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The Security Concept in the Post-Cold War Era

Security issues have always been critical for human societies. People have always wanted to feel protected and benefit from the absence or minimal risks threatening their well-being. However, over time, the notion of security and the concept altered because of the growing demands and new challenges emerging due to technological advances and the change in values. The 20th century became the critical phase in the evolution of the concept and security agenda. Two World Wars and the Cold war outlined new challenges and threats that should be addressed. For this reason, the visions of national, international, and human security have altered radically and acquired new meanings vital to ensure sufficient protection and create the basis for the future society’s evolution. Their diversification and sophistication resulted from a multi-layered nature of new risks and the necessity to address them.

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The failure of traditional views on security and international relations after the end of the Cold War indicated the new phase in the security agenda and concept’s development. They have altered conceptually to expand ontologically and include an expanded number of categories vital for protecting states and individuals (White, 2018). The era defined by two great powers’ competition was replaced by the era of multiplicity in actors, threats, and concepts that should be given great attention (White, 2018). For this reason, the notion of security has changed towards the emergence of numerous subsections and ideas vital for investigating the growing number of threats and responding to them. Today, it includes health crises, justice, human rights, protection of citizens, children, terrorism, women, youth, and peace and security (White, 2018). The ideas of national, international, and human security have also altered as they had to include a new scope of challenges and solutions to them.

National security is one of the critical elements of the discussed concept viewed as the critical prerequisite for the existence and development of nations. Initially, it implied the protection against military attack; however, with the diversification of threats following the end of the Cold War, it became broader. It is defined as the preservation of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and internal stability within a state to protect its citizens and create conditions beneficial for their life (Anwar et al., 2018). The national security also includes multiple nonmilitary aspects, which is also viewed as the result of threats diversification after the two-power system’s collapse (White, 2018). These include terrorism, crime, energy security, cyber security, climate control (Anwar et al., 2018). In such a way, the idea of national security has expanded from the protection against military intervention towards the comprehensive framework, including most critical aspects influencing states.

The end of the Cold War and opposition between super-states also stipulated the critical reconsideration of the perspective on international security. Previously, global peace and order were guaranteed by balancing two camps’ visions, values, and demands (Anwar et al., 2018). However, the new era introduced a new vision of international security, presupposing the involvement of international organizations, such as the United Nations, the European Union, and CIS (Buzan, 2016). Their active participation is needed to ensure mutual survival and safety by providing military and economic support and creating diplomatic agreements, treaties, and conventions (Anwar et al., 2018). International security is still viewed as the part of national security at the global level; however, the scope of tasks, along with their diversification and multi-layered nature, introduced the demand for a collaborative approach and interaction.

Finally, the ideas of human security acquired increased topicality because of the shift towards humanistic values. The Cold War era was characterized by the dominance of state interest and disregard of humanistic values (Anwar et al., 2018). However, the collapse of this system of relations promoted the shift towards personal interests. Today, human security is determined as activities aimed at protecting fundamental freedoms comprising the essence of well-being and lives (Buzan, 2016). It implies addressing severe and pervasive threats and situations that might create the basis for discrimination (Buzan, 2016). Human security also rests on the three central freedoms, such as freedom from fear, want, and indignity (Buzan, 2016). The current agenda focuses on the necessity to protect people and ensure their fundamental rights are observed, and they do not suffer from any forms of injustice. It can be viewed as the evolution of the ideas of tolerance and social relations noticed after the Cold War and increased attention to other issues.

Altogether, it is possible to admit the radical change in the security concept after the Cold War and the collapse of the global system characterized by two camps’ opposition. New needs and the diversification of threats resulted in broadening the agenda and definition of security along with its essential components, such as national, international, and human aspects. The current model steps away from considering only military threats towards the multi-layered approach and inclusion of numerous other concerns threatening people’s lives and introducing risks for their well-being and health. The dominance of humanistic values and the critical importance of addressing a broad set of problems result in the increased sophistication and complexity of the security concept today.


Anwar, M., Rongting, Z., Dong, W., & Asmi, F. (2018). Mapping the knowledge of national security in 21st century a bibliometric study, Cogent Social Sciences, 4(1). Web.

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Buzan, B. (2016). People, states and fear: An agenda for international security studies in the Post-Cold War era. ECPR Press.

White, J. (2018). How has the study of international security changed since the Cold War’s end? E-International Relations. Web.

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