In the past years, one subject was discussed at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) every single time. It is Germany’s reluctance to take part in military operations the way its partners do. This is still the kind of criticism participants offered.
In Afghanistan, Germany trains security forces. The Federal Republic sent a tiny contingent of soldiers to Lithuania. In the fight against ISIS, Germany delivered some weapons to the Peshmerga, meaning it did not directly participate. And Germany’s military spending has still not reached the 2 percent of its national output.
West’s Influence is Crumbling
The diplomatic initiatives Germany has lead, for instance during the crisis in Ukraine, and the Libya conference it recently organized are not enough, the MSC’s chairman Wolfgang Ischinger and other participants believe. While other countries act, Germany’s action and commitment is insufficient, Ischinger says.
He was quoted saying that a powerful diplomacy had to be backed up by military means in case of emergency. The military option was an important tool of foreign policy. Without that option, diplomacy could end up becoming a sequence of empty words, chairman Ischinger believes.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been part of the Munich Security Conference before, but as Foreign Minister. As President of the Federal Republic of Germany, it was his first participation. He talked about “Westlessness”, this year’s motto, which is supposed to mean the West’s influence in the world is crumbling for two reasons. With Trump, America is moving away from peacemaking and peacekeeping in the world. And Europe is dealing with its own problems more than anything, even though issues in countries outside its area might become its own tomorrow.
‘Destructive Dynamics in Global Policy’
President Steinmeier said international agreements would be broken these days. With this statement, he criticized the United States for pulling out of the ‘Iran Deal’ Europe is still clinging to. He also said the United Nations were losing influence in the world. There were “destructive dynamics in global policy”. And the competition between the big powers was back.
Russia had ignored international law by annexing Crimea. China accepted the international law selectively only, in instances in which it did not go against its own interests. And America wanted to be “great again.” Usually it is not the German President’s role to distribute criticism this way, but Steinmeier did anyway.
He said the world had fallen back into its “security dilemma”. These were more distrust and arms, but less security. A new nuclear armament race would not only lead to more of those dangerous weapons, but also to more nuclear powers, with all the risks this kind of development would lead to.
‘Europe in Germany’s National Interest’
According to Steinmeier, the “new egoism” among big powers can already be felt in the many conflicts around the globe, including the ones in Libya and Syria. Here, the big powers did not care about the rules that much. They were not willing to be guards or guarantors of order anymore.
Steinmeier told Germany it needed to serve peace on Earth as an equitable part of a unified Europe, as it said in the country’s own constitution. Europe was not only “nice to have”, but also in its national interest. The President also demanded a closer cooperation with its partner France in the context of security policy.
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