Analysis | An urgent endeavor for South Africa's national security strategy in a volatile world

Analysis | An urgent endeavor for South Africa’s national security strategy in a volatile world

Sylvester Sithole He asks if there is some degree of clarity and synergy between the framework of the national interests of the United States and Russia and the Straits of National Security, what would prevent the SA from doing the same.

All countries have national interests. All national interests of any country must be supported by a clear and solid national security strategy.

South Africa swims in a suite of National Security Strategies (NSS) that serve the specific national interests of individual states.

Curiously, the framework of South African national interests seeks sovereign African states integrated into the global economy, capable of meeting the needs of its citizens, and capable of managing threats to peace and security. This is, of course, easier said than done. But if this South African approach is linked to China’s clear expression of “core interests” that include state sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity, national reunification, basic guarantees for ensuring sustainable economic and social development, and the Chinese political system established by the Constitution and the general social community. stability.

In fact, maintaining a stable political system and placing government as the main priority of the ruling elites.

Go further. China’s NSS strives to safeguard China’s national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security, safeguard China’s maritime rights and interests, as well as safeguard China’s security interests in outer space, electromagnetic space and cyberspace, and safeguard China’s foreign interests.

Balanced set of interests

Not surprisingly, Russia also has a national interest and national security doctrine. The matrix of Russia’s national interests includes a common and balanced set of interests, including the individual, society and the state in economic, domestic, political, social, international, informational, military, border and environmental security.

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It is interesting how society and the state are seen as pivotal players in ensuring Russia’s national interest. The current NSS is founded on the inseparable interdependence and interdependence of the national security of the Russian Federation and the socio-economic development of the country.

But doctrines of national interest and security strategies often have an external approach and are expressed in relation to other states. The United States, for example, developed the Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) in South Africa. It clearly states:

As a diverse and open democracy determined to live up to its founding values ​​and play a constructive role in its neighborhood and in the world, South Africa can play an important role in achieving the top national security priorities of the Biden-Harris administration: protecting the security of the American people; to expand economic prosperity and opportunity; Realizing and defending democratic values.

This opening to ICS on South Africa by the Biden administration clearly shows that the United States has taken a strategy for our country that serves the national interests of the United States. They are placing a burden on South Africans to pursue their national interests.

With the foregoing, the key point is that the framework of national interests is, or should be, a broad policy whose most recent feature lies in its translation into a measurable national security strategy that contains domestic, regional, continental, and international objectives that can be monitored, evaluated, and above all acted upon. and implemented.

The “Symposium on Framework for Action on South Africa’s National Interest and Progress in a Global Environment” delivered by Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on 1 August 2022, at DIRCO Convention Centre, Pretoria, is correct. A rapid review of the security strategy is needed to effectively address complex and protracted domestic and international challenges.

The question is whether this has been done or whether the chronic problem of the gap between stated policy and actual implementation is again frustrating.

South Africa’s national interest is defined as the protection and promotion of its national sovereignty and constitutional order, the well-being, safety and prosperity of its citizens, and a better Africa and world.

Implementation crisis

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with our doctrine of the national interest. It is very much in line with those of the other powers. The real problem in South Africa may be the implementation crisis, and the government not taking such an important document seriously. Allowing a dangerous gap to develop between stated policy, rhetoric and implementation.

The national interest of the United States is defined as matters of vital importance to the United States to include national security, public safety, national economic security, the safe and reliable operation of “critical infrastructure” and the availability of “key resources”. The roots of the American NSS lie in protecting the security of the American people, expanding economic prosperity and opportunity, and recognizing and defending the democratic values ​​at the heart of the American way of life.

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The NSS for the United States includes clear measurable goals such as Adding 10 million jobs and reducing the unemployment rate to almost its lowest level. Bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Ensure historical investments in innovation to sharpen competitive advantage for the future. Enhance America’s global competitiveness by attracting “Dreamers and Strugglers” from around the world.

Crucially, the NSS maps out for the United States the future they seek in clear terms, and provides a roadmap for how to achieve it. NSS in Russia lays the transition to a new technological basis. Making the development of science and technology crucial to increasing competitiveness and a key criterion for ensuring national security.

If there is some degree of clarity and synergy between the framework of national interests of the United States and Russia and the NSS, what is to prevent the SA from doing the same? Instead of playing a clever game of strategic ambiguity, vitriol thrives on and abandons decades of Cold War hand-offs that pervert our national interests and international relations in general.

Clinging to the past

Instead of strategically pushing for a much-needed multipolar and multilateral world, our actions and words, in stark contrast to the policy stated on paper, sometimes reinforce the exact opposite. This clinging to political nostalgia seriously complicates not only the SA’s position in the multipolar world order, but its immediate and complex diplomatic and international relations.

Then there is the very serious matter of poor discipline in a ruling party dangerously fractured that is nearing the brink. Poor discipline, driven by factionalism and infighting, is arguably the main cause of South Africa’s decline. In China, by contrast, the party is the epicenter of society politically, socially, and economically.

In its national security strategy, China is concerned that the West will ideologically infiltrate the Chinese Communist Party to hinder its rise and incite the downfall of the regime. In order to protect against this, national security has become a fuss under President Xi Jinping.

While african leaders are hung on ideology and doctrine From the past, countries like China continue to integrate into their political culture and structures, the history of Chinese leadership styles, and build on loyalty to their regime, thus protecting their national interests.

This is by no means for South Africa to model itself on China. Instead, it is about learning serious lessons, and urgently, from other countries about how they deal with threats to nations and the lives of their people.

Dr. Sylvester Sithole is the Head of the Foresight and Strategic Studies Unit (FORSSU), at the Center for African Diplomacy and Leadership (CADL).

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