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Guest lecture on Deterrence in the era of Great Power Competition

During the guest lecture on 9 February, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Rob de Wijk and Frans Osinga discussed the situation in Ukraine and Taiwan. The crises in eastern Ukraine and the increasing tensions around Taiwan highlight the challenges the West faces in deterring aggression in the new era of key dynamics of deterrence strategy.

 In this guest lecture they analysed the current complex politics of deterrence and discussed the consequences for security and defence policy in Europe. The guest lecture was titled 'Deterrence in the era of Great Power Competition' and was viewed by 600 people.


To make sure that everyone was on the same page, all three professors began with explaining what deterrence was and how they interpreted it. Frans Osinga, Special Chair holder in War Studies, explained that deterrence relies on the value of resistance and the value of compliance. According to him: 'Deterrence is the power to dissuade as opposed to the power to compel'. 

'Deterrence is the power to dissuade as opposed to the power to compel'
Frans Osinga

Professor Osinga also mentioned that there are some conditions favoring success in deterrence. Alongside others he suggested good communication, timely warnings and clarity of the demands and objectives and good military and economical capabilities. He also explained what the current discussions inside NATO are about. All three professors agreed that NATO should strenghten its political side in order to tackle these problems. 

Emeritus professor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave insights from a more practical point of view inside the deterrence on Ukraine. He mentioned the two track approach, which on the one hand holds a classical track and on the other hand a team NATO way. He concluded that the second track is therefore not in line with the first track, which can have big consequences. In addition, he mentioned that 'the EU is a soft power union in a hard power environment'. 

'The EU is a soft power union in a hard power environment'
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Rob de Wijk also spoke about how this is a NATO problem since Putin directly contacted NATO. A European security council could be a good idea, but he mentioned that they stay out of the problem for as long as possible, since NATO is the one addressed directly. In addition he thinks that in order to achieve our goals here, it is necessary to think out of the box. 

'In order to achieve our goals here, it is necessary to think out of the box'
Rob de Wijk

At the end of the college there was room for questions, which focused mostly on security governance. Professor Osinga mentioned once more that there should be a rearrangment of the governance of security and that we should invest in more knowledge about hybrid warfares. 

Another question was whether the concept of deterrence is based on Western values. According to professor Osinga, since Russia and China do not have a word for it, you could say that it is based on Western values. He also mentioned that in the Russian language, compalance and deterrence are conceptualized in the same word. For us these are different things since compalance means the status quo and deterrence is a way to change that status quo. 

Watch the event on youtube



Rob de Wijk

Rob de Wijk is Professor of International Relations at Leiden University. Besides that, he is also chairman of the National Security Think Tank (Denktank Nationale Veiligheid) and columnist for the national daily newspaper Trouw and monthly for Energiepodium.nl.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is Professor Emeritus of International Relations and Diplomatic Practice (2009 - 2014). He graduated with an LL.M. degree at Leiden University in 1974. On 1 September 2009 De Hoop Scheffer was appointed to the Pieter Kooijmans Chair for Peace, Law and Security at Leiden University. De Hoop Scheffer focused on issues in the area of peace, law and security and also lectures in the field of international politics and the practice of diplomacy. In 2014 De Hoop Scheffer went into retirement.

Frans Osinga

Professor Dr. Frans Osinga holds the Special Chair in War Studies, which is sponsored by the KVBK (the Royal Society for war Studies) at ISGA of Leiden University since January 1st 2019.

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