Munich Security Conference falls short of its demands

Doubt and timidity: On its 60th anniversary, the Munich Security Conference failed to bring movement to the world’s major crises through dialogue.

Garry Kasparov, the Russian world chess champion and opposition figure, summed up the situation most bluntly: “I received the terrible news in Munich at the security conference,” he wrote on close. “The mood here is deplorable. NATO and the leaders of the free world are treading water while the Ukrainians are shedding their blood.”

This conference, in previous years a celebration of transatlantic unity and Western confidence, was marked by doubts and timidity. Symptomatic of this: the big speeches of these two days. None of them aroused anything close to enthusiasm or a spirit of optimism among the high-ranking audience in Munich’s luxury hotel Bayerischer Hof.

US Vice President Kamal Harris promised at the start that America would continue to fulfill its leadership role within NATO in the future. This is already only being achieved insufficiently. More than eight months before the US presidential election.

The next day, Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was the European champion in supporting Ukraine and was meeting NATO’s two percent target. Even this is still only possible with accounting pull-ups. Pension payments to former members of the National People’s Army contribute little to the effectiveness of the transatlantic alliance.

Despite the increasingly desolate situation on the battlefield, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj at least managed a small show effect: from the lectern he invited Donald Trump to visit the front together.

Munich Security Conference: no departure, anywhere

Otherwise: perplexed faces. No departure, anywhere.

This is one of the reasons why China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi was able to score fairly convincingly as a voice for continuity and global balance of interests. He combined this role with an appeal for Palestinian rights. The representatives of the West had largely left him the field on this issue, apart from empty phrases.

In general, it was remarkable who and what was missing from this 60th Security Conference.

A Plan B for Ukraine, for example. “Last year I found the optimism here in Munich with regard to Ukraine a bit unrealistic,” said Charles Kupchan, professor of international relations at the renowned Georgetown University, in a conversation with the on Saturday afternoon star. “I expected that there would have been a little more thought in the meantime. That there would be a plan B. But everyone is just depressed.”

“Collective denial of reality”

Months ago, the former Obama advisor had called for Ukraine to adapt its strategy, switch from offensive to defensive, and at the same time explore options for a ceasefire. Kupchan saw the fact that the debate in Munich was still primarily about types of weapons and mutual accusations among the NATO allies as a “collective denial of reality.”

This security conference also did not send a strong signal of support for Ukraine. Before his appearance in Munich on Saturday morning, President Zelenskyj had signed a bilateral defense agreement first in Berlin and then in Paris within 24 hours. But the opportunity for a demonstrative solidarity between the major European states and Ukraine on the open stage in Munich remained unused. Also because both French President Emmanuel Macron and Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk did not come.

Peace through dialogue? Not for the Gaza Strip

Another big gap on the conference agenda: at least the beginning of a debate about concepts for reconstruction and a post-war order in the Gaza Strip. There was no shortage of high-ranking guests who could have contributed a lot to this topic – from Israel’s President to the King of Jordan to the Qatari Prime Minister. “Peace through dialogue” is the motto of the security conference. With regard to the Middle East, this security conference did not fulfill it.

“We are looking for a silver lining on the horizon,” said Christoph Heusgen, chairman of the Security Conference, in his opening speech on Friday. Nobody in Munich discovered it this year.