Tackling “threat convergence”

With ‘threat convergence’ I refer to the phenomenon that external and internal threats to states converge, and become increasingly identical.

Treat conv 2, png

This figure shows phase II of the convergence of external and internal threats, states are confronted with.

The process of threat convergence is closely related to the empowerment of individuals and communities, and to the fragmentation of states. Empowerment and fragmentation lead to convergence, while convergence contributes to further fragmentation.

Until 1991 – the year the Soviet Union collapsed and chaotic non-systemic war dynamics resumed – the state was the dominant actor in the global System; wars (mostly) was only a matter of states.

Frag 1, png

Until circa 1991 states – and their armies – were the dominant actors in wars.


From 1991 onwards, wars increasingly involved ‘populations’, communities and individuals.

Frag 2, png

Starting around 1991, the type and number of actors multiplied.


The process of empowerment and fragmentation co-evolved with a ‘parallel’ process of threat convergence.

Until 1991, it was possible to identify two distinct types of threats to states – external and internal threats. External threats used to be large scale, high intensity, and organised (by states and through armies); internal threats were small scale, low intensity, and unorganised.

The state addressed the two types of threats with two distinct types of defence’ systems’ (methods and capabilities): armies addressed armies (external threats), and police forces addressed internal threats.

Treat conv 1, png

Phase I: Two distinct types of threats – and accompanying defence systems of states – can be distinguished until circa 1991.


Since 1991, these threats increasingly converge: External threats now include ‘local’ communities and individuals (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, etc.) armies must also confront. Armies are forced to ‘scale down’. At the same time internal threats also evolve: police units are forced to ‘scale-up’ and to operate as military units.

The (lack of) interface between both defence ‘systems’ is a weak point that can be exploited.Treat conv 2, png

Phase II: Threats converge, and defence systems must ‘follow’, to ensure effectiveness.


It is now possible – and has become ‘common’ practice – for non-state-actors, to attack other states through ‘cross-border’ and ‘long-distance’ attacks, by (also) exploiting the Internet and global mobility. In some cases, attackers are sent from abroad, in other cases, attackers are locally recruited and remotely-controlled.

Threats are mixed-up, and adequate responses by states are problematic.

Presently, we are in a transformation phase (phase II): Threats are not completely converged, and ‘defence systems’ of states struggle to keep pace with evolving threats. Constant adaptation of methods, capabilities and organisational structures, etc. is required to ensure effectiveness.

New threats, require new thinking; More of the same will not do.

It takes time before both types of threats will be fully converged (merged).

Threat conv 3, png

Complete merging of the two types of threats will take considerable time.