Center for International Security and Strategic Studies
Центр Міжнародної Безпеки та Стратегічних Студій
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CONFLICT PREVENTION, EARLY WARNING INSTITUTIONS
AND REGIONAL SECURITY CHALLENGES IN CEE1
PfP Consortium Bratislava 12-13 Jan 2004
Prof. Alexander Goncharenko, CISSS President
Regional security challenges together with the international terrorism today are the
major threats to European and transatlantic security. The strategic question of XXI
century is whether the liberal democracy could control these disastrous regional
conflicts, especially in CEE and in more broad “arc of instability” stretching from
Balkans to the Philippines.
Preventive approach to the international politics is extremely important today.
Prevention is a tool number one of the effective conflict management. It is much easier
to prevent the conflict or acute crisis than to manage the conflicts after they have
escalated. No less important is the cost-effectiveness question: the budget of only two
days of operation “Desert Storm” or resent operation in Iraq was equal to this one of all
UN peacekeeping operation worldwide for a year.2 Thus the conflict prevention
approach implicitly corresponds to the demands of cost effective security organization.
But the studies related to crisis prevention, preventive diplomacy or preemptive
contingency planning are still very sketchy and fragmentary.
From the other point of view it is quite obvious that prevention is the key feature of
modern strategy. In the National Security Strategy of the USA adopted in September
2002 a heavy accent had been made on the preventive measures and preemptive actions.
Conflict prevention is more broad term that crisis prevention. A lot of crises could be observed in the
framework of one conflict.
The Art of Conflict Management. Ed by W. Bauwens and L Reychler. Brassey’s, 1994, p.2.
“United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past…
the United States will if necessary act preemptively”.3
The European Security Strategy “ A Secure Europe in a Better World” (December,
2003) especially stresses the necessity “to act before a crisis occurs. Conflict prevention
and threat prevention cannot start too early”.4
Nevertheless the absence of system approach to conflict prevention, lack of foresight
and effective intelligence in international relations, including conflict dynamics, still
prevail. International organizations are ineffective and their decisions are very often
ignored, especially by the superpowers (OSCE and the conflict in Moldova is a striking
It is well known that according to international agreements the Russian troops should
been withdrawn from Transistria more than a year ago. Nevertheless they are still there
and there is a little doubt that the strategic tasks of these troops is to effectively cut
Ukraine from the West in the case of crisis. But the West was silent and pretends that
nothing had happen. Washington opened one eye only when Russia almost succeeded in
imposing upon Moldova one side prepared Memorandum that granted unprecedented
autonomy to Transistria and guaranteed the presence of Russian troops for the next
30 years. Only then Mr. Voronin had been reminded of the more than one billion illegal
accounts of his family and drastically changed his position, - in the last moment refused
to sign the already prepared Memorandum. Of cause this is as well the crisis
management – passive, reactive way of crisis management and policy making in
general. This is outdated approach. It reminds the reaction of dead frog crucified on the
laboratory table with two electrodes one connected to the leg and other inserted into the
back part of the poor amphibian.
If one switch the 100 volts battery to these electrodes the dead frog jerk convulsively
with it leg, if not correspondingly not. This is the way of the dead frog, the way the
majority of present day politicians react. They begin to jerk only when acute crisis
began and bloodshed started. Only then they awake and try to do something and in
result they are always late. Such purely reactive behavior and conflict management is
aggravated by liberal pluralistic nature of democratic system. What we need to cope
with the present day’s challenges is the future oriented thinking and active preventive
The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. White House. September, 2002, p.15.
A Secure Europe in a Better World. European Security Strategy. Brussels. 12 December, 2003, p.7.
way of action - in other word we need preventive forecasting and management. And the
core of this management is the creation of the network of early warning structures,
sophisticated intelligence gathering systems, permanent flexible preventive forecasting.
Not one time act, but regular activity that allows estimating and predicting the crisis
dynamics, form the proper and timely correction signals. These signals should be
accumulated and send through the back-loop channels to prevent the father conflict
escalation, to tame the possible crisis. Simultaneously the development of prevention
strategies including peacekeeping and peacebuilding should start.
This is the concept of adaptive management - the most effective tool of conflict
resolution. But true political will is needed here to take action before not after the
conflict has blown up. Effective early warning institutions and more “intelligence
sharing” of cause are necessary. But the existing structures mainly in the international
organization are very bulky, inefficient and overbureaucratised.
Official Early Warning UN Structure – office for Research and the Collection of
Information (ORCI) that had mandate for early warning was in 1992 integrated into the
Department of Humanitarian Affairs and Regional Political Services of the Secretariat
and now is practically useless. Early Warning System of the UN Administrative
Coordinating Committees deals mainly with humanitarian field (refugees, displaced
persons, foods etc.).
Conflict Prevention Center (CPC) of OSCE in Vienna that had been given the task to
serve as a forum for comprehensive and regular consultations on security issues with
political military implications (forum for consultation and cooperation in conflict
prevention and implementation of decisions on crisis management, with some functions
in fact finding monitor missions related to unusual military activity 5 proved to be
ineffective and often ignored by conflicting sides (Chechnya, Moldova).
NATO Early Warning structures (including Current Intelligence Groups or NATO
Situation Center) depending upon national intelligence gathering and assessment
systems are oriented mainly on military crisis and first warning of hostile military
The situation in many conflict region (especially in CEE is enhanced the unwillingness
of the national governments to cooperate closely with international missions and
Prague Document on Further Development of CSCE Institutions and Structures. Chapter I, para 2, Jan.1992.
observers. One of the possible solutions to create the network of non-governmental
analytical early warning centers that could make the independent regular monitoring of
the local and regional conflicts and cooperates closely between themselves and
international structures. This idea for example is under discussion in the Black Sea -
Caspian region, but this is not the subject of this report.
The problems of effective crisis prevention are not only organizational ones. A lot of
other problems concerning the estimation, measurement and analysis of the conflict
parameters and causal factors are still unresolved. So I’d like to speculate a little on this
issues. The general idea of conflict monitoring and prevention is enough simple and
Hot conflict 1,00
Critical level 0,75 measures
Danger level 0,50 Early warning signal
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Time
Fig.1. Conflict dynamics and early warning / preventive measures thresholds
It is necessary to chose a number of key causal so-called conflictogeneouse factors and
than scaled them (set up criteria for their estimation and measurement). After the key
conflictogenouse factors have been analyzed and scaled the general summary index that
characterized the intensity level of the conflict could be calculated. Going ahead with
the regular monitoring of this general index and corresponding conflictogenouse factors
the whole dynamic of the conflict could be determined and corresponding forecast for
the future could be made.
The crucial question here is the question of selection and measurement of key
parameters. One of the simplest and most efficient methods of factor selection and
scaling is the expert procedures. The national or international team of experts (usually
10-20 persons) is asked to select and range on intensity and importance (weight index)
the key parameters of the given conflict. As a result the table of key
parameters/conflictogenouse factors is formed (tabl.1).
General index-I, that characterize the conflict intensity usually is calculated as an
I = i =1
k or geometrical sum of weighted parameters
k W min 1 / k
I = ∏ Pi
i =1 Wi
where Pi – intensity parameter, Wi – weight index, k- number of parameters.
The expert procedures could be open, anonymous or more sophisticated methods like
“Delphi technique” could be implemented.
In more advanced research (UNESCO, US Council on Environmental Quality) the
modern methods of multidimensional statistics, factor and cluster analysis are used.
These techniques, well known in modern sociology, could be effectively used for the
purposes of conflict monitoring and prevention.
Tabl.1. Intensity dynamics of imaginary conflict in CEE
Factor/Parameter Intensity (0 ÷ 1) - Pi Weight index (0 ÷ 5) – Wi
1.01.2003 1.01.2004 1.01.2003 1.01.2004
Ethnic 0,5 0,6 5 5
Historic 0,4 0,4 1 1
Internal Political 0,1 0,8 1 2
External Political 0,3 0,3 4 4
Geopolitical 0,1 0,1 1 1
Economic 0,8 0,9 2 4
Military 0,4 0,9 4 4
Cultural 0,1 0,2 3 3
Language 0,2 0,4 4 2
Religion 0,1 0,1 3 3
∑WiPi I1 (2003 year) = 0,32
General Intensity Index : I =
I2 (2004 year) = 0,56
The absence of adequate network of early warning institutions is not the only problem
of conflict prevention. The other fundamental problem is the luck of future oriented
thinking in the international relations, outdated and overbureaucratised system of
decision-making. In result the pessimists among the professional analysts are deeply
convinced: even if timely early working information signals were send, they are never
received in a proper way. If the signals were received they are never analyzed. If the
signals were analyzed, they are never reached the end user (so called Decision Making
Persons). If the signals were reached the DMP no timely decisions are taken. If the
decisions were taken they are never implemented into reality. And if even a miracle has
happen and decisions were implemented, they were implemented in a completely
different way they had supposed to be implemented.
The CIA met exactly this problem in case of al Quaeda terrorist attack in N-Y. There
were the warning signals about attack, numerous signals and CIA had got them, but
these signals had never reached the DMP and h ad never been analyzed property. As a
result no preventive measures had been taken.
In other words from pessimistic, skeptical point of view any attempts of effective
conflict prevention and management are absolutely useless. But I try to be an optimist
and simply mention some other problems of conflict prevention and management.
Conflict prevention is not universal panacea. Conflict in itself is a very useful
phenomena. The great philosophers from Heraclitus and ibn Haldun to Hegel
repeatedly stressed that conflict is necessary precondition of the social development.
There is no progress without the conflict. In international politics the major danger of
conflict prevention and management especially in military interpretation is that it could
undermine the basic principles of international relations, such as non-intervention and
national sovereignty. It is highly possibly (Chechnya is a good example here) that the
major powers will misused the intervention and conflict management to push forward
they own selfish interests. The all national liberation and self-determination movements
could be very easy proclaimed the threats to national and regional security and colonial
war in Chechnya for example could be considered as necessary anti-terrorist operation.
From the “preventive thinking” logic invasion of the Warsaw pact troops in
Czechoslovakia in 1968 was only typical and very effective peacekeeping operation on
the broad multinational base. Operation that had guaranteed peace and stability in the
region for more than 20 years. So it is obvious that conflict prevention approach
objectively have some limits and never should be used indiscriminately.
From the other point of view there is no doubt that effective war against terrorism
presuppose certain kind of intervention and preventive measures. They are absolutely
necessary even if they contradict in some way to the classical principles of the