Skip to main content

Cooperative Security

Back to All Publications

The concept of cooperative security arose in the United States during the later stages of the cold war period as it became apparent that the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev was not as inclined to imperial aggression as had been earlier assumed. Although Soviet forces in East Central Europe were evidently configured to attempt to occupy Western Europe in the event of war, it was conceded that such a posture could reflect an underlying intention not to initiate war, but simply to defend Soviet territory in a manner informed by the experience of World War II (1939–1945). If so, then it might be possible to stabilize the situation by negotiating measures designed to prevent surprise attack. These were officially termed confidence-building measures, but the phrase cooperative security was used as an expression of the underlying principle, namely, that each side would cede the legitimacy of territorial defense and would cooperate to impose restraint on offensive operations.

This article was published in the International Encyclopedia of Political Science, by CQ Press, A Division of SAGE. For information about the encyclopedia, see