political revue


Year XXX, 1988, Number 1, Page 3



The Problem of Security in the Nuclear Age
1. To face up to the greatest political problems of our age, and in particular the problem of security, we really need to think in new terms. Mankind has never before been in the position in which it now finds itself, which raises the possibility of mankind’s extinction both through ecological dangers and the danger of nuclear war. When we speak of “security” we must always remember that it is not, unlike the past, just a question of defending your country’s independence, but much more a question of safeguarding mankind’s survival and the indispensable conditions for a more advanced phase of civilization.
2. In the final instance, this requires that the current state system — in which security is achieved only with power, even in the case of neutral countries (which are heavily armed) — is replaced by a world federal system “in which”, as Kant wrote, “every state, even the tiniest, can expect its own security and the protection of its rights not from its own force and its own legal assessments, but only from this great federation of peoples, a collective force and decisions complying with laws of common will”. Once this objective has been clearly fixed, the greatest difficulty that needs to be overcome in order to achieve it becomes equally clear, namely the fact that we need to use the agencies created by the need for power (absolute sovereign states) to achieve exactly the opposite goal: security without power, security only by means of law.
3. The recent Washington agreements on missiles deployed in Europe, and the prospective development of international politics in which Gorbachev places them, nevertheless show that the “march” towards peace may be undertaken as from now. In actual fact, it is precisely nuclear weapons — i.e. the means by which we reach the top of the power tree — that generate the possibility of a completely new road. These weapons immediately provoked the need for direct communication, one which is instantaneous and permanent between the two great rival powers, and are gradually forcing the need to think about others’ security when providing for one’s own on all states, as they come directly or indirectly into the nuclear sphere. Nothing similar had ever happened in the past. Till now the policy of all states had been based, with no possible alternative, on the diametrically opposite principle, that of pursuing the increase in one’s own power and the decrease in the power of others.
4. Put roughly, the new international politics, in its most complete formulation, as proposed by Gorbachev, should have as its guiding principle what was mentioned above about mutual security and as content: a) “defensive defence” (i.e. the capacity to defend oneself but not to attack), b) the attribution, partial or total, to a suitably strengthened UN of tasks such as controlling disarmament and regional crises and shaping a fair world economic and monetary system, the development of a universal ecological politics and so on.
5. The positive nature of this political project does not require any comments. It is on the other hand necessary to highlight its limits. These lie in the fact that in this way national military defences are not eliminated, i.e. there is no attempt to create one of the indispensable conditions for: a) achieving the point of no return as regards peace, avoiding the risk, which is always possible in the absence of solid world institutions, of relapses into national divisions and ills of the past, b) obtaining security only by means of law (protection of states in the world system, corresponding to the protection of individuals within their own state).
6. Giving up national armies, and solemnly agreeing to give up European defence in the context of the real formation of a first world government (even partial following Einstein’s happy formula), i.e. in the context of a gradual unification of mankind even in political terms, a really united Europe could not only strengthen the policy of mutual security but even favour the fall of the limits that the USA and the USSR are not for the moment able to overcome: namely the problem of maintaining a national defence as the supreme bulwark of their absolute and exclusive sovereignty.
7. This European programme is not utopian policy. It is, providing that we really bear in mind the real situation in which mankind is, the only realistic policy. And it can be practised from now onwards. All Europeans can struggle to transform the Community into a real political Union, following the lines drawn up by Altiero Spinelli and the European Parliament. All men can: a) adopt the principle of mutual security and its correlate, “defensive defence”, b) support, in the field of foreign policy, the strengthening of the UN and progress of all regional integrations and unifications. The road is therefore open, and it can be followed to victory if a growing number of people, by espousing federalism, prove able, with their thinking and action, to go beyond the simple national politics, and deal with the creation and development of international democracy.
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