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2022 | Book

Global Security in Times of Covid-19

Brave New World?


About this book

Written in the middle of a pandemic, this book examines the effect of COVID-19 on regional and global security threats in the first 18 months of the crisis. Throughout history, epidemics have disrupted human civilisations, changed the structure of societies, decided the outcome of wars and prompted incredible technological innovation. Despite massive progress in science, institution-building and cooperation over the past 100 years, COVID-19 has revealed the weaknesses of a world under-prepared for a new disease – that had been widely expected and long overdue! This edited volume brings together leading security experts from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East to share their analysis of the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on major security threats, including the rise of terrorists and criminal networks and global power politics. The book highlights important lessons learnt from all corners of the planet, in particular the need for cross-sectional, regional and international cooperation and solidarity when it comes to facing any transnational security threat that does not respect political boundaries.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction
The introductory chapter to Global Security in Times of COVID: Brave New World? assesses the impact of the disease and the reaction of governments in the first 18 months of the pandemic. It highlights the major security threats that resulted from securitising the virus. These include a rise in violent non-state actors and civil unrest where states were unable to manage the crisis and address their citizens’ concerns; disruptions in the international system of states, characterised by a failure of leadership and cooperation regionally and globally; and the retreat of democracy and hard-earned rights defined as human security, most notably in the global South.
Caroline Varin
Chapter 2. Latin America: The Covid-19 Pandemic and Security in Latin America
For centuries, states in Latin America have faced considerable security challenges. Most of these are not related to conventional threats from other states, but to social, economic, and political conditions derived from the states’ own institutional weakness. These include armed groups and criminal gangs, which have challenged the security of individuals, communities, and the state for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic is demonstrating that in this clash between state institutions and armed groups, the state is showing significant weaknesses, whereas non-state actors seem to be exploiting the context in their favor. This raises different sorts of security challenges that the state will likely have to address during and after the pandemic.
Oscar Palma
Chapter 3. The American Century in the Wake of COVID
It is common these days to point toward the United States and see a great power going into irreversible decline. The American polity is beset by internal political challenges, and with the onset of the Coronavirus epidemic, America’s political gaps have only widened. Additionally, the country’s aura of invincibility has been shattered as it suffers from the highest COVID death toll of any G20 nation, bringing into question the effectiveness of its system of governance and the quality of American institutions. The contradictions are in many ways so difficult to comprehend, for all its problems the continued might of the United States will persist, culturally, economically and of course militarily. Indeed, the post-COVID world will still be a part of the American century, and it is still in American hands to decide the shape of this world, for now, even as the United States contends with the rise of Beijing, whose power has only increased further despite being the epicentre of the virus in its early days. Whether the two global behemoths can peacefully contend with each other is yet to be determined, but much of the world will continue to look to Washington as the preeminent power, despite the attractiveness of Beijing’s money. In both the European and Pacific theatres, nations look to the United States for leadership and seek to understand its global priorities in order to formulate policies of their own, meaning that the choice is Washington’s to make. This chapter will examine how the epidemic will shape American domestic and foreign policies and in turn the impact this will have on the international system shaped by the United States 75 years ago.
Michael Stephens
Chapter 4. Europe: A Geographical Expression or Unity of Purpose?
In January 2020, as a new year dawned in Europe, a storm was gathering in the far East by the name of COVID-19. The pandemic’s profound and devastating impact across society is evident. The contagion is not only concentrated on the socio-economic level, it also affects politics, security and defense. Compounded with Brexit, the coronavirus crisis could spark unforeseen security challenges or crystallize pre-existing trends. This chapter fleshes out two opposite but equally plausible, scenarios for Europe’s collective security architecture. First, it explores the possibility of new momentum being injected into European defense cooperation; after all, EU members, the UK, Norway and Switzerland share the same concerns and largely agree on key security provisions: sustained mutual solidarity displayed during the pandemic, a geopolitical reshuffle, shrinking defense budgets, a deteriorating security environment in the near-abroad, and international rivalry in the technological domain providing the basis for ambitious UK and EU collaboration. Second, this chapter presents a drifting apart scenario that sees the “Special Relationship” between the US and UK reshuffling London’s priority list while the EU seeks enhanced strategic autonomy from NATO and the US. The reality of Brexit sees opposing priorities and competing projects rather than truly multilateral initiatives, fracturing the UK–EU security and defense relationship. Once the fog of the virus lifts, will Europe be met by a period of détente both to the East and the West, or will this public-health crisis only further exacerbate already present geopolitical challenges faced by Brussels?
Arthur de Liedekerke, Matthew Robinson
Chapter 5. Africa, Virus and Vulnerability: COVID-19 Pandemic in Africa
Since the first African coronavirus (COVID-19) case was confirmed on 14 February 2020 in Egypt, the virus has spread across the continent. Given its pre-existing fragility such as high debt burden, dependence on primary commodity export, a decrepit health infrastructure, pervasive poverty and poor governance, some observers contended that Africa will experience an apocalypse as a result of the virus outbreak. To mitigate explosive outbreaks, most African states imposed strict measures such as frontier closures, lockdowns and social distancing, which has helped to suppress the spread. Although the continent’s infection rates are still lagging behind East Asia, Europe and America, the pandemic has caused serious effects on the health, economic, political and social stability of many African states. This chapter, therefore, critically examines the diverse perspectives and theories on the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, highlighting the impact, responses and lessons learned by African states in their effort to preserve security and stability. It contends that the pandemic effects will further exacerbate the fragility of African states in the post-COVID era.
Freedom Chukwudi Onuoha, Casmir Chukwuka Mbaegbu
Chapter 6. Long COVID and the New Middle East
COVID-19 has not redefined security dynamics in the Middle East but it has cemented political trends. This process will have long-term impacts on how the states of the Middle East view themselves, each other and the exogenous world around them. This chapter looks specifically at several interlinked thematics that moor unfolding trends to the COVID-19 experience. It identifies some of the more pronounced transitions that the pandemic has accelerated and will anticipate the who, what, where, when and why of the next round of regional crises so that policy makers may be better prepared for post-COVID-19 turbulence.
Mitchell Belfer
Chapter 7. The Securitization of the Coronavirus in Asian Countries: A Paradox of National Security and Human Security During the COVID-19 Crisis
Shortly after the announcement of China's COVID-19 "case zero," several countries in Asia used their state's security mechanisms to combat the novel virus in order to protect their citizens as well as safeguard overall national security. Asian countries have claimed that the securitization of their respective COVID-19 crises was a success by pointing out that they have encountered only a tiny fraction of the number of reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths compared to many countries in the West. At the same time, by promulgating very stringent emergency measures, these actions have adversely affected their citizens' human security especially in the areas of politics and economics. The following chapter examines the impact of the securitization of the new Coronavirus in the wake of the national emergency measures, which also created a negative impact on the overall human security of citizens living in Asia. The chapter draws lessons from the Chinese government’s management of the epidemic to other countries in the region and contextualizes these issues within the greater Asian theater.
Sipim Sornbanlang
Chapter 8. Europe and the New World Order
The strategic posture of the European Union (EU) has rarely been as fragmented as at present, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Arguing that the health systems are primarily a national prerogative, the EU has lost considerable legitimacy and any executive leverage it possessed, both in the community and intergovernmental fields. It has been weakened with the Brexit-saga and internal divisions about the conservative stance of Central/Eastern members of the Union, not to mention divisions on immigration policy. It has been confused by Macron’s political and military bilateral promises to Germany. It suffers from the challenges of Germany’s economy and Chancellor. And to top it off, by taking a moralizing and confrontational stance towards the U.S. President Trump, several Western European leaders alienated their main ally and supporter. The ‘rift’ in US–EU relations has weakened the Washington Consensus and the international multilateral system. This has, at the same time, created mixed signals to Russia, with the consequence of exacerbating Putin’s hybrid conflicts and influence. Europe’s weakness and lack of direction poses not only questions, but challenges. A strategic void in Europe will naturally be filled. This chapter will examine how the COVID pandemic has affected the geopolitics and the balance of powers.
Alexandre Vautravers
Chapter 9. The Social Contract and Civil Unrest: The Tenuous Balance Between Freedom and Security
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as an impetus for change in how people and governments both exist and co-exist in the “New Normal.” Civil unrest marked by protests and, in some cases rioting, has been fueled by factors other than COVID-19. These factors are racial discrimination, economic downturn and stagnation, and political oppression. As this chapter will show, each of the four can be linked as a causal variable to the other. Particular attention has been paid to the impact of COVID-19 on the tenets of Social Contract Theory and how the balance of personal freedom and security on the part of the citizen requires change during the time of crisis. This discussion will be framed using recent events in the United States in a case study manner to primarily illustrate COVID-19 influenced protests, but also correlated protests pertaining to racial unrest. The chapter also addresses how other governmental systems have used the pandemic as a mechanism to further their own agendas. It concludes with a discussion of policing and calls for change in the law enforcement mission as they are the most visible and recognizable members of the bureaucratic state.
George E. Richards
Chapter 10. The Impact of COVID-19 on the Landscape of Terrorism
Since early 2020, observers of international security have widely speculated about the likely impact of COVID-19 on the landscape of terrorism and countering violent extremism. Across both the public and private sector, key debates have centered on six main areas. First, radicalization. From a top-down perspective, how might terrorist organizations use the global pandemic to recruit new followers? At the grass roots level, could frustration against nationwide lockdowns and resentment about economic devastation increase the desire amongst the general population to engage in extremist ideology? Second, direct attacks. To what extent has the global pandemic impacted the ability of terrorists to conduct operations? Third, bioterrorism. Perhaps the most significant question considered by analysts is whether the Coronavirus will result in a paradigm shift in modus operandi from conventional weapons to biological agents. Fourth, counterterrorism. Due to the unprecedented level of state resources needed to tackle the global pandemic, there is a natural assumption that terrorism has significantly declined in relative importance. In the penultimate section of the chapter, we seek to understand how the global pandemic has and will continue to impact counterterrorism in the short, medium, and long term. To conclude, we will consider the future of terrorism, counterterrorism and extremism post-COVID. Will dramatic budget cuts and a retreat of western forces from wars such as in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan result in a resurgence of Islamist terrorism?
Lewis Herrington
Chapter 11. Organized Crime During and After the Pandemic
Organized criminal networks are known for their adaptability and the rapidity with which they exploit opportunities. The introduction of quarantine measures has impacted licit and illicit businesses alike, and restrictions of movement have prompted a doubling of efforts into cybercrime, fraud and counterfeiting whilst many forms of physical crime have momentarily slowed down. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities for both organized criminal organizations and less sophisticated gangs in countries as diverse as, for instance, Brazil, Italy, Japan and South Africa to impose or expand their informal control and governance systems in the affected areas by distributing supplies and helping local communities during lockdowns. That ‘help’ comes with strings attached. In the post-pandemic period, it is reasonable to expect that criminals will take advantage of, among others, the expected economic downturn, growing unemployment levels, new opportunities for smuggling economic migrants, and changes in consumer demands and practices. At the same time, other forms of trafficking that are currently impaired by the pandemic are likely to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. This chapter assesses how COVID-19 has changed the way of doing illicit business and looks at how permanent those changes are likely to be in the coming years, before concluding with reflections on how law enforcement itself has and must contend with the changing criminal landscape.
Virginia Comolli
Chapter 12. Health Intelligence Systems and Security
The COVID-19 crisis exposed critical gaps in how information systems are managed by different agencies and how results are communicated to decision makers and to the public. Information systems managed by government institutions in high income countries like the United Kingdom collect detailed, individual level data directly from health providers, and typically have legal provisions that permit them to utilize the data flexibly to advise governments. However, such publicly collected data are often (a) obtained on an ad hoc basis with inconsistencies across different aspects of health, (b) processed manually and (c) reported in multiple overlapping ways by different agencies to government and the public with substantial delays and inaccuracies. This leaves countries vulnerable both to under-informed decision making and poor democratic oversight by the public. This issue has likely been made worse by the need for very rapid decision making by governments under significant pressure. Although many technical solutions to these data limitations exist, they remain within systems of publicly provided services that are incentivized to protect and replicate pre-existing processes and are sometimes directed by medical professionals rather than data science experts. This pattern of data assembly and analysis will almost inevitably compromise the scientific integrity and timeliness of the evidence presented to decision makers and the public. However, in characterizing these patterns it may be possible to consider more efficient health intelligence systems alternatives. This chapter will explore these issues by looking at health data agencies in the UK and will discuss mortuary planning in London during COVID-19 as a case-study to illustrate them. Although drawing on UK examples, the purpose of this chapter is to demonstrate the impact of technical aspects of health data on the transparency and accountability of governments in general.
Oliver Geffen Obregon
Chapter 13. Brave New World
The concluding chapter summarizes the major security trends developed in the book, highlighting the rise of violent non-state actors throughout the COVID epidemic and the failure of governments to cooperate regionally and internationally. In a note of optimism, the chapter looks towards the rise of citizen activism and an aware generation of future leaders who can learn from this crisis and begin rebuilding a more accountable world system.
Caroline Varin
Global Security in Times of Covid-19
Caroline Varin
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