Outlook to the 47th Munich Security Conference

Between classical issues and new challenges: A view to the 47th Munich Security Conference

(from left) Parliamentary State Secretary Christian Schmidt, the Russian Ambassador Vladimir M. Grinin, US Ambassador Philip D. Murphy and Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the security conference, discuss the forthcoming conference and pending strategic security issues. Photo: Rpresentation of the Free State of Bavaria/Berlin

By Tobias Bunde



At the invitation of the Minister of State Emilia Müller, Wolfgang Ischinger discussed the topics of the forthcoming security conference with Parliamentary State Secretary Christian Schmidt, the ambassador of the Russian Federation Vladimir Grinin and US Ambassador Philip Murphy in the Representative Office of Bavaria in Berlin.

The long way which the Munich Security Conference and with it the relations between East and West have gone in the past decades was underlined by a remark of the Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Defense Christian Schmidt. He could quite well recall his first participation in the conference in the early 90s. At those times, many a conference delegate would still have been very suspicious to see representatives of the Russian duma come to Munich. Now, almost twenty years later, Schmidt was taking part together with the ambassadors of the Russian Federation and the United States of America in a panel discussion in the Representative Office of Bavaria in Berlin to give, together with Wolfgang Ischinger, a view to the topics of the forthcoming conference.

On the way to a "more harmonic, more comprehensive security system for Europe and beyond"

After a year which had been very promising considering the relations to Russian and which was highlighted by President Dmitri Medvedev visiting the NATO summit in Lisbon the composition of the panel members was aimed at targeting the direction for the diplomatic year 2011. The efforts to achieve, as Ambassador Ischinger put it, a "more harmonic, more comprehensive security system for Europe and beyond" would represent a central element of the Munich Security Conference also this year. He expected a "particularly good conference" with an extremely large attendance of the classical partner USA and the new partner Russia.

Last October already, a small delegation of the Munich Security Conference had travelled to Moscow in the context of the so-called MSC Core Group Meeting to discuss current issues of the Euro-Atlantic security policy with Russian top-level politicians not least including President Medvedev himself. Both Ischinger and the Russian Ambassador Vladimir Grinin referred to the positive signals emanating from that meeting in Moscow. 

Grinin made clear that one was very satisfied in Russia with the open debate and the results of the MSC Core Group Meeting. Moreover, he qualified the new Strategic Concept of NATO and the resolutions by the NATO-Russia-Council on the Lisbon summit as a sound basis for intensifying the partnership between East and West. One was "fairly confident" in Moscow that one could further proceed on this way in Munich: "We expect the conference to bring us forward." Russia would therefore send a big delegation to Munich who would cover all conference topics. According to Ambassador Grinin, the high-ranking delegation will include, among others, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov. Grinin pointed out that joint challenges could only be jointly accepted. Nowadays there was the unique opportunity to build the Euro-Atlantic security community on a joint democratic foundation. This should be exploited: "We owe this to the next generations."  

Murphy: "This year we will again experience an outstanding security conference."

His colleague, US Ambassador Philip Murphy was pleased that the United States would again come to Munich with a high-ranking delegation this year, among them Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as well as long-term conference participants from the US senate such as John McCain and Joe Lieberman. Murphy underlined that the United States had supported the Munich Security Conference from its inception and appreciated it especially because of the fact that it enabled a „vivid dialog about the most important topics“. This was particularly true for the important exchange with the European countries who were "vital partners in the implementation of a demanding global agenda".
Among the most important topics of the international security policy to be discussed in this year’s conference will also be challenges in the field of cybersecurity and the impacts of the global economic and financial crisis. Parliamentary State Secretary Schmidt emphasized that this further thematic development showed how far the agenda of the Munich Security Conference had meanwhile gone beyond the classical topics of the former "Wehrkundetagung". But at once Schmidt pointed out that also these "old" topics were not at all obsolete but still required to be discussed, and he mentioned as an example the debate on still unresolved conflicts in Europe.

"Record attendance" of the German Federal Government

A more extensive understanding of "security" was the reason why Ischinger was able to herald a “record attendance” of the German Federal Government this year. In addition to Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel not only Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg would come to Munich but also Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.

Ischinger underlined that this year’s conference had to cope with an overwhelming amount of registrations and inquiries. This was insofar an unpleasant situation because it meant that therefore also an exceptional number of negative replies had to be returned. Nevertheless, this great demand boded well, of course, for the Munich Security Conference. As it repeatedly turned out in the discussion in the Representative Office of Bavaria, the popularity of the Munich Security Conference is not least due to its unique position in the international security policy. After all, it offers its participants the opportunity of an open and direct exchange without any pressure to issue a joint communiqué at the end. As Schmidt underlined, the resulting direct confidence building through personal contacts could certainly not be substituted by video conferences or other technical innovations.