Articles - Security Science Journal
The Concept of Total Defense Options of the Republic of Serbia
(Vol. 5 No. 1, 2024. Security Science Journal)
23 Apr 2024 06:53:00 PM

Dr. Branislav Milosavljević, Faculty of Business Studies and Law, "Union-Nikola Tesla" University, Belgrade

Dr. Katarina Štrbac, Faculty of Engineering Management, "Union-Nikola Tesla" University, Belgrade

Research Paper

Received: September 25, 2023
Accepted: February 12, 2024


Abstract: With the current National Security Strategy, the Republic of Serbia has adopted the total defense concept to respond to the proclaimed military neutrality. The decision in question, among other things, affects the direction of the overall defense capability of the state and society as a whole. There are several fundamentally important issues in which a choice must be made. One of the essential questions is which tasks are best performed under the auspices of the Armed Forces and which should be assigned to civilian actors. In other words, a clear division of responsibilities between the civilian and Armed Forces involved in total defense is necessary. On the other hand, the Republic of Serbia has a negative legacy that dates back to the conflict on the territory of the former state, as well as certain decisions that contradict the decision to develop a total defense and confident decisions that have a direct impact on the adopted concept of national defense. The paper presents the possible content of the total defense of the Republic of Serbia through the analysis of the concept on the examples of individual countries. In this connection, it should be noted that the Defense Strategy of the Republic of Serbia had to expand the content of the total defense concept. This is necessary not only for a more complete understanding but also for the fact that the provisions of the Strategy are further operationalized through documents of lower generality.

Keywords: total defense, military and civilian component, psychological defense, defense strategy


"We will fight on the beaches, we will fight on the training grounds, we will fight in the fields and the streets, we will fight in the hills, we will never surrender." Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940

Preuzmite članak u PDF formatu


Total defense was primarily developed in the twentieth century as a response of non-aligned states against the threats of larger and militarily stronger powers. At the concept's core is the idea that potential adversaries can be deterred by sending a message that the entire society will resist aggression, which thus becomes unprofitable. However, after the Cold War, the concept lost its importance, but the change in geopolitical circumstances in the second decade of the twenty-first century renewed interest in total defense. Namely, the Russia-Ukraine conflict encouraged the return of the idea of total defense as a solution for strengthening defense capabilities in Europe, especially in the Nordic-Baltic region, including the countries that are members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the defense strategy of the Republic of Serbia from 2009, among other things, the setting of the concept of total defense was mentioned for the first time, which implies the creation of the necessary conditions for the integral engagement of all subjects of the defense system. However, according to the mentioned document, the elaboration of the meaning and further operationalization were missing. The current National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019) and Defense Strategy consider reliance on total defense. However, as in the previous Strategy, there was no additional elaboration on its scope and content in this case. Generally analyzed in the current strategic document, it is apostrophized explicitly that total defense implies military and civil defense, as well as the comprehensive response of the defense system to challenges, risks and threats. The wording in question is insufficient because it cannot be determined from it which model of total defense will be developed and what total defense means in practice. In this regard, the experiences of other countries that have adopted the subject concept and its implementation are significant for the citizens of the Republic of Serbia because the idea of total defense can directly affect their daily lives. The total defense concept has historical roots and has regained importance in contemporary security discussions. For Serbia, clarifying and operationalizing this concept is essential for building a robust Defense strategy that can effectively protect its sovereignty and security. Analyzing the experiences of other nations that have successfully implemented total defense can provide valuable insights for Serbia's future strategy development.


Total defense is not a new concept seen from a historical perspective because it characterized the defense of certain non-aligned states during the Cold War, as well as Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and the former SFR of Yugoslavia. Israel and Singapore are also countries developing the total defense concept outside Europe. In addition to the Armed Forces, this includes institutionalized cooperation among ministries, civil organizations, the private sector and the general public. The current security environment includes military and non-military challenges, and the lines between war and peace have blurred, so an integrated approach to the entire society is more important than during the Cold War (Kenneth, 2020). 

In Sweden, total defense combines military and civil defense (civilian support to the Armed Forces, protection of the population and the functioning of society in critical areas during a crisis). The subject concept highlights the importance of psychological defense (in peacetime conditions, emergencies and war), suppression of hybrid threats and enemy propaganda, cyber security, territorial defense and practical intelligence. The actors of total defense are the armed forces, parliament, Government, public administration, local authorities, economy, voluntary organizations and citizens (SDC).

Finland's 2017 Defense Report uses the term "comprehensive security", which represents the readiness to use military and non-military means to counter increasingly intertwined external and internal threats. The concept of comprehensive security aims to ensure the state's and society's vital functions. In this case, the actors are the Government, the economy, non-governmental organizations and the public. (SCF)

In connection with the above, it should be noted that the phrase "comprehensive security" evolved from the concept of "total defense" developed in Sweden in the early 1950s. During the Cold War, "total defense" implied extensive military and civilian preparations for the country's defense, requiring close cooperation and coordinated activities of the armed forces, public institutions and society. The principle behind total defense is that all human, material and moral capabilities are subordinated to military effort. It also included, for example, the protection of the population or governmental property. Total defense was a vital element of the security policy of neutral or non-aligned countries such as Austria, which introduced a similar concept. This concept meant a willingness to undertake a credible defense despite a massive imbalance in capabilities between the small states and the great powers. The idea was intended to deter a potential aggressor by increasing the cost of enemy intentions and activities. Namely, in understanding the concept of total defense, it is necessary to mention the military theorist Karl von Clausewitz, the defeat of the enemy "can in practice be replaced by two other reasons for making peace: the first is the improbability of victory; the other is its unacceptable costs". He also pointed out that "defense is essentially a stronger form of waging war. On the other hand, if the attack is a stronger form, there would be no case of using defense." For Clausewitz, demonstrating the ability to impose costs and make victory seem improbable could change an opponent's cost-benefit analysis enough to deter an attack. This Strategy is also the essence of modern total defense and comprehensive security concepts to deter Russia from aggressive action (Clausewitz, 1976). In addition, since the 1960s, the term "comprehensive defense" or "comprehensive approach to the defense" has been increasingly used instead of "total defense" (due to the negative connotations associated with totalitarianism and total war). Apart from the political and military dimensions, total defense encompasses economic issues, environmental protection and human rights. When the Cold War ended, total defense was gradually expanded to include crisis management, non-military threats and peacetime challenges to the state and its population, leading to the concept of comprehensive (integrated, total) security, a broader term. This concept can be defined as reducing threats to the state and society through the cooperation of all actors and sectors of security policy. A comprehensive approach to security includes governments and the non-governmental sector and ensures the proper functioning of public institutions, the political system, the economy, and society (Jermalavičius et al., 2014). Unlike total defense, comprehensive security is a continuous effort applied not only during armed conflict.

Broadly analyzed, modern total defense is a society-wide approach to national security involving coordinated action by the nation's military, police forces, civilian branches of Government, the private sector, and the general population, thereby enhancing conventional defense and deterrence measures. Adequate total defense is well suited to countering enemy intelligence operations, providing psychological defense to the people, strengthening internal security, building the resilience of critical services and infrastructure, improving military defense, supporting allies and partners, and responding to natural disasters and other crises (Flanagan et al., 2019). Total defense is an asymmetric or unconventional approach that aims to defeat the enemy's intention to initiate or continue aggression by influencing their perception of costs and benefits. Total defense is the approach of the entire society to social resilience and readiness in dealing not only with war but also with natural disasters and the like. Resistance to occupation or malicious influence and strength in the face of crises is intended to send an essential message to adversaries and allies that a nation's population and Government are prepared to defend and deter aggression.


The analysis of the subject concept in different countries indicates that total defense includes military and civil defense as mandatory content. But, in modern times, a specific expansion of the range of total defense can be observed, which is entirely justified considering that states perceive various threats to endanger national security and increase the scope of war content. Singapore's total defense consisted of five elements initially, but in February 2019, a sixth was added to address threats arising from the digital revolution. In addition, there was a need to create a seventh element, a "climate" defense, reflecting Singapore's vulnerability to climate change through sea level rise (Ong, 2021). Each of the elements is subordinated to the overarching goal of uniting all actors in the "defense" of Singapore and is justified based on Singapore's small size, lack of national resources, and racial and religious diversity of the population.

Within military defense, compulsory military service is the most prominent element and is present in all cases in practice, such as Switzerland, Israel, Singapore, and others. The reason for this is the fact that the concept of total defense has historically emerged as a deterrent to more extensive and more robust states, which have a demographic advantage, so the first prerequisite for smaller states to resist aggression is the mobilization of as much of society as possible to compensate for their inequality with the aggressor in terms of number of people. Compulsory military service was the main instrument that mobilized a large part of the militarily qualified and trained population. Switzerland represented a benchmark for total defense, although the security approach emerged in a particular political culture. The development of Switzerland's military is primarily rooted in the tradition of democracy and neutrality.

The Swiss constitution includes two somewhat contradictory principles: compulsory military service and the prohibition of a regular army, which led to the development of the people's military as a "volatile force based on mobilization". It is an exceptional defense model, best characterized by the famous Swiss saying, "Switzerland does not have an army, it is an army"(Haltiner, 2021).

The Swiss model provided an example for establishing Israel's armed forces. The developed reserve forces system allows Israel to mobilize "the full strength of the military within 48 hours." The development of the Israeli defense concept was determined by the disproportion of the population with the surrounding Arab states. Namely, in 1948, the Jewish population of Israel was only 600,000-650,000 people, and to overcome this deficiency, Israel established an adequate human resources mobilization system consisting of a professional army, conscription and reserve forces (Štrbac et al., 2019).

The development of compulsory military service in Finland was primarily determined by historical and cultural factors, with the key event being the success of the Finnish Defense Forces during World War II, when they managed to stop the attack of the Soviet Union and protect the country's sovereignty. More recently, Finland has not followed the example of many European countries that abandoned conscription after the end of the Cold War, and support for maintaining conscription remains high in Finnish society (Harinen et al.,2009). As a result, Finland can mobilize 285,000 trained people (except Russia, the most in the Baltic Sea region) while achieving two recruitment cycles with 9,000 recruits each year (IISS, 2022). After the start of the Ukrainian conflict, Finland changed its military defense to ensure faster mobilization, improved interaction between the military, police, and border service and modernized military equipment (Mäkelä, 2017) 

Without further elaboration, the mentioned cases prove that mandatory military service is integral to the total defense concept. However, the changing nature of warfare also leads to doubts about the effectiveness of compulsory military service concerning other forms of social participation in defense. One of the arguments that may cast doubt on conscription as an adequate response to current security challenges is that, except for Israel, none of those, as mentioned earlier, total defense cases have been tested under war conditions in recent times.

In the civil dimension of the total defense concept, civil defense represents the most essential segment. Since total defense foresees military resistance to the aggressor, that is, the option of warfare within a specific state, it also implies casualties among the civilian population and points to the need to reduce the consequences significantly. It is of particular importance for the morale of the Armed Forces because, to fight effectively, soldiers must be sure that their loved ones will not be left to defend themselves. Historically, this was an important aspect, and even more so in modern times, because modern warfare does not have a traditional front, and the boundaries between civilian and military are becoming less and less clear. Civilian protection is essential in an eventual armed conflict and in preparation for threats like terrorism, cyber-attacks, and natural disasters. The current political and demographic reality, climate change, and the uncertainty of providing the necessary amounts of food and water suggest that conflicts over resources will threaten many countries. At the same time, it is estimated that the modern world will increasingly face non-military challenges, risks and security threats and their consequences, especially climate disturbances and large-scale natural disasters (Štrbac, 2021).

Well-developed civil defense infrastructure is essential for protecting the civilian population during crises and emergencies. Governments and authorities must invest in these critical elements to ensure the safety and resilience of their communities in the face of various threats. For example, the mandatory construction of shelters has been one of the characteristics of the Swiss civil defense system since its establishment. In 1987, Switzerland could shelter 5.5 million people out of a total population of 6.5 million (Spillmann, 1987).

Singapore's shelter-in-place program also aims to shelter every resident in an emergency. Since 1983, the Singapore government has started developing public shelters in rapid transit stations, housing units, secondary schools and other public buildings. In Singapore, the Civil Defense Force operates as an independent organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The main functions of civil defense are firefighting, emergency rescue, medical assistance, assistance in incidents involving hazardous materials, and developing and implementing fire safety and civil defense shelter rules. In addition, the civil defense provides training to support the civilian population in rescue, evacuation procedures, shelter management, first aid, and management of blood, water and food resources, all to build confidence and resilience in times of national crisis. The public is encouraged to contribute to civil defense through positive examples of civic engagement, including blood donation, medical volunteer work, and a second line of support in Singapore's defense (Matthewsa, 2023).

 In Switzerland, the civil protection system integrates five partner organizations: the police, fire brigade, health care, technical services and the protection and support service. The protection and support service is part of the mandatory national service system, and the recruitment of personnel takes place simultaneously with the recruitment for the needs of the armed forces. The mission of the civil protection system is "to protect the population and its vital resources in the event of disasters, emergencies and armed conflicts" (CPS, 2001).

In Singapore, the public warning system is a network of sirens that warn the public "of attacks from the air, land or sea, as well as natural and other man-made disasters" and is an integral part of shelters. The signal is also transmitted through smartphones that have the mobile application downloaded, whereby the movement stops when the message is confirmed or after 20 seconds. After the "important message" signal, an instruction was given about the need to tune in to any local radio station or TV channel for a two-minute public warning system message. Annual checks of sound signals and broadcast messages are organized to raise awareness about how the public should react when they hear a signal (SCDF).

Protection of critical infrastructure is the second element in the civilian dimension of total defense. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) comparative analysis on the protection of critical infrastructure states that "critical infrastructure" is generally defined as physical or intangible assets, the destruction or disruption of which would seriously undermine public safety, social order and the fulfillment of crucial government responsibilities. Such damage would generally be catastrophic and far-reaching, with the sources of risk to critical infrastructure being natural (e.g. earthquakes or floods) or man-made (e.g. terrorism, sabotage and the like). Attacking critical infrastructure can cause severe damage to the functionality of society, making it easier for the enemy to achieve their goals. In the European Union (EU), critical infrastructure areas are defined as energy; information and communication technology; water; food and agriculture; health care and public health; financial systems; civil administration; public and legal order and security; transport systems; chemical industry, nuclear plants, space and research facilities. The justification for classifying critical infrastructure is best demonstrated by the current conflict in Ukraine, where, among other things, the "infrastructure war" is manifested as a new type of war that aims to affect the population. In the Finnish concept, adequate protection of critical infrastructure requires cooperation between the civilian population, the business community and the Government (OECD, 2019). 

A strong economy is defined as a particular element in the civil dimension. The reason for this is that in modern times, the development of military capabilities requires significant financial resources, which is why a well-developed economy is another prerequisite for complete defense. In this regard, economic defense is one of the pillars of total defense, while it should be noted that even for other countries that do not develop this concept, the belief that military power depends on a solid economy is well-founded (Matthews et al.,2007) For example, Singapore's economic defense aims to provide a robust, resilient and competitive economy through cooperation between government, employers and trade unions, individual development, savings provision and emergency preparedness (MDS, 2023). Economic development is the basis of social functionality, and economic decline can create social vulnerabilities that an adversary can potentially exploit.

Information defense reflects the need to shape public opinion as an element of modern war, which is becoming increasingly important in modern media because "in the era of information, whose story wins is as important as whose army" (Nye, 2011). That is why strategic communication is an integral part of the information dimension. Strategic communication mainly deals with the cognitive sphere of society. It has importance in different spheres in the context of overall defense: explaining (interpreting), training, motivating the public to engage in military and civil defense, and sending a message to potential opponents that aggression will be expensive. In the case of conflict, strategic communication is a tool for shaping and spreading your conflict story to a broader (global) public that can play a crucial role in determining the outcome. The strength of strategic communication is that it is focused not only on communication but also on Strategy, implying an integrated approach to policies and communications, making it more effective because actions often speak louder and more transparent than words. This kind of action is significant in total defense, considering that it is a comprehensive approach that requires central coordination, a long-term and rational strategy and organizational structures capable of ensuring the state's survival in difficult geopolitical circumstances. The response to hostile information is also vital in modern information warfare and the clash of opposing worldviews of different centers of power, which is why it stands out as the second element in the information dimension. This segment of total defense requires a comprehensive system of monitoring and analyzing enemy activities in the media, measuring the level of influence of enemy information and resistance to it within society, researching the factors that determine the predisposition to be influenced by enemy information, which should translate into policies that aim to reduce vulnerability. In addition, it should be noted that the measurement and critical evaluation of the effectiveness of the activities undertaken in the fight against foreign propaganda, as well as the prediction of the potential reaction of the opponent to initiatives for opposition and the assessment of the continuation of the development of events. One of the most effective ways democratic societies can resist hostile information is the strengthening of critical thinking, which requires informing the community about the strategies and tactics of the adversary, including the information domain, improving media literacy skills, and improving the general educational level of society(Bērziņa, 2017). The information dimension of total defense also includes the technical field, which covers issues related to the third element of cyber security. The increasing role of information and communication technologies determines the emergence of cyberspace as one of the operational domains. For NATO, cyber defense is one of the critical tasks of collective defense with the main focus on protecting its networks and increasing resilience among member states by strengthening capabilities for cyber education, training and exercises, improving information exchange and mutual assistance, increasing cooperation with the EU and taking other measures (NATO, 2018) In this regard, it was observed in the EU that "citizens and businesses rely on digital services", "cyber incidents and attacks are on the rise", and "awareness and knowledge about cyber security issues are still insufficient".

In the psychological dimension, the relationship between the state and society is the first and most crucial element because the willingness of the community to defend its country is a prerequisite for complete defense. One of the founders of the concept of total defense in Singapore, Lim Siong Guan, believed that psychological defense is the essential building block of total defense because if society does not want to stand up for the state, everything else is illusory. The changing security environment and twenty-first-century methods of warfare also challenge militarily strong states like Israel, as adversaries circumvent a strong military shield by dividing society, undermining self-esteem and morale, reducing public support for the Israeli government and security structures, and drawing international the legitimacy of Israeli political goals and means (Paz, 2015). 

Israel's resilience is threatened by psychological factors such as: "discourse of fear, separation, hatred and delegitimization," economic inequality, polarisation and radicalization of society, undermining the rule of law, corruption and the like (Ya’alon, 2016). Social cohesion stands out as the second element of the psychological dimension because a state can effectively resist an external aggressor only when its society is united in its will to protect it.

Sweden's psychological defense was originally a response to the psychological warfare that the enemy was expected to wage in the event of war. The term "psychological defense", used primarily in Sweden, was created to remove the older and more specific propaganda term mainly associated with Nazi Germany and World War II. The Swedish word has proven viable and adaptable, but its meaning has blurred, especially as its applications relate to several government agencies. However, psychological defenses have outlasted all conceivable competing concepts. Psychological defense has three essential components. However, the importance of each has varied over the years. The three parts are to counter deception and misinformation, including the spread of rumors and propaganda or, in other words, everything that involves the enemy's psychological warfare, to ensure that government authorities can convey their message in a crisis, including war, to contribute to strengthening the will of the population for the defense of Sweden. Achieving and maintaining the intention to defend requires action by several different parts of society, not just various government agencies. In their efforts to strengthen the will to protect themselves, however, there is a risk that a government agency may, inadvertently or otherwise, engage in some form of domestic propaganda, which could do far more harm than good.

Strengthening the will to defend is an issue that requires careful consideration of the roles and responsibilities of the Government and other parts of society (Rossbach, 2023). The revitalized Swedish concept must consider the new threats associated with cyberspace and the digitization of social life. One of the potential enemy's essential methods is using new means of mass media to wage a psychological battle. It is necessary to protect society from psychological operations in the new conditions (even more than during the Cold War). Therefore, to reuse the concept of the Cold War, it is necessary to focus on the psychological defense of society against propaganda that aims to distract society from defensive activities. To achieve this goal, it is required to improve and protect one's democratic values actively but also to build and develop social awareness in this context. Therefore, it is unsurprising that among the instructions on preparing for the first, most difficult days of the conflict, the Swedish authorities are teaching citizens how not to be deceived by fake news (WIF, 2023). Great emphasis was placed on "psychological resilience", which the Government defined as "the ability of individuals, communities, societies and nations to withstand the pressures arising from crises and to recover from their impacts". Psychological resilience is seen as a critical factor in maintaining the will of the people of Finland to defend their country (Kenneth, 2020). 


From a historical point of view, the Republic of Serbia, as a member of the former SFRY, developed the concept of total defense through the model of national defense and social self-protection. However, the case of the former Yugoslavia provides an exceptional example of how crucial the unity of society is and how destructive its lack can be. For a long time, the unity of society was ensured by the authoritarian leadership of the state at that time (Horncastle, 2011). However, after the death of the leader of the state (Josip Broz Tito), the ideas of brotherhood and unity were replaced

d by nationalism and increasing aspirations for the republic's independence, which led to the dysfunctionality of the entire defense system (Dulić et al., 2010). The then dual military structure at the federal and republic level with an unclear management system was an essential precondition for the outbreak of the Yugoslav wars, and the Territorial Defense forces used in the fight for the independence of the republics and at the same time represented the nucleus for the establishment of the national armed forces (Horncastle, 2011). Thus, the case of total defense in Yugoslavia proves that the militarization of society and the mixing of borders between the civilian and military sectors can be dangerous for the defense of external aggressors and the community if there is a risk of ethnic, religious, or other fragmentation. It was clearly shown during the dissolution of SFRY and the civil war. 

In addition to the historical legacy, it is particularly significant that the Republic of Serbia abolished general military service and introduced voluntary military service. On December 15, 2010, the National Assembly adopted the Government's proposal to suspend military service (Official Gazette of the RS, 2010). In this regard, it should be noted that the decision implies the retention of entry into the military records, medical and other examinations and psychological tests, recruitment, and obligations in the reserve. In this way, the possibility of re-establishing mandatory military service following the law and assessing the need was left. However, the commitment to military service was not established even though the total defense concept was proclaimed. In addition to the above, it is imperative to mention the amnesty from 2001, which exempted them from responsibility before military courts due to non-response to military service, evasion of military service, arbitrary removal and escape from the then Yugoslav Army units. Namely, according to the data, there are 12,540 cases, which can " indicate the attitudes of a part of the conscript population towards the military use of the armed forces " (Stojančić, 2003). The decision to release from responsibility can negatively impact citizens' awareness of the necessity of state defense as the most important element of total defense. In this regard, and without further elaboration, it is evident that the strategic level of defense planning lacked a clear vision of the future of the defense concept, given that certain decisions are mutually inconsistent or contradictory.

In addition to the above, it is significant for the Republic of Serbia to establish an adequate institutional framework to synchronize efforts in building the concept of total defense. This concept is also necessary, considering that it is complex and includes many subjects required to achieve a high degree of coordination and cooperation. An organizational unit must be established within the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Serbia with the primary task of recommending, overseeing and coordinating total defense planning and preparation as a comprehensive, mutually supportive and synchronized effort. In addition, it may be responsible for making recommendations for adjustments to the internal legal and political framework and interdepartmental agreements to support these efforts. Also, those mentioned earlier require harmonization of national legislation in defense and security.


The Republic of Serbia has adopted a National Security Strategy incorporating the concept of "total defense" in response to its proclaimed military neutrality. Adopting the total defense concept is a significant shift in the country's defense posture and has several important implications. Adopting the total defense concept means that Serbia is reevaluating its defense strategy to encompass traditional military capabilities and a broader set of measures involving the entire society. This approach is often associated with countries that have chosen not to align themselves with military alliances and, therefore, must rely on a more comprehensive approach to national security. One of the central challenges in implementing a total defense concept is determining which tasks should be handled by the Armed Forces and which should be assigned to civilian actors. This requires a clear division of responsibilities to ensure an effective and coordinated response in times of crisis or conflict. Civilian actors can be crucial in civil defense, infrastructure protection, and crisis management. The reference to a "negative legacy" from past conflicts likely alludes to the historical context of the region, including conflicts that occurred during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. These historical factors can complicate developing and implementing a new defense strategy, as they may influence public opinion, political decisions, and security perceptions. It seems there may be certain decisions or policies that contradict the newly adopted concept of total defense. Such contradictions can hinder the effective implementation of a comprehensive defense strategy and must be addressed to ensure a coherent and unified approach to national security. It's essential to clarify what these decisions entail, as they could significantly influence the overall direction and success of the total defense concept. These decisions may involve budget allocations, resource allocation, legal frameworks, or other defense policy aspects. In summary, Serbia's adoption of the total defense concept indicates a significant shift in its approach to national security. It involves rethinking the roles and responsibilities of the military and civilian sectors and addressing historical legacies and potential contradictions. The success of this concept will depend on effective coordination, resource allocation, and policy implementation to ensure the security and resilience of the country in an evolving security landscape.

Total defense includes all social functions, and depending on the national culture and historical experience, an adequate legal and institutional framework should be established. Usually, small states, especially those bordering hegemonic powers, adopt the concept of total defense. Broadly analyzed, it includes all activities necessary to prepare a nation for conflict to defend its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is a concept that accepts that attacks can come not only in the form of traditional conventional military actions but also attacks on a country's economy and society, designed to weaken its cohesion and resolve to defend itself against threats. In addition, the concept includes government agencies and functions from the national to local level, private and commercial enterprises, voluntary organizations and individuals. By its nature, it must be part of the national defense strategy, and in essence, it is the mobilization of all necessary support for the nation's defense and its territorial integrity against armed attack. This concept, which is applied internally, must be harmonized with the diplomatic, political and economic measures undertaken by the state and its international partners, bilaterally and multilaterally, to deter a potential aggressor. Analyzing the case of the Republic of Serbia, it is evident that the total defense concept is in its infancy, which simultaneously requires long-term and systematic work, given that mistakes have far-reaching consequences. At the same time, it is characterized by the lack of implementation of the concept not only institutionally but also in the normative framework, which should be changed if Serbia wants to bring the total defense concept to reality.



  • Bērziņa I (2017), Winning the Information War: How States Can Marginalize Hostile Propaganda. per Concordiam, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 10-15
  • Clausewitz von C. (1976), On War, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 358–359
  • CPS (2001), Civil Protection Switzerland: Civil Protection Concept, Report of the Federal Council to the Federal Assembly concerning the new Civil Protection concept, 1, 5, 18 
  • Dulić T. & Kostić R. (2010), Yugoslavs in Arms: Guerrilla Tradition, Total Defense and the Ethnic Security Dilemma, Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 62, No. 7,  1069
  • Flanagan J. Stephen (et al.) (2019), Deterring Russian Aggression in the Baltic States Through Resilience and Resistance, RAND Santa Monica, CA, 6
  • OECD (2019), Good Governance for Critical Infrastructure Resilience, Reviews of Risk Management Policies, 2:
  • Haltiner K. (2003), Tradition as a Political Value – The Public Image of Security, Defense and Military in Switzerland. In: Vlachova M., Public Image of Security, Defense and the Military in Europe. Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, Center for Civil-Military Relations, Belgrade, 82
  • Harinen O. & Leskinen J.(2009), General Conscription in Finland after 2008 – Some Reasons Behind Finland’s Population’s and Conscript’s Attitude Towards General Conscription, Advances in Military Sociology: Essays in Honor of Charles C. Moskos, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley Vol. 12, No. 2, 54
  • Horncastle J.(2011), A House of Cards: The Yugoslav Concept of Total National Defense and its Critical Weakness. Macedonian Historical Review, Vol. 2: No. 2, 297-299, 285-302
  • IISS (2022),The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Тhe Military Balance, 102
  • Jermalavičius Т., Pernik P., Hurt M., Breitenbauch H., Järvenpää P. (2014), Comprehensive Security and Integrated Defense: Challenges of implementing whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, International Centre for Defense and Security, Estonia, 85–87
  • Kenneth W. J. (2022), Back to the future? Nordic total defense concepts, Defense Studies,20:1, 62-75
  • Mäkelä P.(2017), Finland Turns to Face Modern Threats, Medium, Jan 31, 2017,
  • Matthewsa R., Timurb B. F.: Singapore’s ’Total Defense’ Strategy, Defense and Peace Economics,
  • Matthews R. & Zhang Yan N. (2007)  Small Country ‘Total Defense’: A Case Study of Singapore. Defense Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3, 381
  • MDS- Ministry of Defense Singapore, The 5 Pillars of Total Defense,
  • NSS (2019), National Security Strategy of the Republic of Serbia
  • NATO (2018), Cyber Defense, 2018,
  • Nye J (2011), The Future of Power, Chatham House, London, 8, :
  • Official Gazette of the RS, 95/2010 Decision on suspension of military service obligation 
  • OECD (2019), Reviews of Risk Management Policies Good Governance for Critical Infrastructure Resilience,
  • Ong J. (2021), First Climate Change Motion to Be Debated in the House Next Week, The Straits Times, 29 January 2021,
  • Paz A (2015), Transforming Israel’s Security Establishment. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy,  4-5,
  • Rossbach H. N. (2023) Оffprint from strategic outlook 7 Psychological Defense: Vital for Sweden’s Defense Capability
  • SCF- Security Committee of Finland, Security Strategy for Society. Government Resolution, доступно на:
  • Spillmann K.R.( 1987), Beyond Soldiers and Arms: The Swiss Model of Comprehensive Security Policy, Forschungsstelle für Sicherheitspolitik und Konfliktanalyse, Zurich, 16
  • Stojančić S.(2003), Ljudska prava vojnih obveznika Vojske Jugoslavije, u: Hadžić M. (ur.): Zaštita ljudskih prava u vojsci i policiji, Centar za civilno-vojne odnose, Beograd, 128
  • SCDF(2023), Public Warning System, 
  • SDC (2023),Swedish Defense Commission presents report on total defense concept and civil defense, Government Offices of Sweden,
  • Štrbac K.& Milosavljevic B. (2021), Climate Change – Security Threat to the Countries of the Western Balkans, Proceedings of the 3rd International Scientific Conference on Circular and Bioeconomy “CIBEK 2021”, School of Engineering Management, Belgrade, 
  • Štrbac K.& Milosavljević (2019), Povezanost strateške kulture i strateškog ponašanja Izraela, Kultura polisa, god. XVI br. 38, 281-293
  • WIF (2023), Warsaw Institute Foundation The Swedish “Total Defense”
  • Ya’alon M. (2016), Internal Elements of National Resilience. In: Kurz Anat and Brom Shlomo (eds): Strategic Survey for Israel 2016–2017, Institute for National Security Studies, 237-238







Gallery / Galerija slika
Nema galerije slika / No image Gallery