Western retreat at the centre of Munich Summit
Security Conference: more than 500 high-ranking officials, including 40 heads of state, discuss major global threats, from Syria and Yemen to the coronavirus and cyber attacks
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the 56th Munich Security Conference on Friday, 19 February 2021, which is taking place during multiple international crises, not only in terms of military conflicts but also in the face of existing threats such as climate change. In his opening speech in the Bavarian capital, Steinmeier lamented that these are times in which even “the idea of an international community is being called into question”. “This is not something new; it is a very dangerous return to the past,” he added, citing China and Russia as destabilising countries.
According to Wolfgang Ischinger, the summit’s director, “the world has become more dangerous in recent years. From the A in Afghanistan to the Y in Yemen, crises span almost the entire alphabet, from the S in Syria to the U in Ukraine. For the organisers of this year’s conference – which concludes on Sunday – the thread of the conference will be the “loss of Westernness”, as they say, Western countries are no longer sure of their values and the strategic direction they should take in the world. “Is the world becoming less Western? This question, according to Ischinger, is not only coming from outside but also within the Western world; the consensus about common values is becoming increasingly fragile. He explained that the conference will be the right arena to discuss this and what it means if the parties cannot agree on a common strategy.
Munich hosts more than 500 high-ranking officials, including 40 heads of state or government and more than 100 foreign and defence ministers. Among them is US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Because of his first visit to this event, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, assured that he would try to dispel “possible misunderstandings, clarify messages on issues of European security, defence and foreign policy”, according to the French presidency.
The US delegation will also include Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillet. The Democrat Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is also taking part and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. The foreign ministers of Spain, Arancha González Laya, China, Wang Yi, Russia, Serguei Lavrov, and Iran, Mohamed Zarif, will also attend.
The conference will include bilateral meetings and a meeting of the so-called Berlin conference on Libya, and a meeting of ministers of the coalition against the Islamic State. Cooperation in the fight against the new coronavirus and cybersecurity issues will also be discussed.