Collective security is a system in international relations in which a group of states agree to cooperate in order to maintain international peace and security. It is based on the principle that an attack on one member of the group is considered an attack on all members, and that the group will take collective action to defend against the attack.
Collective security arrangements can take various forms, including regional organizations and global institutions. One of the most well-known examples of collective security is the United Nations (UN), which was established following World War II with the goal of promoting international cooperation and preventing the outbreak of future wars.
The UN has a number of mechanisms for promoting collective security, including the Security Council, which is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, and the peacekeeping operations that are deployed to conflict-affected areas around the world. The UN also has a number of specialized agencies and programs that focus on issues such as disarmament, nonproliferation, and conflict prevention.
Collective security has been seen as a potential alternative to the traditional system of balance of power, in which states rely on their own military capabilities to deter potential adversaries. However, collective security arrangements can be difficult to implement and are often subject to challenges, including the need to balance the interests of different states and the difficulty of achieving consensus on complex issues.
There are several different types of collective security arrangements, including:
Multilateral security arrangements: These are collective security arrangements that involve multiple states working together to address security threats. Examples include the United Nations (UN) and regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Bilateral security arrangements: These are collective security arrangements that involve two states working together to address security threats. Bilateral security arrangements can be formal or informal, and may be based on a specific treaty or agreement.
Collective self-defense: This is a type of collective security arrangement in which states agree to come to the defense of one another if they are attacked by another state. Collective self-defense is often based on a specific treaty or agreement, and is a key principle of the UN Charter.
Mutual defense pacts: These are collective security arrangements in which states agree to come to the defense of one another if they are attacked by another state. Mutual defense pacts are typically bilateral in nature, and may involve the deployment of military forces or other forms of support.
There are many different types of collective security arrangements that states can use to address common security threats and promote international peace and stability. These arrangements can take a variety of forms, and may involve the participation of a single state, a group of states, or the international community as a whole.
Comparison between Collective Security and Balance of Power
Collective security is an alternative to BoP. It is a liberal approach. Though it is alternative to BoP, it is based on the idea of BoP. Both balance of power and collective security are the methods of management of power. Both the concepts are based on the view that Greater power is antidote to power. In both the concepts, sovereignty of the states is treated as sacred and war is seen as a means to ensure the sovereignty. We can say, collective security as ‘institutionalized form of ‘balance of power’.
Balance of power acts in the state of anarchy whereas collective security can come into existence only when some international organization exists. It is operated through international organization like League of Nations or United Nations.
Balance of power is a Ad-hoc concept whereas collective security is a institutionalized concept. There is a uncertainty in balance of power but there is a theoretical certainty in collective security. e.g. When Napoleon was destroying the Westphalian world order, Balance of power as a principle did not emerge automatically, it took long time for countries to check the rise of Napoleon. Hence there is uncertainty as to whether Balance of Power will emerge or will not emerge.
Balance of Power may be more relevant for great powers but collective security is highly useful for smaller and poor countries. They can get escape from Arms Race or the necessity to form alliances.
Collective security is conducive for peace because it reduces arms race. Collective security as a concept continues to be seen as too idealistic. Neither under League of Nations nor under United Nations it could be operationalized successfully. It has not been successful in ending the arms race. Lack of faith in collective security led to go for countries acquiring nuclear weapons.
Similarities and Dissimilarities between Collective Security and Balance of Power
Both Balance of Power and Collective Security are defensive systems in nature. Both aim at the protection of the states while being within the system.
Both stand for the creation of a pre agreement of power politics as a means for preventing or for defeating aggression against any member of the system.
Both, Balance of Power and Collective Security accept war and aggression as a means for checking the violation of the international system by an aggressor country.
Both have assumed the continued existence of sovereign states who are willing and who can coordinate their actions and will against aggression.
Both also envisage the possibility that even those states which are not themselves attacked, should be willing and be ready to go to war for defending the security of the victim country.
The theory of Balance of Power involves the existence of competitive alignments in international arena. It has assumed the division of states into more or less hostile camps. But the, Collective Security stands for a universal and global cooperative system for action in which all the members of the international community are considered to be equal members in terms of power and security.
Balance of Power gets into action through the policies of major powers who are the key actors in this type of policy. While, the Collective Security, gets operationalized through the commitment of all the nations of the world to act collectively to defend the International Security against war on victim state.
The alliances which go with the balance of power are aiming at a specific potential enemy. Thus, they are specific in nature. While the Collective Security system is aimed at any aggressor state that may be present in any part of the world. Thus, it is a system of general agreement and cooperation.
In a Balance of Power system, the enemy state is the major aggressor which becomes unduly powerful and so threatens the balance. But in Collective Security, any enemy state which commits aggression is always from within the larger international community. It is always a member of the system acting against another member of the system.
In a Balance of Power system only P-5 members or the major powers are involved. They are in agreement to defend only certain selected frontiers and not to defend against every aggression or war of the world. But against this, in the domain of the Collective Security system, every nation of the world is committed to fight aggression or war against any state that initiates it. They are in agreement to defend every state of the international system against any aggression.
Collective Security and Collective Defence
Collective security should not be confused with collective defence. NATO is an example of collective defence.
Collective security is universal, enemy is not predefined. Any country can approach UN. Collective defence is regional, it is meant only for the members and enemy is known in Advance.
Views of India
India has been against the defence pacts and military blocks. However, India has been in favour of the system of collective security. One of the objectives of non-aligned movement was to stay away from the military blocks and to strengthen the United Nation collective security system.
India has taken this position because the collective security is supposed to be better for developing countries and joining military blocs goes against their interests.
According to Pandit Nehru, the idea of collective security is contradictory to collective defence. So, he said that, if one goes for collective defence, it means that he has no faith in collective security system of the United Nations.
Views of USA
It was USA which started the formation of military blocks.
According to USA, there is no contradiction because Article 51 of the United Nations Charter provides for the right to self-defence to every single country. So according to USA, Collective defence is the only practical way to achieve the concept of collective security.
Working of collective security
League of nations Model of Collective security
Pre United nations, the 1st experiment was done with collective security in the form of League of nations. However, it failed to protect the countries which ultimately led to WWII.
Example– when China approached league of nations against Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, it got no help from the League.
Similarly, In 1936, Ethopia also approached the league of nations against invasion by Italy, but once again they got no help.
It could not be operationalized because of following reasons:
USA was out, Russia was also out.
Britain and France had no faith.
Countries followed the policy of appeasement of fascist powers as they considered communism as a bigger threat.
Collective security was a new concept and there were flaws in the way it was conceptualized. In League of Nations, all countries had veto powers. It was practically not possible to get consensus of all countries.
Collective security as such is based on false assumptions. It assumes as if international peace is the aim of the states. It forgets that national interest is the aim of states. Just because one state committed aggression, on the other state, it does not mean that all countries will commit their forces or forget their long term interest.
Collective Security under United Nations
During the decade of the 20th century, the Collective Security System has begun to be acting as a popular and useful device for the preservation and sustenance of international peace and security.
The Charter of the UN has regarded the preservation of international peace and security as one of its most major objectives.
In this Charter the term-’International Peace and Security’ has been used 32 times. Even in its very first article, while explaining the purposes of the United Nations, it has made the preservation and safety of international peace and security as its first priority. It even lays down a collective security system for the fulfillment of this purpose.
The method of Collective Security system has been laid down in Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter and is under the title of- ‘Action with respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression.’
Here it contains 13 Articles, from Art. 39 to 51, which together provides for the maintenance of the collective system for preserving international peace and security.
One of the principal organs of UN, the UN Security Council has been assigned the responsibility and power to initiate collective security action against any state to meet any perceived threat to international peace and security by any war or aggression.
UN Charter does make some improvement in the procedure of operationalization. Under UN consent of only 5 states, P5 is needed. However the practical experience show that even that is not possible.
The collective security under UN remained paralyzed because of ‘east west conflict’.
Countries continue to give primacy to the national interest over justice, peace or order.
There are only two occasions when collective security could get operationalized under UN.
1950 Korean Crisis. Even in Korean crisis, it was not operationalized in ideal sense.
Korean crisis itself was the reflection of cold war. North Korea was aggressor . North Korea was supported by China and Russia. South Korea was under the influence of USA. USA was supposed to punish the aggression by North Korea. USA was successful in getting the permission of collective security action from UN only because Russian representative was absent.
Russia was boycotting the UNSC on the issue of the permanent seat for Communist China. The moment Russian representatives came to know about the resolution, it came back, used Veto. It has stopped collective security. However USA innovated a new concept. Acheson Plan aka Uniting for Peace resolution. (UPR) What is it ? In case there is a deadlock in UNSC, general assembly can authorize collective security by 2/3 majority.
Russia never accepted the legality of UPR because it has not been the part of UN charter. Later on USA could not get support for most of the resolutions and hence even this route could not work.
Gulf War I of 1989, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. More than 30 countries participated in UN operation under leadership of US.
It was the failure of collective security that the then secretary general Dag HammarSkjolda proposed the concept of peacekeeping to keep the role of UN relevant in its primary purpose. It is to be noted that peacekeeping is not a part of UN Charter. It is a extra constitutional growth.
Differences in collective security and peacekeeping
Peacekeepers are sent only with the consent of the parties in conflict, there is no such requirement in case of collective security operations. Peacekeepers can use force only in self-defence.
The main objective of United Nations is to prevent wars, UNSC could not fulfill the obligation, hence the only way UN’s role remained relevant was through peacekeeping. It is to be noted that India has made unparalleled contribution towards peacekeeping under UN. India’s contribution in peacekeeping efforts is one of the strongest basis to demand permanent seat for India in UNSC. It needs to be emphasized that if there is any country whose actions kept UN relevant in its core objectives, it is India. Hence it is a paradox if India is not a permanent member at UNSC.
Criticism against Collective Security
The concept of Collective Security is designed to be based upon certain idealistic assumptions which make its implementation very difficult.
E.g. It has assumed that there can be a complete global understanding, regarding the nature of all threats or aggressions which are possible, against international peace and security but the recent Russian attack on Ukraine has nullified this assumption.
One of the major defects of the Collective Security system can be said that it has completely wrongly assumed that, in the event of any war or aggression against any nation, the aggressor and the nature of its aggression can be totally and easily identified.
But in practice, it is very tough to determine and name the aggressor pin-pointedly as well as to identify the nature and main aim of the aggression. It is seen that, often the aggressor acts in the name of self-defense and justifies its aggression as a defensive action against its interests.
Eg. Russia’s invasion on Ukraine
Collective Security has proven to be self-negating in so far as it first denounces war or aggression as an illegal activity and then it indirectly accepts that wars and aggressions are bound to remain present in international relations forever.
It also wrongly believes that, the most effective way to deal with such situations is to undertake a collective security war, thus totally bypassing the value of negotiations.
The concept of Collective Security has made it an international obligation for all the nations to collect their resources and then undertake collective action in the event of an aggression or war. It, totally, rules out the concept of neutrality.
It has been seen that, many nations often prefer to remain away from war and thus not be bounded by the events of collective security.
But It makes Collective Security war an international obligation and wrongly assumes that all nations are willing to participate in such a war, without even asking them first.
The underlined concept of Collective Security in the U.N. Charter, has two major limitations.
It provides the states the right to undertake war or aggression, as a measure of self-defense against any other aggression.
But in practice, this provision somewhat gives a legal basis to any aggressor or war inducing nation to start a conflict in the name of action in self-defense.
Justification of Collective Security
However, despite these points of criticism and internationally recognized weaknesses of the Collective Security system worldwide, it certainly cannot be denied that the system has not been totally meaningless and without any positive features.
It has first of all, brought into vision the idea of the possibility of emergence of the collective steps for the preservation of world peace and harmony through crisis management in any worldly problems.
This ensures that, the chances for a more purposeful and successful use of Collective Security in this post-cold war world have emerged. Presently, it is also being implemented in several different parts of the world.
Collective Security has been constituted as a modern device for crisis management in the world arena. Here, all the members of community of nations are expected to act and save the humanity from the increasing fear of war and aggression and also to use the collective security system for this purpose.