After Davos, world leaders this month turned their attention to Munich, Germany. Unlike the conference in the Swiss Alps, however, discussions at the Munich event have direct significance for international affairs.
The Munich Security Conference 2020 revolves around a more focused theme : crises and future security challenges around the world. The first Munich Security Conference was held in 1963 with the founding principle of shoring up commitments for mutual defence and harmonise Western policy. The conference was described by its founders as a “trans-Atlantic family meeting.”
Eventually it grew to include representatives from other regions around the world and has served as a platform for airing grievances and testing policies.
This year, more than 30 heads of government and heads of state, as well as nearly 100 cabinet ministers converged on Munich to discuss the state of the West and a wide-spread perception of “Westlessness.”
The term, coined by the Munich Security Report 2020, refers to a widespread feeling of uneasiness and restlessness in the face of increasing uncertainty about the enduring purpose of the West.
Before it used to be somewhat different and for decades, the debate was largely dominated by unified Western nations backing a world vision focused on open markets and strong security institutions like NATO. But it changed.
“The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart,” Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, wrote in an introductory note. “We are experiencing an epochal shift; an era is ending, and the rough outlines of a new political age are only beginning to emerge.”
A significant shift in American foreign policy under President Trump has further changed the dynamic. The deep cracks in the trans-Atlantic relationship has become more apparent than ever, but they did agree on one thing: That China is the new enemy.
Europe, however, has been shaken awake from the dream of close trans-Atlantic ties even if US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended against criticism that the US had retreated from the world stage.
The German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier set the main tone of the meeting with his opening remarks saying that the US rejected “even the idea of an international community” and was acting “at the expense of neighbours and partners.”
“I’m happy to report that the death of the trans-Atlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, and we’re winning together,” Pompeo said in a speech that convinced few. Meagwhile, the UK’s poor representation drew criticism and concern from both organisers and participants. Its most important official present was Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK’s national security adviser.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, insisted on a vision for a Europe with new military power at the Munich Security Conference. As the only nuclear power in the EU, he also foresaw greater European sovereignty. He was referring specifically to Europe’s nuclear assets, pointing out a key difference to the Cold War era when Europe’s nuclear shield was primarily coordinated by the US.
The theme of European strength was taken up by the German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer who “completely agreed” with Macron. If Donald Trump wins a second term in the White House in November, the French vision will get a massive boost.
This article appeared first on Diplomatique.Expert (Edition 23) and is compiled by CiConsulta for Corporate Dispatch