From Biden to Barnier - Impressions from a Junior Ambassador

Jonathan Hillman, one of the MSC Junior Ambassadors 2013, shares some of his impressions from the conference, including his favorite quotes.

The second day of the Munich Security Conference didn’t disappoint. After U.S. Senator Sam Nunn accepted an award for his and Richard Lugar’s leadership on nuclear security issues, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took the stage with typical showmanship. “The good news is we’re not going anywhere. The bad news is we’re not going anywhere,” said Biden. But Biden wasn’t the only diplomat mixing humor and hard-hitting lines. Participants in a panel on rising powers and global governance, the first of its kind at the Munich Security Conference, had some news for the West. Highlighted below are the top ten quotes of the day, some of which the media certainly caught, but others which I promise you they didn’t.

[Note: The quotes by Ivanov, Ahtisaari, Menon, and Song quotes are paraphrased.]

10.    “Conflict, war is normal. Peace is an exception.” – Dr. Gjorge Ivanov, President of Macedonia, on security and stability in the Southeastern Europe and the Caucasus.

9.    “It’s traditional for the DOD leader of the U.S. delegation to emphasize…the need for allies to provide the necessary resources for defense…I have to add my own country to this exhortation because we’re facing the very real prospect of a huge and reckless additional cut in our defense budget.”– Dr. Ashton Carter, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, on the possibility of sequestration.

8.    “ZZZzzzzzz…” – Anonymous government official snoring (literally and loudly) during the “Security and Stability in Southeastern Europe and the Caucuses” panel.

7.    “After the Arab Spring, we no longer need to debate whether democracy is a universal value.” – Dr. Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Finland

6.    “In most areas, global governance is evident by its absence.” – Shivshankar Menon, National Security Advisor for India, on rising powers and global governance.

5.    “Most of the time, the President sends me to places that he doesn’t want to go.” –Joe Biden, U.S. Vice President, on traveling to Germany.

4.    “Instead of long vacations and social benefits, the developing world has been working.” – Song Tao, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs for China, on differences between the developing world and the developed world.

3.    “Attended my first meeting on NATO in 1976 and the question was: Whither NATO? I have never attended a conference where that wasn’t a subset of the conference.” – Joe Biden, U.S. Vice President, on NATO’s future.  

2.    “Not everyone likes the pivot to Asia, but we’re there to help with it.” – Erlan A. Idrissov, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan on his country’s strategic location and “multi-vector” foreign policy.

1.    “Is there anything to pool?” – Michel Barnier, E.U. Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, on whether European states can share and pool defense capabilities.


Jonathan Hillman (26) is a Master in Public Policy candidate and Belfer International and Global Affairs Student Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He is one of three Junior Ambassadors at the 2013 Munich Security Conference.

03 February 2013, by Jonathan Hillman