Meeting the needs of microstate security

Date: 2002
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This article examines the pressing security concerns of microstates, particularly against the backdrop of recurring themes of vulnerability in the literature. It reviews those arguments in the early years of decolonization which expressed scepticism about the prospects for independence in such very small dependencies given their lack of defensive capacity and the geopolitical risks which they face in a potentially dangerous external milieu. The article argues that these doubts and concerns have not been realised in the actual experience of microstates particularly in terms of conventional threats from larger predatory states. It describes the few exceptions, Kuwait and Grenada, and the more likely problem of contested decolonization in very small dependencies such as East Timor which were subject to irredentist claims. The article reviews the more recent broad interpretation of security dilemmas facing microstates such as drug running, money laundering and even environmental hazards. It then reviews the actual security strategies of microstates and concludes that most have very small security forces or none at all. The central conclusion of the article is that microstates rely on international norms and particularly the principle of extantism which invests sanctity for the territorial integrity and independence of even the smallest members of the international system.

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