The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict. Authors; Authors and affiliations. Barry R. Posen Nuclear Weapon Military Power Ethnic Conflict Military Capability. Posen first discusses security dilemma and then uses this concept to explain two cases: Why Croats and Serbs fought a war, and why Ukraine. 24 Posen, Barry, ‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’, Survival, 35 (), pp. 27–47 CrossRef | Google Scholar, esp. pp. 27–

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Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are, primarily, increased by nuclear weapons and only avoided by neither state wishing to appear as the aggressor in the eyes of western nations who they have no real relationship, historical or otherwise, with. Help Center Find new research papers in: Please login to be able to comment.

Competition of the empires during the middle ages made Croat-Serb relations tense.

Therefore, states will choose the offensive if they wish to survive. The article is, as one would expect from an MIT academic, extremely clear and expertly written.

Posen argues that Croatia overestimated the reliability and influence of the Federal Germany as an ally.

This article attempts to apply a basic realist concept, security dilemma, to account for civil conflicts following the collapse of the USSR. This approach would, however, not be sufficient in explaining the Yugoslav Wars as a whole, or the relationship between Russia and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union mainly due to the role of liberal international organisations but it is more than reliable for these two examples. Security is viewed as the sole aim for states, thus increasing military spending and procurement.

The WW2 era Croat alliance with Nazi Germany is used well by Posen and, in my view, convincing in understanding the perception side of the argument. Because neighbors wish to remain autonomous and secure, they will react by trying to strengthen their own positions. Second, Offense is more effective than defense. Secondly, the issue of ethnic minorities and enclaves is raised by Posen. Then Posen asks a critical question: Skip to main content.


It seems that he assumed that the fall of imperial regimes will bring about an anarchical political environment in many countries where ethnic conflicts will bargy very likely. This competition will continue to a point at which the competing entity has got more power than needed for security.

Posen aims to ascertain the differences in ethnic conflict across regions. He believes that technology is a rare determinant of the balance.

Indeed, the subsequent Ukrainian abandonment of its nuclear weapons lends much credence to the realist approach to international security it is questionable as to whether Russia would have engaged in conflict with Ukraine hhe the latter had retained nuclear weapons, regardless of their condition or state of delivery methods and reading an account of relations at the time is fascinating. Between Russia and Ukraine there is the issue of the Holmodor and the control of Ukraine by Moscow throughout the previous centuries — along with the belief held by many Russian traditionalists that Kiev is inseparable from modern Russia due to its role di,emma establishing Russia.

This would have made an interesting contrast to the situation in Yugoslavia, where the inherited weapons were nearly all serviceable and useful to the forces receiving them, but Posen does not make this argument. Posen posn comparatively minor factors conscription in the previous state, criminal organisations and the proliferation of armsbut the more pressing factors constitute the bedrock of his argument.

Posen, whilst identifying Yugoslavia as a nation exercising universal conscription, provides no insight securiity the dominance of Serbs holding senior positions within the JNA and the perception held by the Croat community that the JNA was a Serb Army. However, once the last weapon is gone, Russian nationalists may become much more assertive. Outside intervention in the affairs concerning at least one nuclear power is, therefore, even more unlikely.

In the Balkans there are numerous instances across the previous centuries, most recently in WW2 and the Croat decision to classify Serbs as minorities in Croatia. The Croat belief, particularly among those on the far right, was that the modern day German state would support the newly founded Croatian state and the Croatian people across a collapsing Yugoslavia. The technological study is solely in regard to nuclear weapons capabilities disregarding conventional arms and how these supersede factors such as historical grievances, ethnic grouping and criminality in contributing to regional tensions and bardy they exacerbate the security dilemma.


This relentless pursuit of defensive security is then transformed into a capability that is viewed by the other as solely offensive in nature. Emerging groups quickly trying to evaluate the threat held not just by armed enemy combatants, but all groups in close proximity.

‘The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict’ – A Literature Review | Daniel Blanthorn –

As the past decade has shown, number of ethnic conflicts did not skyrocketed and Posen’s theory was not needed much. The ideal time for them to strike, therefore, is shortly after the collapse of centralised power but before the international community chooses to intervene page The threat of international intervention is particularly relevant in the years after the Cold War, with humanitarian intervention becoming more popular among western heads of state and institutions such as the International Criminal Court gaining prominence.

Among those groups, there will be competition for security. But during the communist war and famine ofUkrainian president blamed the bolshevicks, not the Russians. With regard to the impact of geography, Posen believes that how members of a group scattered in a country matters. However, this can lead on to a minor factor — the issue of nuclear weapons. Posen is correct in treating the nuclear arsenals of Ukraine and Russia as more important in contributing to the security dilemma than the other factors, but neglects to mention the considerable amount of immediately useful conventional weapons in the region.

This assessment was made by the Croats during the Operation Storm.