Steinmeier opens security conference with pacifism speech


Federal President Steinmeier opened the 56th Munich Security Conference on Friday. Steinmeier gave a rather pacifist speech to over 600 security experts and politicians, including dozens of heads of state and government, foreign and defense ministers, and warned that the world community must not break apart.

This year, the head of the Munich Security Conference (MSK), Wolfgang Ischinger, once again managed to lure almost forty heads of state and government, sixty foreign ministers and forty defense ministers from all over the world to the Bavarian capital. While on other days the visit of only one state guest dominates the reporting, here in the Bayerischer Hof you have to decide whether you would rather listen to the French or the Ukrainian president. And that’s just the official part.

Presidential meetings and ministerial meetings on the sidelines

There are also a lot of so-called “Side Events”, On Friday, on the sidelines of the security conference, Serbian President Vucic and Kosovo’s head of state Thaci signed an iron and highway contract to unite the enemy countries under the aegis of US Ambassador Grenell, the Trump administration’s new Balkan representative.

If everyone is in Munich, you can do something useful. A defense minister meeting of the so-called “anti-IS coalition” of leading NATO countries, including the United States, also took place on Friday morning parallel to the MSK. At the conference itself, terrorism, and IS * in particular, is hardly an issue this year.

Ischinger: “Keep the door open for Russia”

The conference was opened on Friday afternoon by Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, who has been guiding the fortunes of the MSK for twelve years and has not yet thought of quitting, as he recently announced.

Ischinger spoke of an “identity crisis of the West” and called for the ranks to be closed and to appear united in crises. “It is not enough that you, the most powerful people in the world, just shrug your shoulders” in view of the crises in the world, said Ischinger energetically in the direction of the hall.

The ex-diplomat called for the powers of the United Nations Security Council to be strengthened again. A glimmer of hope is that the Security Council implemented the decisions of the Berlin Libya conference this week.

Ischinger criticized that after the fall of the Berlin Wall it was not possible to create a common European security architecture involving Russia. “It is our duty as Germans to keep the door open for Russia. That is the legacy of reunification, ”said Ischinger. The ex-ambassador even indirectly criticized the fact that the NATO border has moved 1,000 kilometers to the east.

Steinmeier: “We must continue to invest in the transatlantic link”

Then Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stepped up to the lectern. His predecessor Joachim Gauck gave a remarkable speech in Munich in 2014, in which he called for Germany to be more involved in foreign policy, including military ones. Steinmeier’s appearance this year, on the other hand, can almost be described as pacifist.

The German head of state criticized that the newly sparked competition between the major powers that want to assert their interests is causing the world to drift apart. While he attacked China (“oppression of minorities”) and Russia (“annexation of Crimea”, “shifting borders”) head-on, his criticism of the USA was much milder – “‘Great Again’ ‘at the expense of neighbors and others “, As the Federal President put it.

“The Pax Americana threatens to disintegrate, and it is still unclear what will take its place,” said Steinmeier. Nevertheless, he said: “We must continue to invest in the transatlantic link.” Steinmeier only became clear to the United States with the sentence: “I consider the termination of the nuclear agreement with Iran to be a mistake.”

But he doesn’t lean too far out of the window and is on the European line. It would have been more courageous to criticize the US’s murder of Iranian general Soleimani.

Own European policy towards Russia

As is so often the case, Steinmeier was a diplomat in his speech: hand out on the left, collect on the right. He criticized and praised at the same time. While Russia got its fat, Steinmeier said elsewhere:

“However, we cannot accept an increasing alienation from Russia. We have to develop our own European policy towards Russia, which is not limited to condemning statements and sanctions. However, we must not think about a new relationship with Russia at the expense of our eastern neighbors. ”

“We will arm ourselves to the detriment of everyone”

Steinmeier’s speech was, in fact, a certain pacifism. How honest this is in view of the increasing German arms exports, which Steinmeier did not mention, is another matter.

The statements made by the Federal President on European security, the Two percent target and NATO. “The EU alone cannot guarantee its own security in the long term,” said Steinmeier. That would only be possible within the framework of NATO at the moment, and Germany had to do more to implement the USA’s demand to spend two percent of the gross domestic product annually on defense. Then Steinmeier narrowed it down again and said:

“But let’s be honest: Even if everyone spends significantly more than two percent, we could not stop or even reverse the erosion of the international order.” We cannot compensate for the loss of arms control contracts with even more weapons, said Steinmeier. “We should leave this thinking behind … Otherwise we will arm ourselves to the detriment of everyone.”

Steinmeier, like Ischinger, also advocated strengthening the international institutions and especially the UN and its Security Council.

Not just shaking clean hands in Libya

In contrast to Gauck six years ago, German foreign policy also called for diplomacy and pacifism: “The task of clever foreign policy is and must be to prevent wars, defuse conflicts, alleviate suffering,” said Steinmeier , Steinmeier brought the nice sentence to Libya, which Germany chose as a new field of foreign policy:

“You have to shake many hands if you want to achieve peace in Libya – and these are not just clean hands.”

The Federal President, on the other hand, did not mention Syria at all, except in a brief criticism of the Russian approach there, although Ischinger had actually said this before the conference as a major focal point of the world.

Show run of the defense industry

The primary purpose of the Munich Security Conference is to strengthen western rapprochement, recruit new members for NATO and celebrate transatlantic friendship (dominance). The prescribed despair of MSK boss Ischinger in the face of a crumbling west (“Westlessness”) seems like a challenge to prove the opposite this weekend.

If this event, which is mainly sponsored by the federal government and defense companies, has something positive, then it is probably the many unofficial meetings behind the scenes. It should happen that, apart from the protocol, Russians talk to Ukrainians or Iranians talk to Americans Tacheles. Officially, however, it is primarily about presenting your own position. It remains to be seen whether this will result in a dialogue this year.

* – Terrorist organization, banned in Germany and Russia.


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