What happened at the Munich Security Conference 2017? Analyses and press reports

What topics, news, and developments at the Munich Security Conference 2017 were particularly relevant? A selection of current analyses and press reports.

"Europe is starting to get serious about defence" (The Economist, 23 February): "Mrs Merkel needs a story to persuade sceptical German voters of the wisdom of ramping up military spending from its current level of just 1.2% of GDP. Warm words about preserving security through non-military means offer one. (Wolfgang Ischinger, head of the Munich conference, suggests a 3% target for military, development and humanitarian spending.)"

"When nature is a terrorist" (Editorial Board, Washington Post, 23 February): "Bill Gates the world’s richest man, who has devoted much of his philanthropy to improving global public health, gave a speech the other day at the Munich Security Conference that should have caught everyone’s attention. Mr. Gates insisted that world leaders think differently about public health and national security. They should listen."

"Profound Uncertainty in Munich: Is the United States Committed to European Security?" (Richard Fontaine, War on the Rocks, 21 February): "This year’s Munich Security Conference once again stood out as the premier international gathering of national security policymakers and thinkers. Anticipation was high in the run-up to Munich, as the conference represented the Trump administration’s first major effort to publicly articulate its Europe policy. [...] The participants were left with a pervasive sense that transatlantic relations have entered a new era."

"The Russification of America" (Roger Cohen, New York Times, 21 February): "Surreal hardly begins to describe the proceedings at this annual gathering, the Davos of foreign policy. This is what happens when the United States is all over the place. Allies get nervous; they don’t know what to believe. “Trump’s uncontrolled communication is unsettling the world,” John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, told me. That is an understatement. The Trump doctrine is chaos."

"Revamping transatlantic ties at the Munich Security Conference" (Selin Nasi, Hürriyet, 20 February): "The MSC, in this respect, provided some clarity on what to expect from the Trump administration regarding Europe, Ukraine and relations with Russia and China. Will the U.S. remain loyal to its promises? That’s something that cannot be taken for granted."

"Munich conference: three dangerous superpowers – and we’re stuck in the middle" (Simon Tisdall, Guardian, 19 February): "An uncomfortable phenomenon underlies the numerous existential dilemmas facing world leaders gathered at this weekend’s Munich security conference: it is the scary sight of three superpowers – the US, Russia and China – all behaving badly, all at once."

"The specter of Trump in Munich" (Anne Applebaum, Washington Post, 19 February): "Diplomatic events are always made smoother by a touch of ambiguity. But at this year’s Munich Security Conference, the annual gathering of the the transatlantic alliance, the ambiguity shaded into something a little weirder. Speaker after speaker called for unity and cohesion in the face of the grave dangers facing the Western alliance. But nobody could quite bring themselves to say the truth out loud: that one of the gravest dangers facing the Western alliance is the president of the United States."

"MSC Chairman Ischinger: 'Some degree of clarity has been reestablished'" (Melinda Crane, Deutsche Welle, 19 February): "Wolfgang Ischinger: I'm partially reassured. I think most of the participants here are glad they came. When they arrived three days ago, many of them had a huge number of large question marks. At the end of these three days, I think the conclusion is some of the question marks can now be eliminated, but not all. The dimension of uncertainty is not over yet. We used to have lots of uncertainty about Russian intentions and about how to end the Syrian war. These uncertainties continue. Now, we came to Munich with the uncertainty about the intentions of the Trump administration regarding Russia, NATO, and many other issues. Some of these concerns have been alleviated and that is great. I think we can go home relatively satisfied that some degree of clarity has been reestablished."

"Awkward first date in Munich" (Matthew Kaminski, Politico, 19 February): "For the Americans and Europeans gathered in the Bavarian capital, it felt like the first date of an arranged coupling, not the natural renewal of a now 70-year-old vow that takes place every time a new president takes office in Washington."

"A Worried Europe Finds Scant Reassurance on Trump’s Plans" (Steven Erlanger, New York Times, 19 February): "They came from all over — diplomats and generals, policy experts and security officials — seeking clues to President Trump’s ideas and intentions. They left without much reassurance. As the Munich Security Conference, the world’s pre-eminent foreign policy gathering, ended on Sunday, it was notable that even the foreign ministers of China and Iran had taken questions, while Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stuck to prepared statements."

"Iran Mocks Trump Threats, Sets Sights on Gulf Nation Deals" (Jonathan Tirone, Bloomberg, 19 February): "Iran’s foreign minister mocked being 'put on notice' in a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump and said his country is focused on building Persian Gulf alliances. Mohammad Javad Zarif prompted laughter from a crowd of trans-Atlantic military and political officials at a global security conference on Sunday by observing that 'tweet is now very fashionable' before answering whether his country was concerned about the possibility of more U.S. sanctions."

"US senators warn European elections are next hacking targets" (Ewen MacAskill, Guardian, 19 February): "A bipartisan delegation of US senators on Sunday pressed Donald Trump to punish Russia over its alleged interference in the US election race and warned that Moscow’s next targets will be elections in France and Germany. Speaking at the Munich security conference, Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who is a member of the Senate armed services committee, expressed confidence that Congress will pass sanctions against Russia. '2017 is going to be the year of kicking Russian ass in Congress,' he said."

"Munich Security Conference: Europe's concerns with Trump government far from over" (Jonathan Marcus, BBC, 18 February): "This year the meeting had added significance since the man in the White House, Donald Trump, is unlike any other president in living memory. His supporters believe he is the man to overturn the "establishment" in Washington and to get things done. His detractors believe he is unfit for high office, his erratic behaviour leading some even to question his mental state."

"Washington PR Offensive Fails to Quell Europe's Anxiety Over Trump" (New York Times, 18 February): " One month into the unusual presidency of Donald Trump, his most senior cabinet members were deployed to Brussels, Bonn and Munich this week to reassure nervous Europeans that everything would be okay. The Europeans heard from Defense Secretary James Mattis that the NATO military alliance was not "obsolete" after all, despite Trump's repeated suggestions to the contrary. And they were told by Vice President Mike Pence that Russia would be "held accountable" for its actions in Ukraine, despite Trump's friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. But if the aim of the visits was to reassure Europe that the pillars of U.S. foreign policy are fully intact, they fell short of the mark, European diplomats, politicians and analysts gathered in Munich said."

"China Says Understands South Korean Need for Security, Still Opposes Missiles" (New York Times, 18 February): "Meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Wang repeated to South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se China's opposition to THAAD, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday. Wang 'stressed that one country's security should not be founded on the basis of harming another country's security', the ministry paraphrased him as saying."

"Sergey Lavrov: I hope world chooses post-West order" (Al Jazeera, 18 February): "Russia's foreign minister has called for an end to an outdated world order dominated by the West, even as US Vice President Mike Pence has pledged his country's 'unwavering' commitment to its transatlantic allies in NATO. Sergey Lavrov's comments at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday came just hours after Pence promised to stand with Europe to rein in a resurgent Russia and 'hold Russia accountable'."

"Germany will take own time to boost defense, Merkel tells Pence" (Janosch Delcker, Politico, 18 February): "Germany will live up to its promise to increase military spending but on its own schedule, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday morning, speaking right before him at this year's Munich Security Conference. 'We will do everything we can in order to fulfil this commitment,' Merkel said, referring to a ten-year plan to ramp up Germany's military budget by 2024, which was agreed among NATO member states at a summit in Wales in 2014."

"Bill Gates warns tens of millions could be killed by bio-terrorism" (Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian, 18 February): "A chilling warning that tens of millions of people could be killed by bio-terrorism was delivered at the Munich security conference by the world's richest man, Bill Gates. Gates, who has spent much of the last 20 years funding a global health campaign, said: 'We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril.' Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who has spent billions in a philanthropic drive to improve health worldwide, said: 'The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus ... or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu.'"

"Pence and Merkel embrace NATO but differ on transatlantic partnership" (Michael Birnbaum und Ashley Parker, Washington Post, 18 February): "Vice President Mike Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday offered dueling assessments of the troubled transatlantic relationship, as both praised NATO but Pence made no mention of the European Union, the key economic and political pact that binds Europe together. In back-to-back speeches at the Munich Security Conference, Merkel and Pence appeared to find common ground about NATO, whose members have been urged by President Trump  to spend more on defense. But while Merkel praised the broader international organizations that have been a key part of the post-Cold War global order, Pence’s silence on the E.U. may only fuel fears among European allies that the new leadership in the White House will embrace only some aspects of European unity, while rejecting others."

"Mike Pence Says U.S. Backs NATO but Urges Europe to Boost Military Spending" (Anton Troianovski and Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal, 18 February): "Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. would be unwavering in its commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but demanded that Europe step up its military spending, marking one of the Trump administration’s most full-throated efforts yet to reassure nervous partners."

"German defense chief hits Trump attitudes on torture, Russia and Muslims" (Michael Birnbaum and Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, 17 February): "Germany’s defense chief on Friday hit President Trump’s dismissive attitude toward Washington’s European allies, giving a frosty reception to U.S. envoys at the largest ­conclave of U.S. and European officials since the inauguration. Speaking to a packed hall that included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen hammered Trump’s ­attitudes toward Russia without ever mentioning the U.S. leader by name. 'There can be no policy of equidistance between allies on one side and those who on the other question our borders, our values and the principles of ­international law,' von der Leyen said to applause at the Munich Security Conference, where ­Europe’s senior security leaders were gathering to figure out how to respond to Trump."

"Defence secretary praises Nato and says security of both regions is tied" (Sam Jones and Stefan Wagstyl, FT, 17 February): "Senior cabinet figures from President Donald Trump’s administration attempted to reassure anxious allies on a foray into the heart of Europe on Friday, capping a week of diplomatic efforts to reaffirm Washington’s foreign policy priorities. James Mattis, the US defence secretary, heaped praise on an "enduring transatlantic bond" and told an annual security conference in Munich that Nato had the "full support" of the US president."

"John McCain just systematically dismantled Donald Trump’s entire worldview" (Aaron Blake, Washington Post, 17 February): "During a speech at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, the Republican senator from Arizona delivered a pointed and striking point-by-point takedown of Trump's worldview and brand of nationalism. McCain didn't mention Trump's name once, but he didn't have to. And even considering the two men's up-and-down history and the terrible things Trump has said about McCain, it was a striking display from a senior leader of a party when it comes to a president of the same party. In his speech, McCain suggested the Western world is uniquely imperiled this year — even more so than when Barack Obama was president — and proceeded to question whether it will even survive."

"A Cracking Debate on the EU's Future" (Judy Dempsy, Carnegie Europe, 17 February): "The title could have been a complete turn off: "The Future of the European Union: United or Divided?" But once the four panelists took to the podium for the first debate at this year’s Munich Security Conference, the fireworks began."

"At the Munich Security Conference, we should seek to agree that development without security is unsustainable" (Bono, Independent, 17 February): "If your eyes roll at international gatherings like the G20 Foreign Ministers' Summit this week in Bonn or the Security Conference I'll be attending this weekend in Munich, let me confess, mine used to as well. But after nearly two decades of harassing and attending such gatherings, I've discovered the dirty little secret of these events is that they're often not just talking shops."

"Why Europe is warning of Pax Americana's end" (Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, 13 February): "Last year, the global security establishment was mildly worried about a growing U.S. disengagement overseas. This year, the worry has given way to a realization that the "liberal world order" – another name for Pax Americana – may be finished, and that new security arrangements are needed. That's the conclusion that can be drawn from this year's edition of the Munich Security Report, an agenda-setting document put out annually by the organizers of the Munich Security Conference, the world's most prestigious geopolitical gathering."

01 March 2017, by MSC