It used to be a club of like-minded decision-makers, generals and politicians, but the dividing lines between countries, blocs and organizations taking part in Munich Security Conference now seem to have become more obvious than ever.
According to MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, who analyzed the current state of international relations in an article on the conference's website, there’s been a dramatic increase in "brinkmanship" during the past 12 months, and the overall security situation in the world has worsened.
"Unfortunately, this situation has not improved over the last year – quite the contrary. From climate protection and free international trade to respect for human rights and the inviolability of national borders: the core pieces of the international order are breaking apart, without it being clear whether anyone can pick them up – or even wants to", he wrote.
In his article, Ischinger mentioned various conflicts, crises and threats, such as terrorism, the situation in Syria and the rise of global Chinese and Russian influence. He also criticized US President Donald Trump for his stance on free trade.
During the past few years, NATO and the EU have become increasingly critical of Trump's "lack of commitment" to protecting America’s partners. This year, the US sent a big congressional delegation to Munich, so that neoconservatives and war hawks could reassure "the Old World" and “tighten the grip” on the troubled alliance in the absence of POTUS.
US Senator Lindsey Graham at MSC-2019: “Don’t worry about America. The Congress is very much into this organization called NATO. The President can be a handful, but so can many of you." (Screenshot from the official MSC-2019 livestream) pic.twitter.com/mScH34RUmA— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) 15 February 2019
Despite Graham's rhetoric, it seems that the EU's concerns are not groundless. Washington's decision to leave the INF Treaty would definitely affect Russia’s EU neighbors.
Russian diplomats say that Europe has not been given a chance to voice its concerns, with Washington playing hardball with its partners.
"I don’t see any 'European position'", Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told journalists in Munich. "And it's sad, because there is a threat of Europe being turned into a kind of 'unsinkable aircraft carrier' near Russian borders".
His talks with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini lasted almost 10 minutes longer than expected. Media attention to negotiations with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was so overwhelming that even Lavrov, who is used to having dozens of cameras around him, was surprised.
Lavrov in Munich before talks with NATO’s Jens Stoltenberg to stampeding camera crews: “Guys, we are not going to dance, we are static. So, you can take pictures and go now.” pic.twitter.com/ZhxQmTE7ER— Denis Bolotsky (@BolotskySputnik) 15 February 2019
It seems that Lavrov’s words could pretty well sum up both the mood of the day in Munich and the modern state of Russia-NATO and Russia-EU relations. With Washington putting increasing pressure on European nations, and with war drums becoming louder, it’s becoming harder for all sides to move in any direction.
On 16 February, Lavrov will speak at the MSC. He’s also expected to continue his series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Denis Bolotsky and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.