It has been a week since I, came back from the Munich Security Conference 2018 (#MSC2018). The Munich Security Conference which kicked off with a moto “To the Brink – And Back” was a hobnobbing among the nearly five hundred senior security and defense officials gathered. Frequently the Munich Security Conference has been a bellwether for things to come in the global security landscape. The speakers use the forum to make headlines that have always echoed far beyond Munich. It was here in 2007 that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin publicly rejected the western-led international order and pushed back hard on NATO’s continued enlargement and US led interventions in the Middle East and elsewhere. Many here in Munich had hoped that this will be the year that the world begins to step back from the brink, but far fewer were betting on it.
The Munich Security Conference is global in focus, but a central component has always been the dialogue between the United States and Europe about transatlantic security, and the role of the broader transatlantic community on the global stage. The 2018 Munich Security Conference that had kicked off on February 16 against a backdrop of a global order under increasing stress and had brought to light many security challenges, the world faces today. Topics like: developing unrest within European borders or so to call, the disunity among within European Union allies’, unpredictable Russia, rising Chinese’ influence, the possibility of another Korean War, continued turbulence in the Middle East and Sahara region, and uncertainty about the future of US global role were the key topics on MSC Agenda 2018.
According to my findings of this year’s Conference, The ‘Diplomacy’ came out very badly at 2018 Munich Security gatherings. The inability of diplomats to deal with the plethora of threats affecting global security in general and the liberal international order in particular was all too apparent during most of the sessions. The lack of US leadership Is one of the explanation. A weak and divided Europe—especially when it comes to upholding values, with some member states such as Poland using nationalism and victimhood to rewrite history—is another. Germany didn’t, in any way, weigh in on the diplomatic front judging from the speeches by the country’s defense and foreign ministers. Though it was hard to ignore the tinge of anti-Americanism. Then there is the complete paralysis of diplomacy in trying to tackle North Korea’s ambitions to acquire, if it has not already done so, the nuclear weapons.
In short, the number of statements from Turkish, Polish, Israeli, and Russian leaders and ministers (to name just a few) exposed the complete lack of unanimity over how to deal with crisis. In most cases, their statements were inward-looking and defensive. There wasn’t a whiff of ambition or strategic outlook. Indeed, over three days, too many high-level speakers at the MSC showed a lack of political will and leadership to deal with the global issues.
‘The Frayed Relations were on display as global Crisis grow’
“The warning signs are flashing in bright red,” MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger said. “The world, I think, has moved … much too close to the brink of major interstate conflict.” Deutsche Welle commentator Matthias von Hein later noted: “It seems as if diplomacy has reached the end of the road.”
The result was a conference that was, in the words of one former State Department official, “depressing and irrelevant,” but not boring.
Here are few quotes from the conference:
- A World Bank official saying, “I don’t believe there is a country in the Arab world that is 100 percent stable.”
- The French defense minister warning about “fragmented reality.”
- The emir of Qatar blasting tensions with the Gulf Cooperation Council as “a futile crisis manufactured by my neighbors.”
- The prime minister of Turkey accusing the United States of allying with terrorists.
- The German foreign minister lamenting that “the European Union has never learned to act in a geopolitical way.”
- James E. Risch (R-Idaho) warning of a response of “biblical” proportions on North Korea.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly comparing the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal to the 1938 appeasement of Adolf Hitler at Munich.
I, would finish it by quoting a great piece published in Foreign Policy by Julie Smith stating:
“If you came to Munich looking for a call to action, you left empty-handed.”
Overseas Tribune Correspondent