Security conference: elitist circle or collective psychotherapy?

Security conference: elitist circle or collective psychotherapy?

Munich showed that European security is inextricably linked to American security in all areas - economy, defence, intelligence, law, humanitarian affairs, digital space, logistics. By blindly following this agenda, European states are in the process of stripping themselves of all sovereignty and placing an enormous economic burden on future generations. Among the many negative developments we have seen recently in Munich, the crisis of diplomacy is evident. Diplomatic meetings have the character of elitist private clubs and are held in parallel with international organisations.

The Munich Security Conference is over and it lived up to its expectations: staged, predictable, unsurprising.

There were some interesting moments - when questions from the audience broke the conference agenda. A former Israeli ambassador confronted former German President Joachim Gauck with the question of whether, in view of Israel's massive violations of human rights and international law, it is not time for Germany to rethink its policy towards Israel.[1,2]

There were some pretentious moments - when presenters wanted to use the stage of the Bayerischer Hof for vanity purposes. Wolfgang Ischinger (chairman of the Security Conference) wanted assurances that there would be no military escalation around Taiwan. Wang Yi (head of the office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the People's Republic of China) retorted: "I assure the public that Taiwan is part of Chinese territory (...) This is the status quo on the Taiwan issue!" [3]

Finally, reliable extras like German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock provided some amusement: for her, Ukraine will not be able to feel secure in the long term with its Russian neighbour if Vladimir Putin does not change his policy 360 degrees. [4]

German perfectionis

In German precision, all the key discussion points and results have been worked out in advance. Christoph Heusgen and his team did an outstanding job. The invited ladies and gentlemen, whose list of participants can be found online [5], generally stuck to the script. Anyone who does not want to spend hours going through the video recordings can quickly find out about the essential course with the "Transatlantic to-do list".[6] Here are three points in summary:

a) With regard to Russia, military and economic support for Ukraine must be further deepened, sanctions against Russia must be strengthened, with a clear explanation to the transatlantic public of the purpose, cost and limits of sanctions. Russia must be held accountable for its war crimes, including through the creation of a special tribunal for Ukraine. The assets of Russian "kleptocrats" must be frozen and circumvention of sanctions must be prevented.
b) With regard to China, Munich believes that it is mainly called upon in the field of economic policy: emancipation from China-dependent supply chains (including the Belt and Road Initiative), better protection of intellectual property, better coordination of critical technology policy, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence and quantum encryption. Strengthen transatlantic coordination and European engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, support Taiwanese independence and increase pressure on China, including through the Uyghur portfolio.
c) In this endeavour, the aim is to secure the support of the 'Global South' (or at least 'disrupt' the relations of several Latin American and African countries with Russia and China). The demands made in Munich (after the World Bank, the World Economic Forum and the World Climate Conference, not for the first time) include increased investment in national economies, dialogue with national governments, debt cancellation and support for the fight against climate change.

Crisis in diplomacy

In Munich, everyone agreed to invoke "common values" and to banish all those who would not submit. When US Senator Jeanne Shaheen called for Russia to be "held accountable for war crimes", she was welcomed. No questions in return about accountability for war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria,...

The way this is commented on by explicitly uninvited observers can be read, for example, in Ilya Fabritchnikov's commentary in "Russia in Global Affairs":
"And it is precisely this one-sidedness, even this one-sidedness in the discussion, the belief in the certainty of victory of an unchanging 'rules-based world order', that makes the Munich Security Conference look like a group psychotherapy session, or even a society of alcoholics anonymous. Where everyone tries to convince the other that he or she is on the road to recovery. To the applause of a grateful and above all understanding audience." [7]

Munich was thus the occasion for a new verbal rearmament - summarised, for example, in the report drawn up in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group on the decline of the will to innovate in the European military defence sector.[8] The repeated mantra that Ukraine must win this war at all costs has only highlighted what is really on the transatlantic agenda: this war must be fought as long as possible in order to exhaust Russia militarily and economically.

Among the many negative developments we have seen recently, including around the Munich Security Conference, the crisis in diplomacy must be highlighted. Even if one wants to retort that "real diplomacy" takes place behind closed doors, it is images and words, such as those just described, that are perceived around the world. Especially by the uninvited.

Diplomatic meetings are increasingly held in 'select elitist circles' alongside international organisations. This year, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen did not invite representatives of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus and the Islamic Republic of Iran to the New Year's reception for the diplomatic corps in the Vienna Hofburg. This would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.[9]

At least Austria did not bow to pressure from many members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and allowed the Russian delegation to travel to Vienna for the winter session on 23 and 24 February. Ukraine and Lithuania announced their intention to boycott the OSCE meeting for this reason. The Austrian Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, defends the view that it is obliged, as the seat of the OSCE, to issue visas (an assessment also shared by the OSCE itself).[10]

Inextricably linked to the US?

International organisations such as the UN and the OSCE were created on the basis of an expressed common will. For a variety of reasons, this "common will" is now increasingly difficult to achieve. One of the main causes is globalisation, coupled with increasing digitalisation.

From a European perspective, the crisis of international organisations is an expression of a crisis of the world order after the Second World War. The rapid transition from a bipolar and then unipolar system to a multipolar system has undermined not only the political structures of states, but also their security structures.

To refer again to Fabritchnikov's comment: In Munich, it was noted that European security is inseparable from US security in all areas - economy, defence, secret services, law, humanitarian affairs, digital space, logistics. The European states are in the process of depriving themselves of all sovereignty by blindly following this agenda and placing an enormous economic burden on future generations.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said in Munich that Germans should be prepared to pay a lot of money to support Ukraine. He has certainly reckoned without his host.

This analysis was first published in: Le Courrier des Stratèges on February 22nd, 2023


[1] Germany pursues a policy of of raison d'Etat towards Israel because of the German crimes of the Holocaust.

[2]  (app. minute 36)

[3] (app. minute 27)

[4] (app. minute 16)