contest winners (2023)

Ángel Riloba de Pablo

Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

International Studies

Ángel Riloba de Pablo is 18 years old and born and raised in Madrid, Spain. Currently he is studying a bachelor’s in International Studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. For as long as he can remember, he has always had an interest in learning about the international sphere, particularly geopolitics. As a result, he enjoys greatly the opportunity to participate in the Defensa y Yo 3.0 program.

Democracy and Deterrance

Decadence of defence culture

At the turn of the 21st Century, the global geopolitical chessboard could  be gazed upon with a greater sense of optimism than at any other time during the entirety of the Contemporary Age. The latest absence of major wars such  as those seen during the first half of the former Century combined with the  recent collapse of the USSR and the establishment of a democracy such as the  USA as the global superpower, appeared to signal an unprecedented period  of peace and prosperity for humanity as a whole. Furthermore, the grand  alliances formed during the convoluted and dangerous past decades either  dissolved or stood greatly diminished in power, since the perpetual fear of  another massive war that used to keep them fully-fledged had been substituted  by a new naïve optimism that seemed to overlook them as unnecessary. 

That was the case of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, a defensive military and political alliance between the democracies of North  America and Europe born from the ratification of the Washington Treaty after  the Second World War; a conflict which had left the European continent  devastated and susceptible of further Soviet encroachment. Nevertheless, with  the Eastern menace dissipated, the newly established Russian Federation  cooperating economically with its past rivals and most European nations  having transitioned into a democracy and merged into unified political and  economic units such as the European Union; a large military conflict in Europe 

was, understandably, rendered as remote; and with that realization came the  relaxation of military spending and a new scenario in which NATO and the  European “defensive culture” stood as a shadow of their former selves, acting  mainly in local peacekeeping missions in the freshly destabilized Balkan  region.

Destruction of the illusion: Russian aggression and the Chinese concern

The general mantra that, boosted by optimism, stated a direct conflict  between developed, globalized and economically tied countries was impossible took a direct hit with the Russian seizing of the Ukrainian Crimea in  2014. Even after an illegal annexation proper of the geopolitical playbook from  the years previous to the Second World War, and blinded by innocent optimism, most of the members of NATO responded only with “superficial” economic sanctions on the Russian aggressor; even more illustrative of this lack  of commitment with the defence of the peaceful international order was the  official Strategic Concept of NATO at the time, which was overly faithful and  rather idealistic in the status of Russia as a nation with whom to cooperate and  stablish links with the idea of reinforcing global security trough the  aforementioned “formula for peace”.  

The West’s weak response served as a steppingstone for Russia’s  aggressive foreign policy, which saw extremely effective results for a  moderated cost and, being therefore encouraged to continue. Fast-forward to  2022, when the geopolitical aspirations of an increasingly authoritarian Russian  Federation climaxed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine; however, this time  NATO’s response was much more decisive in condemning unprovoked  aggressions such as those of Russia and continues to be of paramount importance for Ukrainian and global interests. 

Still, the question remains as if of a similar response had been given to  the Russian annexation of Crimea, the future attack on the entirety of Ukraine  could have been avoided. 

On another theatre of operations, and in a parallel manner, the rise of  the People’s Republic of China and NATO’s response to it can be equally  analysed. In the early 2000s China was building its future status as a crucial gear  within the global economy, the Western democracies prioritized economic  growth to security and, in the same unsophisticated fashion, interlinked  themselves closely with China ignoring the security concerns such a  relationship with an authoritarian State could potentially have. The first sign of  Chinese aggression then occurred; that was the Chinese unlawful and  progressive integration of Hong Kong that started in 2019. With the  inadequate response of the international community, a similar development to  that of Ukraine can therefore be expected in Taiwan.

Future of democracies at stake: need for deterrance

Truthfully, the path of aggression lies evident, an initial passive stance  towards hostile policies is almost certainly always followed by a greater  belligerence. Yet, that does not justify direct intervention by defensive alliances  such as NATO, on the contrary, the strength of NATO must not lie on a  preventive strike but rather on a solid deterrence that protects democracies  from an attack in the first place as stated in the Atlantic Alliance new Strategic  Concept. In conclusion, if the international order that has allowed for such an  amount of progress and peace is to be protected, the importance of  democratic alliances such as NATO is and must remain utmost.