Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Disappointing results of the Munich Security Conference: Russian gas destroys Euro-Atlantic solidarity


The 55th Munich Security Conference was held from 15 to 17 February. There has been a lot of topics for talks: the beginning of a new "Cold War" between Russia and West, the trade war between the United States and China. One of the important events of the conference was a dispute between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice President of the United States Mike Pence.

The subject of these disputes was the attitude to Russia. Merkel talked for the first time about the need to resume cooperation with Russia. Pence strongly objected. «America is stronger than ever before and America is leading on the world stage once again», – he assured. Pence once again said that Washington opposes the construction of «Nord Stream-2» gas pipeline, due to which Russian gas will be in significant volumes reach the Germany by the bottom of the Baltic Sea. "We can not make the West stronger, becoming dependent on the East," he said, informs Glavkom.

By the way, Trump has repeatedly reproached Merkel for the increased dependence on Russian gas. Merkel said that claims about the unreliability of Moscow as a supplier of energy are groundless. During the discussion, the Chancellor added that Russia should not be excluded from the political process. Pence replied that Washington is still trying to bring Moscow to responsibility for the annexation of Crimea and attempts to destabilize the West with cyber attacks and misinformation. «From a geostrategic point of view, Europe is not interested to end all relations with Russia», – quotes Chancellor Glavcom.

Stoltenberg also reminded that several NATO member states had already acknowledged the violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) by the Russian Federation. «Almost six years ago there was our concern about INF Treaty. Then, United States in consultation with NATO has raised this issue with Russia ... But we must understand that not only the United States, but several allies themselves have determined that Russia violates the Treaty», – said Stoltenberg. For the INF Treaty: Merkel in her speech at the Munich Security Conference called on China to join the dialogue on disarmament. However, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, flatly refused. According to him, in its concept of armament, China is guided by "purely defense needs". «We are against a multilateral approach to the INF Treaty," he explained this position.

The President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko held a number of meetings in Munich, in particular with Angela Merkel. Poroshenko stressed the importance of increasing pressure on Russia to release captured Ukrainian sailors illegally detained in the Kerch Strait, as well as all Ukrainian hostages held both in Russia and in the occupied territories of Donbass and Crimea. Merkel and Poroshenko coordinated actions aimed at the introduction of "Azov package" of sanctions. In addition, one of the important topics of the talks was the issue of preventing Russian interference in the presidential elections in Ukraine. According to Poroshenko, he discussed opposition to Russia with Stoltenberg and James Risch Сhairman of US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, who is one of the authors of the draft decision on sanctions "Azov package" of sanctions.

Against the background of the unstable political situation in the world, only Moscow's rhetoric remains unchanged: the usual "They're not there", shifting responsibility and stubborn statement: everything is fine in Russia.[1]

Judging by the results of the 55th Munich Security Conference, the understanding by diplomacy and dialogue is very far away today. Despite the globalized structure of the world, numerous assurances from various countries about their willingness to resolve conflicts by political means, now national states are less willing to compromise for the sake of global security. And even more so to sacrifice their own interests in order to protect other states and the world order in general.

After the annexation of Crimea and Russia's invasion of Donbass, we - Ukrainians, for some reason, accustomed to the fact that any international conference should provide the prerogative exclusively to the Ukrainian question. This did not happen in Munich (and this is not the first time in the last year), that is why many have left with a disappointment from the conference.

There are several explanations for this. First of all, today the world is going through a phase of acute conflicts. In addition to the Russian-Ukrainian war, there are Syria and the worsening conflicts between Iran and Israel and Iran and the United States, and the coming withdrawal of the U.S. and Russia from the INF Treaty, and a number of contradictions between America and the EU, primarily on the issue of further functioning of NATO and Euro-Atlantic security, as well as international terrorism, which in recent years has become more aggressive and harsh.

Secondly, the issue of Ukraine takes a back seat, because nobody can give a clear answer to the question: what to do with Russia? Angela Merkel confirmed this in her speech, she, on the one hand, stated the need to resolve the military conflict in Ukraine, but on the other, said that it is necessary to maintain relations with Moscow.

Given the events in Munich from 15 to 17 February, we can outline several important trends that will directly affect the contours of the world order, is taking shape before our eyes. First of all, the split between the US and the EU is deepening. In turn, Russia will use this situation for its own benefit, one of the tactical tasks of which is to increase the destabilization processes in Europe. Such processes allow Moscow to conduct a dialogue from a position of force with different EU countries in the format of bilateral negotiations and achieve its goals, such as the implementation of the «Nord Stream-2» project.

Another trend escalation in the middle East. Iran's statements about the need for a war with Israel can change the entire situation in the region. The beginning of active hostilities will force the US to intervene in the process. As for China's position, the state will observe and wait for its finest hour— both in relation to Europe and the US, and in relation to Russia. For Ukraine, it is impossible to predict any unexpected and positive changes. The West will continue to talk about the need to comply with the Minsk Agreements, which today have shown their further inefficiency. The US and the EU will also adhere to the continuation of sanctions policy against Russia and statements in support of Ukraine. In addition, both the West and Russia are waiting for the results of the presidential elections in Ukraine to understand who will be the person who will guide Ukrainian foreign and domestic policy for the next five years. Taking into account the personality of the future President of our state and a policy towards Ukraine will be built.

Munich Security Conference showed that the world is very sick today. Sick on own ambitions, emotions, misunderstandings, insults and desire of some countries to rule over others. And until some national states are not aware of the need for concessions for the sake of common security, we will live in a fragmented world of the law of force, business and the personal interests and desires of new authoritarian leaders. Or effective populists who do not know how to calculate in advance, but only dream of becoming the head of the new world order.[2]

Thus, we cannot but agree that the main achievement of the Ukrainian delegation at the 55th Munich Security Conference was the agreement on the introduction of the "Azov package" of sanctions against the Russian Federation during meetings with Western partners. However, we observe that the international community pays less attention to Ukraine, after all, new destabilizing factors are beginning to appear in the world, as it was presented at the conference. The world order continues to shatter and tensions between countries are only increasing. However, we should not expect the Munich Security Conference to resolve all security issues, since its format does not provide for this.