The world according to the Munich Conference

Mohamed Kamal
Tuesday 21 Feb 2023

This year’s security conference in Munich focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine, with Western leaders affirming their resolve to continue backing Kyiv and deny Moscow victory on the battlefield.


Last Friday, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) began and lasted for two days. The conference is held annually in the German city of Munich. It is considered the most important conference in the entire globe discussing issues related to security in its broadest sense. The importance of the conference is also derived from being a venue for gathering high officials such as presidents and prime ministers along with experts and public opinion leaders.

This year’s conference had a great significance due to the big number of attendees and the high level presence. It was attended by forty presidents and prime ministers, including the German Chancellor, the French president, the British prime minister and the American vice president and other western countries’ leaders in addition to politicians from around 100 countries.

This presence was different from that of the Davos Forum, which was held this year with poor attendance and a low profile. Thus, it asserted that the security issues occupied the top priority in the world’s interests, rather than economic globalisation issues discussed by the Davos Forum.

The conference sessions were broadcast live via television channels and on internet platforms. The videos are still available for anyone wanting to benefit from this meeting that was rich in information and analysis.

Despite the multiple issues listed in the conference agenda, the main focus was on the Ukraine war, for the conference was held almost a year after the war broke out. Last year, the conference commenced just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Participants, at the time, demanded President Putin not attack Ukraine and warned of the consequences of the war.

This year’s attention on Ukraine was evident in the painting of the hotel building in which the conference was held in the colours of the Ukrainian flag; and, for the first time in two decades no Russian official was invited to participate.

The conference discussions, especially those related to the Ukraine can be summarised as follows:

First: The West is adamant that Putin will not be allowed to win the war. French President Emmanuel Macron said that “Russia must not win this war… Russia’s attack must fail.” The American Vice President Kamala Harris said that if Putin won the war that would mean that the logic of using force has won. If this succeeds in Europe today, it will be used in Asia tomorrow, in reference to China and its relationship with Taiwan. The USA has a strategic interest on not letting this happen, she added.

Second: Pledging to continue military assistance to Ukraine, the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the war might continue “for several years.” Western weapons shipments to the Ukraine do not prolong the war, but shorten it, he added.

According to him, “the sooner President Putin realises that he cannot achieve his objectives, the greater the chance that the war will end soon with a withdrawal of Russia’s occupying forces.” Scholz was proud that his country is not hesitant anymore in offering tanks to Ukraine. Germany has granted Ukraine more than 12 billion euros in 2022 and welcomed more than one million Ukrainian refugees he said, adding that they will offer more money.

Third: The West sees that this no time to engage in dialogue with Russia. According to President Macron, “The resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and helping them to launch a counter-offensive alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities and its people.”

Fourth: There is no unified conception concerning peace among Western countries; some see that peace is connected with Russia’s withdrawal from all the Ukrainian territories, including the Crimean Peninsula which it annexed before; others leave the terms of peace for the Ukrainian government only. French President Macron presented a balanced stand saying, “None of us will change geography and Russia will always remain in the European continent.” Thus, there will never be a lasting and complete peace in the continent without dealing with the Russian question.”

Replying to those saying that peace would not be realised as long as Vladimir Putin remains in power, Macron said that he does not believe in the policy of “regime change”.

Fifth: Several Western leaders pointed out that neutrality in the Ukrainian war is not an option, let alone supporting the invasion and violation of the sovereignty of an independent state.

Ideas proposed by some politicians from countries of the Global South did not attract much attention, especially those that, while opposing the invasion and occupation, aimed to intensify efforts to achieve a peace agreement without having to choose sides between Russia and the West.

In short, the MSC dealt with the Ukrainian war as the main issue in the world and Western leaders spoke about escalating with Russia and that it isn’t the time for reaching a peace agreement or as President Macron said that we are in the process of an extended conflict. Hence, nobody knows when it will end and in what form.

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