From its very beginning, the system of collective security established under the United Nations Charter has been dysfunctional.
Global Security Architecture
In the post-World War Two era, global consequences of this systemic failure were mitigated due to the bipolar balance of power that implied mutual deterrence. Under circumstances of unipolarity, however, the statutory privilege of the five permanent members of the Security Council has made the reality of power politics painfully obvious: namely, that enforceable legal constraints on the use of force only exist for the actions of the Council’s non-permanent members, provided the permanent members agree.
This statutory framework cannot be qualified as a system of ‘collective’ security. Unilateral uses of force – since the end of the Cold War – by the world’s most powerful actor (and its allies), with devastating consequences for regional and international security, are ample proof of this.
The security architecture at the global level must not be seen in a vacuum. It is not unenforceable legal norms (such as a general ban on the use of force) but an effective balance of power that is crucial for peace among sovereign states. Too much is at stake in the nuclear era. In a situation where the threat of nuclear activity by an otherwise weak state, fearing for its survival, can offset the entire geopolitical balance, the community of nations must undertake credible efforts towards solving disputes in regions (e.g., the Middle East, South or East Asia) where nuclear weapons may be seen as insurance for national survival.
The security architecture of the future must, therefore, be based on effective regional arrangements, alleviating the security concerns of smaller states, and on a multipolar balance of power among the global regions.