Defence & Security Policy Series

NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70 in Washington, DC (2019)

Discussion with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at "NATO Engages" (Photo: MSC / Kuhlmann)

As this spring marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Washington Treaty, the founding document of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the NATO Ministerial convened Alliance foreign ministers in Washington, DC at a critical juncture for the Alliance and the transatlantic community as a whole. On the day before the Ministerial, "NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70" – co-hosted by the Munich Security Conference, the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund – took stock of the Alliance's achievements over the past seven decades. However, it also raised the issue of significant new challenges facing NATO – from outside its borders, from entirely new developments in the international security environment, as well as from within the Alliance.

In a town hall-style format, "NATO Engages" aimed to facilitate an intense discussion among high-ranking decision-makers as well as a diverse range of next-generation leaders and experts. Among others, the "NATO Engages" audience heard from Michael R. Pence (Vice President of the United States), Jens Stoltenberg (Secretary General of NATO), Jacek Czaputowicz (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland), Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey), Madeleine Albright (former Secretary of State of the United States) and Chris Murphy (US Senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

See our event report for a brief summary of the key debates from the event. For the full agenda as well as for more information on the consortium behind NATO Engages, visit You can re-watch recordings of all of every session from NATO Engages here. A selection of photos from the event is available in our media library.

About the Defence & Security Policy Series

Since the turn of the millennium, the global security environment has been in great flux. The increasingly multipolar world is characterized by the upsurge of state actors like Russia and China as well as by the alarming number of non-state armed groups and weak states around the globe. These developments have given rise to intense debates on the present and future global security architecture.

In this context, the Munich Security Conference's traditional focus on issues of European defence and transatlantic security cooperation remains as relevant as ever. Beyond advocating for discussions on deeper, more impactful defence and security cooperation in Europe, the MSC advances the international debate on a wide array of defence and security policy issues, including: nuclear and conventional arms control, counterterrorism, transnational organized crime, intelligence cooperation, planning and procurement, and strategic foresight. Events in the context of the Defence & Security Policy Series are aimed at selected decision-makers at the highest levels of government, academia, militaries, the private sector, and civil society.

Summits, roundtables and other activities

As part of the Defence & Security Policy Series, the MSC organizes numerous events, which vary in scope and size.

MSC Summits address an audience of up to 150 high-profile representatives from government, academia, the military, the private sector and civil society, while also retaining the MSC's trademark atmosphere of open exchange and frank debates in an exclusive setting. These summits aim to bring together political and economic leaders to develop strategies on defence and security policy issues.

MSC Roundtables are intimate, off-the-record gatherings of no more than 40 participants taking place throughout the year on the sidelines of high-level international events around the world. The topics of discussion are tailored to reflect current debates and challenges in defence and security policy, attracting high-ranking participants from governments, militaries, academia, the private sector and civil society.

In addition to the events specifically dedicated to the topic, defence and security policy issues naturally play an important role at all MSC activities. During the annual flagship conference in Munich, these topics have regularly taken center stage at panel discussions as well as in a growing number of side events. Further, the MSC regularly features issues of defence and security policy in its annual Munich Security Report and also published a special report on European defence cooperation titled "More European, More Connected and More Capable: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future" in November 2017.

Past Events

European Defence Roundtable in Munich (2019)

On the side lines of the 55th Munich Security Conference, the MSC hosted a high-level discussion on the future of European defence cooperation titled "The Future of European Defence: Friends in Need – Friends Indeed?" The event marked the start of a three-part discussion series on the future of European defence in cooperation with the London-based Royal United Services Institute and the Paris-based Institut Montaigne. The two remaining roundtable events will take place in the British and French capital, respectively, in spring of 2019.

The roundtable brought together senior North American and European decision-makers from the military and politics, leading policy experts as well as representatives of the defence sector. The discussion focused on concerns about possible duplications between EU and NATO-led initiatives to strengthen joint defence capabilities. However, participants raised several examples of how this cross-organisational cooperation has been working well so far. With regard to European efforts, the development of a common European arms export policy was seen as a crucial political issue. For many participants, the imminent Brexit was the key challenge for European and transatlantic defence cooperation, and they welcomed the prospect of further MSC discussion formats on this issue.

NATO Engages: The Brussels Summit Dialogue (July 2018)

With world leaders meeting next door, the Munich Security Conference – in partnership with NATO, the Atlantic Council, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and Women in International Security (WIIS) – organized the official outreach event of this year's NATO Summit from July 11 to 12 in Brussels. Titled "NATO Engages: The Brussels Summit Dialogue" the event brought together current and next-generation leaders in the spectacular setting of the new NATO Headquarters to discuss some of the alliance's most pressing challenges. Key themes mirrored the official summit agenda, but also included broader transatlantic and global security issues.

Among other leaders in security policy, NATO Engages welcomed Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine; Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan; Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN; and Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO. A specific aim of "NATO Engages" was also to reach out to the broader public and engage stakeholders beyond the traditional security and defence community: The event counted 491 participants from 57 different countries, with 30 percent of participants below the age of 35, and 40 percent being women.

See our event report for a brief summary of the key debates from the two-day event. For the full agenda as well as for more information on the consortium behind NATO Engages, visit You can re-watch recordings of all of every session from NATO Engages here. A selection of photos from the event is available in our media library.

For more on the topic of the transatlantic alliance and European defence, see the summary of our Roundtable on European Defence, which was held in Brussels on the eve of the NATO Summit.

Roundtable on Transatlantic Security Munich (2018)

On the sidelines of the main conference in 2018, the MSC organized its first Roundtable on Transatlantic Security. Co-hosted with NATO, its theme was "Stronger Together: The Enduring Value of the Rules-Based International Order." The roundtable brought together senior North American and European decision-makers from the military and politics, leading policy experts as well as representatives of the defence industry.

The discussions focused on Europe’s changing threat landscape and related policy implications for transatlantic defence cooperation. More specifically, the roundtable participants observed that the enormous pace of technological change poses pressing challenges that require a new way of thinking about defence planning. Expressing a sense of urgency, the participants agreed that decisions on which type of defence capabilities were needed must be taken soon. In this context, more extensive exchange of information and joint procurement of more interoperable defence systems were identified as possible policy priorities to prepare the Alliance for future challenges.

European Defence Roundtable Berlin (2017)

To contribute to the debate on intensifying European defence cooperation, the MSC – in cooperation with McKinsey & Company and the Centre for International Security Policy at the Hertie School of Governance – authored a report titled "More European, More Capable and More Connected: Building the European Armed Forces of the Future". A public discussion with distinguished panelists served to present and discuss its key findings.

Pre-release coverage of the report included a feature article in Der Spiegel and a piece by Politico. An English version of an op-ed in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the report by MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger and former McKinsey executive Frank Mattern is available as our November Monthly Mind column.

Following the public discussion, in an off-the-record session, about 50 representatives from politics, militaries, think tanks, and the defence sector came together to discuss the current state and prospects of European defence cooperation. Notable participants included Nathalie Tocci, Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Sir Christopher Harper, former Director General of the International Military Staff of NATO, Norbert Röttgen, foreign policy expert of the CDU and Member of the German Bundestag, Horst-Heinrich Brauss, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Policy and Planning, and Tomasz Szatkowski, Undersecretary of State in the Polish Ministry of National Defence.

European Defence Roundtable Malta (2017)

On April 25, 2017, the eve of the informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers in Malta, the European Defence Roundtable brought together around 20 female decision-makers from government, parliaments, and civil society for a frank and open roundtable debate on the state and future of European defence.

The event took place under the patronage of Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta and of the Council of the European Union, and was jointly hosted by the Women Political Leaders Global Forum (WPL) and the Munich Security Conference (MSC).

Click here to read the full conference report.

European Defence Roundtable in Warsaw (2016)

On the eve of the NATO summit, the MSC's European Defence Roundtable brought together a small group of senior decision-makers in order to debate the summit's key topics in a private, off-the-record setting.

Participants of the event, which was organized with support of Leonardo, included several Foreign and Defence Ministers from Northern and Eastern Europe, CEOs as well as senior NATO leaders.

Click here for a summary of the debates. Also read Wolfgang Ischinger's essay "The Russia Paradox", published on the occasion of the NATO summit.