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WEHRKUNDE- Munich 2015

February 20, 2015
       The 51st Munich Security Conference has taken place on February 5th – 6th. The ”parent” of this annual forum, the well-known German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, has penned a suggestively titled report Collapsing Order, Reluctant Guardians?(http://www.eventanizer.com/MSC2015/MunichSecurityReport2015.pdf), defining, from different vantage points, the historic crossroads the international order find itself at. What experts call “liberal world order 2.0. “, installed after World War II and completed at the end of the Cold War, is nowadays faced with significant challenges. The opening paragraph of this excellent document is relevant for its overall message: As we gather for the 51st Munich Security Conference, a particularly difficult year in international security policy lies behind us. Over the past twelve months, numerous crises have developed into crucial challenges and threats to international peace and security in ways that many decision makers and analysts did not see coming. And, what is more, these crises have exposed worrisome cracks in the international order and shed light on the shortcomings of existing collective security mechanisms and structures.”
       Obviously, the Ukraine crisis prevailed at the Munich meeting, the ensuing debates and the talks in the hallways of the conference capturing the attention of the participants - the elite of decision-makers (presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, MPs, experts, pundits).There was also a debate on the other strategic files: the Iranian nuclear crisis, global warming, the emergence of the Islamic caliphate in the Middle East, the energy race, underdevelopment, international terrorism and others (see the conference agenda here https://www.securityconference.de/fileadmin/MSC_/2015/Agenda/MSC2015_Agenda_01.pdf). Yet the conference was held immediately after (Friday, February 6th) the leaders of Germany and France traveled to Moscow to discuss with Vladimir Putin the new Ukraine peace plan. Is the defeat of the Ukrainian military forces imminent? Is Ukraine on the brink of economic collapse, as some participants in the conference were suggesting? The visit of the two EU heavyweights has been a sign of Europe's weakness (that favours appeasement, historically speaking, the taming of aggression) or the last chance to avoid a European war?
       Regarding the Munich Security Conference, I have published three editorials in the „Nine O’clock” Romanian journal (11, 17 and 18 February), under the pen name „Mihai Hareshan„. In the remainder of this post, we will be reproducing these articles.
 
                                               Mihail E. Ionescu  

 

 

Munich-51: A geopolitical weekend (I)

Editorial | mihai.hareshan | February 11th, 2015 at 9:00 PM
Scrupulous analyses performed starting last year (by example, by World Economic Forum, the organization that manages the annual reunions in Davos, Switzerland) convincingly revealed that 2015 if the year geopolitics made a powerful comeback on the global stage. If it was to affect globalization and international economical cooperation, as the phenomenon itself induces a state of increasing systemic insecurity and, as a result, the dynamics of investments powerfully decrease worldwide, all of these must be inventoried and pointed out based on an analysis of trends for the years to come. Past weekend – on February 6 – 7, 2015, at the Security Conference in Munich (the 51st edition of this prestigious international reunion in the Bavarian capital), these trends were evaluated, which proved the accuracy of previous predictions regarding the forceful comeback of geopolitics on the international arena, and attendants sought to identify solutions to present crises, some presenting an exponentially increasing danger for systemic stability.
The use by the several hundred attendants from various states – from Presidents and Prime Ministers to Foreign Affairs Ministers and members of Parliaments, from Government experts in foreign affairs and security experts to reputable commenters of the international press – of the Twitter app provides us a new opportunity to discover the bottomline ideas presented at the reunion and the ways they were presented – in speeches attended with focused attention, followed by Q & A sessions, in dialogues of the decidents with experts or valuable commenters, in informal meetings, in short interviews or in any other ways, on this occasion. It is obvious, as declared by Ivo Daalder, a well-known American expert in international politics, that “Wehrkunde”-2015 determined “The security policy world is descending on Munich for its annual confab–sort of the Academy Awards for Security Policy Wonks.”
The hosts seriously prepared for the events in the conference, especially that the presence of leaders with major responsibilities made the conducted discussions gain an extraordinary importance. They issued an extremely dense and concentrated analysis of the international situation, a sort of vademecum of great scientific accuracy in present international relations. Entitled “Collapsing Order, Reluctant Guardians?”, the report lists the leading trends in international security politics, providing a series of excellent maps, tables and graphs referring to present global evolutions. The title itself realistically suggests that the present security discussions refer to the global order after the Cold War, named by experts in political sciences “Liberal Order 2.0”, as Russia was the great power strongly engaged on the path of change and the “guardians”, the top Western states, showed a certain reticence to properly responding to Moscow’s challenges. Obviously, of an extraordinary importance is the fact that the global “tribe” of decision makers and experts in security issues reunited in Munich over the weekend accomplished, according to a Twitter post signed by Wehrkunde organizer, Wolfgang Ischinger: “Over the weekend, more than 700 bilateral and multilateral meetings have taken place.”, enforced by Bildt: “more than 700 bilateral meetings have been held in the premises here. Hopefully some steps towards better world.” Diplomacy is working hard and the attention granted by attendants to certain leaders is an obvious proof of the seriousness of the files assigned to these leaders. As Bildt mentioned: “Today diplomacy goes truly overdrive at #MSC2015. Everyone meeting everyone. But focus on Merkel, Poroshenko and Biden. Perhaps Lavrov”. Therefore: Ukraine is the headliner of the show, and the crucial question is that of war or peace between this country and Russia. Similarly important were the meetings of these leaders outside the frame of the reunion. By example, regarding the Iranian nuclear file, the audience was able to hear the position presented by the Foreign Affairs Minister from Teheran and, according to a Twitter post issued by Bildt on February 7, he had a meeting with his American counterpart. “Iran FM Zarif has been meeting daily with US here. Two hours with Kerry this morning. ‘We will lose together or win together’”. The last phrase quotes the public speech of the Iranian diplomat, held on the same day. Concerning the Iranian diplomat’s meetings with other counterparts, another Twitter note informs as follows: “Zarif and Kerry had ’very serious discussion’ early morning Sunday. Zarif also meeting German and France FMs today. Met UK yesterday”. Mr. Zarif is simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic, but he is eloquent in explaining that sanctions against Iran must be dropped and that this opportunity must not be missed. “If we don’t have an agreement, won’t be end of the world. Believe it is quite possible. An extension not needed”.
The undoubted conclusions of this year’s conference in Munich were not just the fact that diplomacy seems to have accepted the powerful comeback of geopolitics and is struggling – with increasing insistence – to keep things under control, but also that the global political order is still in an evolution and “guardians” are genuinely reluctant. As the Twitter post by John Kerry, the Head of American diplomacy, posted on February 8, the day all of the politicians mentioned below held a panel at the conference) puts it: “Current crises test international law, test global order we built after World War II”, confirmed by Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Affairs Minister: “There’s one country with one single leader that does not act according to the rules agreed by everyone in Europe” or by their German counterpart, Steinmayer: “The speech of Mr Lavrov has done nothing to relax between Russia and the West“. On the first day of the conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg abruptly asked the question floating above the entire reunion in order to give a negative answer, which is simultaneously a sign of a careful analysis and of the decision to maintain the present systemic organization: “Is the international order collapsing? My answer is: no.”. He added in two more phrases that were also posted on the official Twitter account of Wehrkunde-51 that:“We must be able to deter any threat from any direction. We are fundamentally changing NATO’s defence posture.” and that “Cooperation can only be based on trust and respect. Respect for rules. And respect for borders.” Another Twitter post quotes through a condition established by the NATO Secretary General regarding the maintaining of a status quo of the present order: “We can prevent an age of disorder – if we have the will”. Therefore, political will power is crucial, and diplomacy has a major role under these circumstances; we might even say that it cannot afford the luxury of any minor mistake now. Otherwise, a war in Europe is unavoidable and even limiting the one in Ukraine seems an extremely complex challenge.
 
 
 

Munich-51: A Geopolitical weekend (II)

Editorial | mihai.hareshan | February 17th, 2015 at 9:00 PM
 

The entire debate on international order held in Munich-51 is based on the challenge raised by Russia beginning with the war with Georgia, in August 2008, through which it ‘generated’ two new states in the Georgian state’s territory, and continuing with the annexation of Crimea in March 2014. So the entire current situation in Ukraine, the whole Russia-West debate on the military developments in the East of the ex-Soviet country are closely connected to the European and global status-quo, with keeping or changing/correcting the current international order. It is in this sense that one should read the references of the NATO secretary general in his speech in Munich on the respect for rules and borders, as well as a different statement he made, resent on twitter: ‘a strong NATO is essential if we are to engage Russia with confidence.’ The Russia-West confrontation is not just at a diplomatic level, but, through what is happening in Ukraine and given the reaction of the West (NATO), it tends to be already exceeding this framework. And twitter shares with us the various opinions voiced in Munich. From the beginning the key-question in the matter came from Carl Bildt: ‘Is help with diplomacy to Ukraine enough? Or is help with also defence necessary? Key issue as #msc2015 starts.’
Does Ukraine need to be armed to give an effective response to the Russian military aggression inflicted directly, through own troops, and though proxies (separatists)? A series of positions taken in the international media after the launch of the Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine (21-23 January) – through the artillery attack on Mariupol – Ukrainian Black sea port of strategic importance the control of which by forces opposed to Kiev would provide a direct land connection between Russian territory and Crimea – pointed out the necessity to provide lethal armament to the attacked state in order to be able to defend itself. Whilst Western capitals expressed their views on the matter – the US Congress being decisively in favour and the delivery of radars and anti-tank armament, drones etc. only needs the approval of the president – the Russian troops supported by the separatist ones continued the offensive, acquiring land beyond the divide line agreed upon in Minsk in September 2014.
Wehrkunde-51 provided a rostrum for the expression of Western and Russian positions through authorised voices. It has to be noted that the statements came after an extraordinarily meaningful development in the Ukrainian dossier – the visit to Moscow and meeting with Russian President V. Putin on 6 February 2015 of two Western leaders – F. Hollande, President of France, and Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. As the German foreign minister posted on the official twitter on 6 February ‘Chllr #Merkel travelling to #Moscow: Will use all our power to stop the bloodshed+to fill #Minsk Agreement with life.’
During five hours the three heads of state talked about the way to avoid a general war in Ukraine. Details of the talks are not known, but the Russian press notes that, unlike media speculations that President Putin was given an ultimatum by the West, the Kremlin’s spokesperson said that
‘Nobody has ever talked to the president in the tone of an ultimatum — and could not do so even if they wanted to.’ („The Moscow Times”, February 9, 2015).
The three politicians decided in Moscow to meet again, this time also with Ukraine’s President P. Poroshenko, in Minsk on 11 February to make a decision on the Ukrainian crisis. Therefore a postponement of a decision with a few days, during which time Wehrkunde-51 took place. As early as on 2 February, the organiser of the conference, W. Ischinger, had published a column in ‘Der Spiegel’ , with the headline ‘How to Stabilize Ukraine without Playing Putin’s Game’ in which he pleaded that the West should not resort to arming Ukraine with lethal weapons, but, on the contrary, continue to harden sanctions, by that elevating the cost Moscow has to pay for its military action in Ukraine.
What were the opinions at Wehrkunde on this matter?
Ever since the opening of the conference, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said, according to twitter, that she opposed ‚arms deliveries to #Ukraine: too many unknown consequences’. Angela Merkel’s address Saturday morning was therefore expected with a huge interest. According to a twitter sequence, she said that ‘Russia’s procedure violated foundations of European peace order, international law, the Helsinki Final Act, Budapest Memorandum.”; “Germany will be forever grateful to nations of CEE for ending Cold War “; “Merkel on Ukraine: Militarily this cannot be won. This is the bitter truth and the bitter reality.’ ” ( Josh Rogin ); “Merkel’s plan in Ukraine conflict? Endurance of the West during the Cold War. “( Daniel Brossler ) ; “One point worth mentioning about Merkel speech: No discussion of possible further sanctions if latest negotiations fail.”( Ian Bremmer ) ;“Heated debate on arms to #Ukraine with #Merkel on dias & an uncomfortable @poroshenko on front row with audience split btw pro/con. “ (Damon Wilson).
Russian Minister S. Lavrov’s speech at Wehrkunde-51 highlighted the radically distinct positions of the two parties. He accused the West of generating the Ukrainian crisis by organizing a coup in Kiev in February 2014, that the inhabitants of Crimea expressed their internationally guaranteed right in a referendum and chose to join Russia and, responding to the disavowing reaction of the audience, he commented: ‘Perhaps you think what I say is funny, but I think what you say is funny’. A renowned expert ( Josef Joffe ) asked him sprightly :” I understand your problems with the US. Why do you make #Ukraine pay for it? “. What caused a caustic answer on twitter on the Russian leaders: ‘It’s the historical mindset from the Cold War. Other than that they are all decked out in US goods…’ Minister Lavrov imperturbably continued to threaten the West for the extremely dangerous evolution of the Ukrainian crisis as demonstrated by Wehrkunde’s twitter: ‘At every stage of the crisis in #Ukraine, the US and the EU took measures to escalate the crisis.’; ‘Our Western partners were not guided by common European security but by illusions’ And he menacingly summarized: ‘Recent development have corroborated our warnings. Remember Pres. Putin’s speech here in Munich’. The reference to the memory of the audience is made directly to President Putin’s threats in 2007, in his address to the Wehrkunde meeting, where he threatened with Russia’s offensive actions to defend its own rights disregarded by the West. At the time, Putin told the audience: ‘We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.’
Immediately the Munich audience embraced the position that ‘The West is not united in The face of #Russia threat, perspectives very depending on geography’ (twitter resent by M. Zaborowski, initially written by Edward Lucas). It’s interesting that this latter expert who commented on Merkel’s speech, having read Anna Applebaum’s report in ‘Washington Post’ on A. Merkel’s address the following day and, after that, Serghey Lavrov’s, noted on twitter: ‘If we don’t come up with a serious strategy to prevent [a world war] that’s what we’ll get’.
 
 
 

Munich-51: A geopolitical weekend (III)

Editorial | mihai.hareshan | February 18th, 2015 at 9:00 PM

It therefore seems that this is the stake of the current diplomatic confrontation between Russia and the West. This explains the interest with Angela Merkel’s appearance had been expected with, the intensiveness with which she was followed by the audience and equally the audience’s reaction to some of the ‘uncomfortable’ questions. In her report for “Washington Post”, Anne Applebaum is accurate about that: “This year, the normally staid audience laughed out loud at the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who seemed, at one point, to question the legality of German unification. Some of the room also applauded loudly when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor — just back from an apparently fruitless peace mission to Moscow — restated her view that ‘there is no military solution’ to the conflict in Ukraine. But when Malcolm Rifkind, the former British foreign secretary, asked her how she would stop Russia without military force, another part of the audience applauded.” As it can be seen on the numerous twitters exchanged among the participants, Angela Merkel’s address was followed with major intensiveness. According to one such exchange: “The banqueting hall of the Bayerischer Hof was packed full with leaders, defense and foreign ministers, and security experts. They all wanted to hear what German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to say.” But, after Lavrov’s speech, according to Ian Bremmer’s twitter – “Not a shred of hope for diplomacy from Lavrov speech. It’s as if he and Merkel were describing different planets” – the pessimism of the audience augmented.
The last day of the conference included on the agenda panel debates with the ‘heavy ones’ on the Ukrainian crisis and the solution. Both Vice-President J. Biden and the French and German foreign ministers or the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, F. Mogherini, or US Senator John McCain highlighted the importance of preserving the current international order and therefore not recognising territory acquisitions by military force and keeping existing borders, and avoiding a military conflict in Europe. Laurent Fabius said, without naming the state, that “There’s one country with one single leader that does not act according to the rules agreed by everyone in Europe”, and McCain “criticizes lack of resolve of Western nations (US included) to deal w/ith/ crises (Ukraine, Syria, Iran) Question of will “. Vice-President Biden sent unequivocal messages: “ 1) Russia is controlling separatists — and has to get out of Ukraine! 2) Corruption is ‘like kryptonite’ for democracy.” ; “/…/presents #Putin with choice: get out of #Ukraine or face isolation and economic costs “ ; “Europe is not just the home of our closest allies. It is the cornerstone of U.S. engagement w/ the rest of the world.“ ; “America and Europe are being tested. Need to reassert core values of no spheres of influence, right to chose own alliances.”; “Here today to talk about reassert – not reset – a Europe whole free and at peace “.
In the conclusion of the conference, as a matter of fact, the organiser, W. Ischinger, expressed his conviction that the up-going trend of the confrontation in the rest of Ukraine – “I want to repeat my concern with close military encounters. We must avoid escalation “- and that the meeting had been “at least a glimmer of hope. A meeting will take place Wednesday in Minsk” in the Capital of Belarus, to decide if there would be ‘war or peace’ in Europe.
If Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive action were the main dossier of debate during the conference, reflecting the hottest topic in international relations today, it doesn’t mean that other current international security issues were abandoned. On the contrary, there were wide debates on the security situation in the Mideast – I mention here Federica Mogherini’s announcement that ‘I convened today at @MunSecConf the Quartet for the #MiddleEast Peace Process, with @JohnKerry, Lavrov and UN’, as well as Isaac Herzog’s messages: “Let me say this clearly: #Israel will never tolerate a nuclear-armed #Iran “ and “Two-state solution is the only sustainable option for both Israelis and Palestinians “ or those of the president of the regional Kurdish government in Iraq, that “If ISIS stay in Syria, they will manage to reorganize and come back.”. Federica Mogherini decided to rewrite the EU security strategy of 2003 or, as she notes on twitter: “A process of EU strategic reflection now launched by @FedericaMog. Excellent. Coming out of our work on European Global Strategy.” Laurent Fabius warned that Africa “is obviously a key area for our common security “; Kofi Annan , former UN Secretary General, said that “Reluctant guardians is indeed an apt description of the Security Council’s inability to agree on a strategy for Syria.”, and a ‘group of wise men’ ( The Elders ) proposed for a ‘stronger UN’ “ a new category of @UN Security Council members: “permanent” as long as reelected.”; “A more transparent use of the Veto”( not applicable to genocide or related cases); “a new selection process for the #UN Secretary-General”. Naturally, part of the debate were also the global warming, the situation in Afghanistan, the energy dossier, so on and so forth. China, represented at Wehrkunde-51 by a state counsellor – the highest level of participation in the meeting so far – passed on the message that it supported “ comprehensive, sustainable global security “, therefore a predictable, rule-based global order.
However, Wehrkunde-51 was followed by Minsk a few days later, on 11 February. The crucial meeting on peace or war in Europe. But that will be the subject of our next column.
 
 

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