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April 8, 2016

Responding To: Managing Security for a New World

Relationships and Security: Meeting New Challenges and Solving Old Problems

Ashley Arostegui

As the landscape of power in the world shifts to allow greater diffusion, the security relationships that Secretary Hagel points to are incredibly important. Working with partners is inherently difficult. Consensus building and goal setting take time—a commodity generally in short supply. Multilateral problem solving is perhaps an unpopular concept, and compromise often a dirty word, but the challenges we face today are not isolated to a particular nation or even region.

As an example, the Internet of Things is quickly changing our relationship to the objects around us. Our computers and phones aren’t the only things connected to the internet anymore. Instead, our thermostats, our cars, and the items around us are increasingly networked and automated, collecting and sharing data as they make our lives more convenient. The security implications around this are immense, and with benefits come concerns. What data exists where? How can we strengthen authentication and protect privacy? What happens when a system is compromised, and how might it be exploited? Ensuring safety and privacy in the face of overwhelmingly rapid shifts in technology isn’t the job of any one company or government, but a common interest that takes real partnership.

Those same relationships can do more than address new threats; they can also foster cooperation around old problems that have been too long neglected. The recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict illustrates the issue with frozen conflicts: They eventually unfreeze. The Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has so far failed to produce an agreement, to be fair. But tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan aren’t going to be solved with a stern talking-to or even a unilateral intervention, nor would a withdrawal of the international community accelerate things. Outright war between the two countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s created a refugee crisis and killed tens of thousands. If that happened again, would the region and its neighbors be able to handle it?

Sustainable global security depends on resolutions to conflicts like these, and strong relationships and partnerships provide the key. Increasing diplomatic engagement and working with others will help meet these challenges—both the new and the old.

Ashley Arostegui is a MSFS candidate at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service.

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