What Happened at the Munich Security Conference?

What were the most important themes, news, and developments out of Munich? Have a look at a selection of media reports and analyses from our debates.

As every year, numerous national and international media outlets report on the debates in Munich (Photo: MSC / Kuhlmann).

"The absence of U.S. leadership makes the world more dangerous than ever" (Joseph I. Lieberman, Washington Post, 24 February): "For more than 50 years, national security leaders have gathered annually at the Munich Security Conference [...]. I have been privileged to attend almost half of these meetings [...] but none has been as troubling as the one held this month. That is because the world has never seemed as dangerous and leaderless as it does now."


"Putin bombs and the west blinks" (Philip Stephens, Financial Times, 18 February): "The contest at the Munich security conference pitted the ruthless cynicism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia against the indignant impotence of a divided Atlantic community. The outcome was never in doubt. Syria was always going to be the loser."


"Lessons from Munich: We Need Cooperation, Not Confrontation" (Igor Ivanov, The Moscow Times, 18 February): "At the latest Munich Security Conference, Russian politicians once again confirmed their willingness to engage in dialogue. And, as before, Russia called for dialogue among equal partners [...]. This is the only approach that will make it possible to lay the foundations for long-term and stable cooperation."

"The Russian Connection Between Syria and Ukraine" (Joseph Nye, The National Interest, 17 February): "For the last fifty-two years, leaders from around the world have gathered in Munich for an annual review of world security problems. This year's discussion focused on the civil war in Syria. [...] In contrast, last year the focus in Munich was on Russian aggression against Ukraine. Ironically, it was easier to garner a consensus about a Western response to that threat. Behind both topics, however, lies the question of what Russia wants."


"Exclusive: Russian Premier Remains Defiant On Bombing of Syrian Rebels" (Simon Shuster, TIME, 15 February): "'I never said that a new Cold War has started.' Rather, the actions of the NATO military alliance are 'pushing us toward the emergence of a new Cold War. I said that, and I’m ready to confirm that.' In particular, Medvedev cited NATO's plans to deter Russian aggression by stationing more troops in Eastern Europe. 'If this isn't preparing for another Cold War, what is it for then? For a hot war? Such is the reality,' he said.


"Russia accused of 'weaponising' Syria refugees" (Sam Jones, Financial Times, 15 February): "A pivotal part of Russia's strategy was 'to exacerbate the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the transatlantic alliance and undermine the European project', John McCain, the US senator, said in a speech at an annual security conference in Munich yesterday."


"Syria Accord Looms Over Europe Security Meeting" (Alison Smale, New York Times, 15 February): "Mr. McCain, who traditionally heads the congressional delegation to Munich each year, suggested that Mr. Putin was relying on ever more powerful shows of force to reassert his country's role as a dominant global power. "His appetite is growing with the eating," Mr. McCain said, adding, "We have seen this movie before in Ukraine."


"All Change in the Russian-Western Strategic Climate" (Dmitri Trenin, Carnegie Europe, 14 February): "At the 52nd Munich Security Conference on February 12-14, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev delivered the speech Vladimir Putin would have made had he cared to come to Munich this year. [...] In the present environment, war prevention remains the only big item on the agenda for Russian-NATO dialogue."


"China's rise, global integration can contribute to setting norms, rules for world order: Ng Eng Hen" (Straits Times, 14 February): "China's global integration and its leadership role in international affairs through its economic and military might has enabled Beijing to 'set norms and rules for the global system', said Singapore's Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen. Addressing the 52nd Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Saturday (Feb 13), Dr Ng said: 'China's integration, rise and involvement in the global international order should be seen as one of the great advances of the past century.'"


"Europe's Convinced U.S. Won't Solve its Problems" (Josh Rogin, Bloomberg View, 13 February): "Europe is facing a convergence of the worst crises since World War II, and the overwhelming consensus among officials and experts here is that the U.S. no longer has the will or the ability to play an influential role in solving them. At the Munich Security Conference, the prime topics are the refugee crisis, the Syrian conflict, Russian aggression and the potential dissolution of the European Union's very structure. Top European leaders repeatedly lamented that 2015 saw all of Europe’s problems deepen, and unanimously predicted that in 2016 they would get even worse."


"EU referendum: US wants 'strong UK in strong EU'" (BBC, 13 February): "Mr Kerry, who spoke about the EU while at security conference in Munich, said Europe was facing a number of challenges including the UK's potential exit. 'Here again however, I want to express the confidence of President Obama and all of us in America that, just as it has so many times before, Europe is going to emerge stronger than ever, provided it stays united and builds common responses to these challenges,' he said."


"Facing Allies' Doubt, John Kerry Voices Confidence in Syria Cease-Fire" (David E. Sanger/Alison Smale, New York Times, 13 February): "Secretary of State John Kerry, facing both anger and skepticism from European allies about the willingness of the United States to intervene more deeply in the Syrian civil war, promised on Saturday to help close off the routes migrants are taking to Europe and warned Russia that its military effort to prop up President Bashar al-Assad of Syria would ultimately fail. […] On Saturday, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of security officials and experts from Europe and beyond, he said 'the trucks are loaded and ready to go.'"


"Rusia alerta de que el mundo se aproxima a una nueva guerra fría" (Luis Doncel, El Pais, 13 February): "El duro discurso pronunciado por Medvédev en Múnich - donde este fin de semana se celebra la Conferencia de Seguridad que reúne a un centenar de jefes de Estado, de Gobierno y ministros - ha chocado con los reproches hacia Moscú lanzados por buena parte de los líderes occidentales que participan en el mismo foro. 'La inmensa mayoría de bombardeos rusos van dirigidos contra grupos de la oposición legítimos. Esta situación debe cambiar', dijo el secretario de Estado de EE UU, John Kerry."


"Kerry takes aim at Russia over Ukraine and Syria" (Matthew Lew/AP, Washington Post, 13 February): "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday sharply criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Syria, accusing Moscow of 'repeated aggression' in both places. In a speech at the Munich Security Conference, Kerry said Russia is defying the will of the international community with its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and its military intervention in Syria on behalf of President Bashar Assad."


"Russia's Medvedev Says World Is Fighting a New Cold War" (Anton Troianovski, Wall Street Journal, 13 February): "'We have slid, in essence, into times of a new Cold War,' Mr. Medvedev said in a speech Saturday to senior international officials at a marquee security conference in Germany. Mr. Medvedev cited the Syria conflict as an arena of much needed Russian-Western cooperation, especially on military issues. The key to resolving that conflict, he said, was the cooperation of 'Russian and American military officials — regularly, constantly, every day.'"


"Les sombres visions sur l'état du monde de Valls et Medvedev" (Le Figaro, 13 February): "C'est un sombre XXIe qu'ont décrit Manuel Valls et Dimitri Medvedev. Les premiers ministres français et russes, présents ce samedi à la Conférence sur la Sécurité à Munich, ont posé un regard inquiet sur l'état du monde. Ce sont aussi deux visions qui se sont opposées: une Europe en crise contre une Russie qui veut imposer son rang." 


"Мы скатились во времена новой холодной войны [We have slid into a new cold war]" (Mikhail Pak, Lenta.ru, 13 February): "Премьер-министр России Дмитрий Медведев в ходе мюнхенской конференции по безопасности неожиданно для многих выступил с резкими заявлениями по всему спектру вопросов международной политики, фактически констатировав "времена новой холодной войны". Речь главы правительства России уже сравнивают со знаменитой мюнхенской речью Владимира Путина — в 2007 году президент говорил об однополярности современной мировой политики, о месте и роли России в системе международных отношений."


"Russia Accuses West of 'New Cold War' over Syria, Ukraine" (Andy Eckardt/Carlo Angerer, NBC News, 13 February): "Russia on Saturday accused world powers of fighting 'a new Cold War' as Moscow came under pressure from the United States and NATO over its actions in Syria and Ukraine. Dmitry Medvedev painted a grim picture of relations with the West, telling the Munich Security Conference that NATO's stance on Russia remained 'unfriendly and opaque.' 'One could go so far as to say we have slid back to a new Cold War,' he told a packed auditorium of ministers and policymakers. 'Sometimes I wonder whether it is 2016 we are living in, or 1962.'"


"A Munich, Manuel Valls pointe le danger de 'l'hyperterrorisme'" (Bastien Bonnefous, Le Monde, 13 February): "Intervenant lors de la Munich Security Conference samedi 13 février, Manuel Valls a répété son appel européen et international face à 'la menace terroriste'. 'Nous sommes entrés dans une nouvelle époque, nous avons changé de monde', a déclaré le premier ministre de la France à l’occasion de ce sommet sur la sécurité organisé dans la capitale de la Bavière."


"Wandering Refugees" (Judy Dempsey, Carnegie Europe, 13 February): "A year ago, it was Merkel and Ukraine that was the center of attention here at the Munich Security Conference. [...] This year, the continuing war in Syria and the huge impact that the refugee crisis is having on the region - but also on Europe and particularly on Germany – is topping the agenda. Again, Germany has taken the lead, this time without its EU allies."


"Syrian president Bashar al-Assad vows to retake whole country" (Ian Black/Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian, 12 February): "The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said on Friday that Assad's removal was vital to defeat Islamic State. 'We will achieve it,' he told the Munich Security Conference."


"US, Russia Agree to Ceasefire in Syria, Opposition Proposes Two-Weeks Truce" (Asharq Al-Awsat, English Edition, 12 February): "On Thursday, decision-makers from around the world started gathering for the MSC, which will be held from February 12 to 14 in Munich and will be attended by around 600 senior global figures. Top politicians are expected to examine the international response to the current refugee crisis engulfing Europe and a number of Middle Eastern and African countries."

24 February 2016, by MSC