How to Prevent a New Cold War

High-Level Expert Group Meeting

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Berlin, Germany

Chaired by Jean Chrétien


The global landscape is changing. The traditional post Cold War concepts of “East” and “West” are no longer appropriate in today’s more complex world. There has been a renewed recognition of the need for multilateralism and inclusion as a means of addressing the current challenges to peace and security.

In order to discuss these issues and develop a set of recommendations for world leaders, the InterAction Council convened a High-level Expert Group Meeting on “How to Prevent a New Cold War” in Berlin, Germany on 6 May 2009.

Two decades after the end of the Cold War, antiquated perceptions of East and West as adversaries still persist as a legacy from that era. This has led to a polarised society, preventing true international cooperation. There has been a perception of the United States as the sole superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The international unease about the unilateral elements of the foreign policy of the United States and the current financial crisis demand a new cooperative approach. In response a new multilateral era has dawned and the recognition of this will require the emergence of a new international architecture.

The new administration of the United States has made a welcomed commitment to moving towards a multilateral foreign policy. In addition President Obama has signalled an intention to reopen the discussion on a world without nuclear weapons. Similarly, China is moving from the developing world to a co-operator with the developed world. Meanwhile, Russia’s absence from a meaningful security system is a salient security problem for Europe.

The answer to the current financial crisis lies in a multilateral approach through the involvement of all stakeholders. Furthermore, the transformation of economic power in Asia has not been reflected in voting rights in institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This process can be initiated by moving away from European and US dominance of these institutions. In order to address the current economic imbalances, surplus countries, such as China and Japan, should try to increase domestic consumption and reduce its reliance on exports. The US should address its fiscal and current account deficits.

The optimum means of securing global peace, security and prosperity is to adopt a rules-based approach. Those rules must be ones that states have an individual interest in enforcing and complying with, even if compliance is not an immediate national interest. A rules-based approach requires the capacity to enforce those rules, which will require the cooperation of all states. Such multilateral approaches are pertinent to addressing issues, such as nuclear proliferation, global disarmament, financial stability and security concerns.

It is crucial to prevent nuclear proliferation and keep nuclear weapons from spreading further. The framework of the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was designed to prevent an escalation of nuclear powers. There remain huge challenges in the disarmament and non-proliferation process. In this sense it is necessary to reassure states that nuclear weapons are not necessary for security or an elevated status in the international community.

New frontiers are emerging in space and cyberspace. There is a great fear of a new “star wars” developing. Modern, urban societies depend greatly on technological and economical infrastructures. These are deeply vulnerable to sophisticated cyber attacks. We may be entering a new age of warfare.

The role of small arms in modern conflict should not be underestimated. Currently they are being deployed in several ongoing conflicts around the world with devastating consequences. Millions of people have lost their lives through the trade and use of small arms. If this goes unchecked, the lives of millions more will be at risk.


Overarching principles:

1.      A move towards multilateralism is imperative. In this regard, the new US administration’s support for a multilateral foreign policy should be welcomed.

2.      There must be an appropriate sharing of burdens to provide the capacity to meet this multilateral approach.

3.      We need to move away from Cold War concepts of East and West and work towards changing the perception of China and Russia as adversaries.

4.      Russia and NATO should refrain from heedless and provocative military acts reflective of old Cold War behaviour, such as Russia’s bombing training exercises near NATO borders and NATO’s military exercises in Georgia.

5.      Any solution to global differences should be addressed through inclusion rather than isolation. In particular, in respect of issues facing North Korea, Iran, Ukraine and the Arctic region.

6.      A return to and re-enforcement of a rules-based system are necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

7.      Such rules should reflect the interests of states and, in this regard, states should be treated as subjects and not as objects.

8.      International institutions require reform to reflect the changed power structures.

  • These overarching principles should be applied to the following imminent issues:

Multilateral approaches to solve current disputes:

  • The Council should endorse current initiatives to bring peace into troubled regions:

9.      The peaceful resolution of the North Korean issue is a concern to everyone in the region and can only be achieved by a multilateral approach. Therefore, the six power talks on North Korea should be resumed.

10.   President Medvedev’s initiative for a new security framework for Europe should be taken into consideration with particular regard to a new set of understandings between Russia and its neighbouring states.

11.   In particular, it is recommended that the European Union work with Russia and Ukraine to cooperatively resolve the disputes over security and energy.

12.   King Abdullah’s peace initiative in the Middle East in order to normalise Arab-Israeli relations and provide justice to the Palestinian people should be welcomed.

Nuclear disarmament:

13.   The Council should endorse the initiatives suggested by George P. Schultz, William J. Perry, Henry A. Kissinger and Sam Nunn:

  • Changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time and thereby reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon.
  • Continuing to reduce substantially the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them.
  • Eliminating short-range nuclear weapons designed to be forward-deployed.
  • Providing highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium, and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world.
  • Getting control of the uranium enrichment process, combined with the guarantee that uranium for nuclear power reactors could be obtained at a reasonable price, first from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and then from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or other controlled international reserves. It will also be necessary to deal with proliferation issues presented by spent fuel from reactors producing electricity.
  • Halting the production of fissile material for weapons globally; phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and rendering the materials safe.
  • Redoubling efforts to resolve regional confrontations and conflicts that give rise to new nuclear powers.

14.   The United States and Russia should take the lead in the nuclear disarmament process, which should be extended to a tripartite endeavour including China.

15.   All nuclear powers should be subject to the NPT and IAEA regimes, this must encompass all of the world’s nuclear states, including undeclared nuclear powers like Israel.

16.   The nuclear-weapon states should keep their promise under Article VI of the NPT to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

17.   Processes to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty should be initiated, taking advantage of recent technical advances, to secure ratification by key states.

18.   A new treaty should be concluded on no first use of nuclear weapons. In particular, it must include the US and the UK that have yet to make such a declaration.

Small arms and new frontiers:

19.   The production and trade in small arms should be strictly controlled in recognition of their prevalence in modern conflict.

20.   The progress towards an effective and global Arms Trade Treaty needs to be accelerated. It is necessary to include a “Golden Rule”, which would prevent international transfers of arms or ammunition where there is substantial risk of the arms being used to facilitate serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, into the treaty.

21.   The emergence of threats against the technological and economical infrastructures of the developed and urban world creates a need for the recognition of such threats and an effective defence of these systems.

22.   Negotiations should be opened on the demilitarisation of space with the objective that outer space should be used for peaceful purposes.