Munich Security Conference opens with prominent guests

Around 50 heads of state and government in a small space, three days and many difficult topics: The Munich Security Conference is once again dealing with a bleak world situation.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres will open the 60th Munich Security Conference on Friday, to which around 50 heads of state and government from all over the world are expected. US Vice President Kamala Harris will also speak on the first day of the most important meeting of politicians and experts on security policy worldwide. The main topics of the three-day conference at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel this year will include the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East as well as the question: What will happen if Donald Trump wins the US presidential election on November 5th?

Munich Security Conference opens

The fact that Guterres is opening the conference is a statement. Conference leader Christoph Heusgen hopes this will provide a look beyond the current conflicts. “With all the crises, we ask: Where is the silver lining on the horizon?” Not everyone is likely to like the fact that the UN chief was chosen as the opening speaker, especially in the Israeli delegation.

In recent months, the Portuguese had sharply criticized the Israeli military operation against the terrorist organization Hamas in the Gaza Strip because of what he saw as the unacceptably high number of civilian deaths and the dramatic humanitarian consequences, and had vehemently advocated for a ceasefire. In doing so, he reflects the position of a large part of the UN General Assembly. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen then called his term in office a “threat to world peace.”

Prominent guests: Zelenskyj, Scholz and Harris

The most spectacular guest is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He wants to come to Munich for the first time since the Russian attack on his country. His presence is more important than ever for Ukraine. Because the alliance of his allies is threatening to crumble. The US delegation is led by US Vice President Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) will speak in Munich on Saturday. Half a dozen ministers from his cabinet are also expected at the conference.

The main topics: Ukraine, the Middle East and Trump

The main topics are likely to be the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine. Both conflicts are currently coming to a head in different ways. When it comes to Ukraine, the question is whether Western allies can maintain their support for the defensive fight against Russia. Republicans in the US Congress have been blocking new billions for weapons and military equipment for Ukraine for months. With the Senate's approval of an aid package, there is at least hope. However, the House of Representatives, the second chamber of parliament, is considered a more difficult hurdle. Everyone agrees that Europe would not be able to fully compensate for the loss of US aid.

The dramatic situation in the southern Gaza Strip and the desperate search for solutions to the Middle East conflict will perhaps take up even more space on the sidelines of the conference than Ukraine. President Izchak Herzog and Foreign Minister Israel Katz are coming to Munich from Israel. The Palestinian Authority and neighboring Arab states such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are also highly represented. For them there will only be one topic in Munich: How can we get the Middle East conflict under control before it escalates further and causes a conflagration across the entire region?

Shortly before the conference, Donald Trump, former president and current election campaigner, gave the participants another topic. With his threat that he would no longer protect defaulting payers among NATO partners in an emergency, he has turned the allies against him. But there will be participants in Munich who may be able to explain what his statements mean: the dozen or so members of the US Congress from Trump's Republican Party.

The unwanted: Russia, Iran and the AfD

The regular guests at the security conference used to include government politicians from Russia, especially Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Since the Russian attack on Ukraine, this has been over; the Russian government, like the Iranian government, is unwelcome in Munich. Politicians from the AfD, Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) and Values ​​Union also have to stay outside. The AfD was already excluded last year. “I said back then that I didn’t want to roll out the red carpet for a right-wing extremist party,” said Heusgen. After the recent revelations about the Potsdam right-wing extremist meeting involving AfD politicians, he feels vindicated.