveness and accuracy for nowadays the main opponents of the USA are terrorist organizations but not huge countries with a powerful nuclear weapon and military machine. However, it is necessary to underline that now diplomacy serves as the first stage of deterrence, i.e. practically any military campaign, aiming at preventing the development of a conflict, usually starts after diplomatic consultations or ultimatums of necessary as it was before the Iraqi war.

It is also very important to realize that in the contemporary world deterrence, being a bit out of date, still remains one of the effective means of international security though now it would be better to include in the definition of this phenomenon both military and diplomatic. Thus, deterrence and diplomacy are two mutually complementary notions which remain to be relevant. For instance, without diplomatic efforts and military influence from the part of the US the conflict between Israel and Palestinians could hardly be regulated somehow and the peace talks that periodically take place between two counterparts are mainly the result of the exterior influence of such superpower as the US. The same may be said about the situation in former Yugoslavia where civil conflicts were actually stopped by interference of more powerful European and American diplomacy and military machine.

Another question that logically arises is the question of future of deterrence and diplomacy. They proved their effectiveness during the Cold War and after it and in general in general they can hardly be completely substituted by any other mean of national or even international defense because diplomatic relations are a necessary condition of a normal dialogue between countries and international organizations. At the same time, diplomacy is ineffective if it is not supported by certain deterrence. Naturally, these notions may be different by form from those of the Cold War period but their entity remains the same. In the future, they will probably continue to evaluate but neither economic sanctions nor the work of international organizations can substitute these basic notions. Furthermore, such international organization as UN would use the means of diplomacy and so to say conventional deterrence (Stremlau 1996, p.201) which are two intertwined notions, particularly if the recent successes of such policy were taken into consideration. For instance, recent success of international diplomacy and UN military forces in Macedonia and ex-Yugoslavia are evidences of the effectiveness of such policy. It means that such methods help prevent escalation of conflicts within countries or even regions and consequently prevent the growth of tension in the whole world through the prevention of deterioration of the situation that may result in the problem of terrorist organizations, which is one of the vital problems of contemporary world.


Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that deterrence and diplomacy remains relevant even nowadays despite the fact that the Cold War which actually stimulated their development is over. That is why those, who estimate that deterrence and diplomacy are out of date, are probably wrong because they are still widely used, and they look like two essential parts of one and the same mechanism of prevention of attacks from opposing parts which now are developed countries and terrorist organizations along with state outcasts. But it is necessary to underline that diplomacy should play the primary role and deterrence should not transform into an open war and there are a lot of examples of diplomacy, particularly in Europe and Asia (Stremlau 1996, p.278). In all probability, deterrence and diplomacy will remain the most effective means that could provide national security and peace in the whole world.

Conference on Preventing Diplomacy and Preventive Difense. Bechtel Center, Stanford University, Jan. 15-16 1999.
Goodpaster, Andrew J. When Diplomacy Is Not Enough: Managing Multinational Military Interventions. New York, 1996.
Gray, Collin S. Thinking Asymmetrically in Times of Terror. Paramter, Spring 2002.
Kissinger, H. Diplomacy. New York: Touchstone, 1994.
Kortunov, Andrei. Sources of International Crisis after the End of the Cold War. New York, 1994.
Jeambar, Denis. The Birth of The New World. l’Express. Dec.20, 2001, p32.
Stremlau, John. Sharpening International Sanctions: Toward a Stronger Role for the United Nations. New York, 1996.


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