Common Security

From the Foundation's 1997 Annual Report

The Common Security initiative seeks to eliminate the fundamental insecurities between nations that motivate them to acquire or hold nuclear weapons. The premise is that countries possessing nuclear weapons have little incentive to disarm as long as the intentions of other countries are uncertain or perceived as hostile. The initiative, therefore, concentrates on projects that increase transparency, clarify motivations, resolve concerns, and build confidence between adversaries.

The Foundation's efforts to promote Common Security began when the Cold War still shaped the world. Today, the Cold War is over but major nuclear security problems remain in Russia and between Russia and the West. These challenges are exacerbated by the U.S.-led movement to extend NATO eastward without redressing the vulnerability Russian military planners now feel against vastly superior NATO forces. It is almost as if time reversed itself and history is now being played back on a mirror: the U.S. spent forty-five years fearing Soviet conventional forces in Europe and relying heavily on nuclear threats to keep them at bay, wishing only that Kremlin leaders would come to their senses, free Eastern Europe, and withdraw their military units. Now that Russia has done that, NATO is moving in to protect the newly-won freedom and democracy of Eastern Europe but is doing so with a military organization instead of institutions and policies that concentrate on economic and political development. The Foundation works to help democrats and military reformers in Russia, along with analysts in Europe and the U.S., who are now striving to prevent the worst consequences of the shift away from the Common Security logic which animated both the Soviet Union and the United States between 1989-1992.

In addition to Russia, most acute security threats today emanate from regional conflicts. Three regions contain the gravest threats of nuclear weapon proliferation and the greatest need for innovative practices and institutions to promote security: the Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia. In each of these regions the Foundation supports institutions, dialogues, and information exchanges which are essential in clarifying the intentions and capabilities of different countries in these regions.

No one can put a clock on security conflicts and say that they can or should end at a specific time. Peoples, parties, religions and governments have struggled in the Middle East for millennia, with varying degrees of intensity. Then in weeks of secret negotiations in Oslo, or a single day on the White House lawn, leaders shake hands and the prospects of mutual security grow. But, in the seconds it takes an assassin to gun down an essential leader, or a terrorist to blow up a bus, hope can be dashed. In the Persian Gulf, the governments of the United States and Iran enjoyed close relations for decades before the 1978 revolution. Then, one day hostages were taken, and for 19 years thereafter relations between the two countries were frozen. Who foresaw that Iran's 1997 presidential election campaign would open the possibility of rapprochement between not only the U.S. and Iran, but between Iran and its neighbors? Could one man's President Khatemi's -- one-hour interview on CNN begin to revise the hostile imagery it took 19 years to create? Security challenges are not determined by time, nor can their resolution be scheduled in time. The most that can be done is to identify and support people who have the vision, the knowledge, the integrity and the courage to work everyday for openings that may someday lead to Common Security.

Link to Secure World Grants

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