Centre for International Security

Research

Grand Strategy

We define grand strategy as an organising principle that is consciously held and used by decision-makers to guide foreign policy. It represents the highest level of long-term political, diplomatic, military and economic statecraft and sets the parameters for day-to-day policies and responses to crises and contingencies. It clarifies which threats and challenges should receive the most resources, which allies and international institutions are most reliable, which battles one might and perhaps should fight, and which ones to avoid at all costs.

Our research at the Centre for International Security focuses, in particular, on the various grand strategic postures Europe (and Germany) can adopt in an era shaped by increased great power competition and a weakening of long-standing alliances. What are Europe’s grand strategic options in response to a potential U.S. retrenchment if not withdrawal from the European continent? To an ever-intensifying confrontation with Russia? To looming tensions in the Asia Pacific between the United States and China? To the ever-deepening chaos in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the constant threat of terrorism? In short, what should be the key interests and objectives that Europe focuses on in international politics in the near future? What force structures and defence budgets are required to meet these aims and what institutional umbrellas would be ideal to englobe these efforts?

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Nuclear Policy

Nuclear weapons have made an unlikely return to the top of the agenda of world politics. Most major nuclear powers have recently begun to invest in new capabilities or to modernise their arsenals. At the same time, attempts to curb nuclear proliferation have had at best a limited effect. With old rules eroding and new challenges emerging, a new or “second” nuclear age, marked by more actors and likely less stability, is taking shape. Europe is particularly affected by these developments as the demise of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty exemplifies. 

Our research at the Centre for International Security centres on developing a European perspective on ongoing scholarly debates in the nuclear field. At present, most research views these topics through a U.S. lens. We are particularly interested in the following questions: Under what kind of circumstances is nuclear escalation (advertent or inadvertent) in the Euro-Atlantic theatre a realistic possibility? Do NATO’s nuclear sharing arrangements and its deterrence posture need an update? What is the relationship between assurance and deterrence measures in heterogeneous alliances? Which internal fault lines exist in NATO member states with respect to nuclear weapons? What role can Europe play in safeguarding existing nuclear arms control agreements or devising new ones?

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States and Non-State Actors

Although states are the principal actors of world politics, they are not the only ones. Indeed, recent events such as the Arab spring, the rise of ISIS, or the ongoing migration crisis all illustrate that many contemporary challenges in international security also involve non-state actors.

Research at the Centre for International Security studies such non-state actors at various layers and in different context. We are particularly interested in ethnic power relations, the link between migration and political violence, as well as the role of state policies and responses towards such actors. Ongoing research, among others, examines the following questions: How should multi-ethnic states be governed in order to prevent violent uprisings or civil war? How should power-sharing arrangements be designed to keep peace? Is decentralisation an effective means of placating demands for self-rule and the threat of secessionist violence? What drives the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean that has cost the lives of tens of thousands at Europe’s doorsteps? Are refugees a Trojan horse for transnational terrorist attacks?

Selected publications

Power-sharing: Institutions, Behavior, and Peace (Julian Wucherpfennig with Nils-Christian Bormann, Lars-Erik Cederman, Scott Gates, Benjamin A.T. Graham, Simon Hug and Kaare Strom), American Journal of Political Science (2019)

International Conventions and Non-State Actors: Selection, Signaling and Reputation Effects (Julian Wucherpfennig with Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Simon Hug and Livia I. Schubiger), Journal of Conflict Resolution (2018), 346–380

The Diffusion of Inclusion: An Open-Polity Model of Ethnic Powersharing (Julian Wucherpfennig with Lars-Erik Cederman and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch), Comparative Political Studies (2017), 1279–1313

Predicting the Decline of Ethnic Conflict: Was Gurr Right and For the Right Reasons? (Julian Wucherpfennig with Lars-Erik Cederman and Kristian Skrede Gleditsch), Journal of Peace Research (2017), 262–274

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Digital Technology and Security

Developments in the realm of digital technology have permeated contentious political processes in profound ways. From Ukraine to Hong Kong, digital communication technology has amplified grievances and helped citizens mobilise against repressive rulers. At the same time, governments across the world are steadily expanding their arsenal of technological tools to surveil, manipulate, and censor information and promote social control. At the international level, cyber espionage, foreign election interference, and network based attacks are becoming increasingly ubiquitous.   

At the Centre for International Security we study the interplay between digital technology and topics related to conflict and security. We specialise in questions pertaining to state behaviour in the digital sphere, taking into account the strategic advantage state forces have in controlling critical infrastructure. Research questions include: How does Internet access influence the dynamics of political violence? How do repressive states manipulate digital technology as part of their broader efforts at controlling their domestic population? What does strategic use of social media look like in the context of armed conflict? How do governments use social media platforms, in particular when faced with increasing domestic opposition?

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