9.5.3 Implementing Security Reforms

Implementing security reforms would require current world leaders to agree, which will only be possible if that makes political sense to them.

As described above (9.5.2), some powers need to be stripped from the Permanent Five (P5) members of the UN Security Council: America, Britain, China, France and Russia.  They would all need to agree to that.  There are several arguments that might convince them to move from confrontation to collaboration:

●  When the Ukraine crisis is finally resolved, it is almost certain that no-one will have achieved their aims:

Ukraine has moved its focus to defence, having failed to inflict a decisive blow against the Russian invasion.  America, Britain and France have all been supporting Ukraine, which has been very costly.

Russia will have failed to conquer Ukraine.  It has lost hundreds of thousands of its soldiers and much of its weaponry.  And NATO has expanded as a direct result of Russian aggression.

●  Israel’s attempt to eliminate Hamas in Gaza is beginning to destabilise the wider region:

As reported by Reuters in January 2024, commenting on American and British air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen, “Iran-backed groups have increased attacks on U.S. targets in several countries since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and precipitating the war in Gaza, which has so far killed more than 23,000.”

●  Britain and America can see that military action in Afghanistan and Iraq was disastrous (

Despite these strong arguments for implementing security reforms, there are several political impediments to be overcome and it would take real leadership from the P5 to bring about these changes:

●  P5 leaders would need to persuade their populations that collaborative action is preferable to self-protection. This might be difficult – especially in America where it would be argued that the US Constitution and Congress must be supreme.  Leaders would face internal resistance from nationalist sentiments (6.6.4).

●  Those leaders would need to convince themselves as individuals. Bearing in mind that a love of power is one of the factors that is likely to have propelled them into politics as a career choice, they may have difficulty in accepting the need to give it away.  But it is only the illusion of power that they are ceding.  Their role in representing their countries in multilevel governance is more effective and more important than strutting on a smaller stage – and they would get the opportunity to appear statesmanlike rather than looking like turkey cocks.

●  There is a lack of shared values among Security Council members. For example, the Principles of China’s Foreign Policy (as published by Columbia University) advocate a less intrusive role for the UN:

“China says its decisions on foreign policy questions derive from the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.”

●  Western concerns about human rights are contentious. Western countries have seen fit to lecture Russia and China on the subject and this has soured relations in the Security Council.  It would perhaps be best to start from the Chinese principles, and work gradually towards a more mature policy on human rights over time.

●  Countries with nuclear weapons need a new treaty, ideally with incentives towards disarmament for some of them. This would be much less risky than the present tendency towards nuclear proliferation (7.4.2), but it would fall short of complete nuclear disarmament – at least for the foreseeable future.

Overall, there would be popular support for UN reform, as described next (9.5.4), which might motivate P5 leaders.



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/953a.htm.