What to expect from the Munich Security Conference?

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Berlin, Germany – The wars in Libya and Yemen, brewing tensions elsewhere in the Middle East and India’s lockdown of Kashmir are amongst the most pressing geopolitical concerns as world leaders and diplomats prepare to rub shoulders at the Munich Security Conference, typically regarded as the Davos of security and foreign policy problems.

Thirty-five presidents are among more than 500 politicians, authorities and spies scheduled to participate in the three-day top, which starts on Friday and ends Sunday.

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, French President Emmanuel Macron, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and India are all anticipated.

This year’s theme of “westlessness”, organisers say, points to continued unease about the identity and function of the West.

It reflects a growing schism in transatlantic relations and the post-war order, as Donald Trump’s presidency pushes the United States further from Europe.

Common security in Europe is also a growing concern; the continent itself is fractured following Brexit and amid the growth of nationalist and illiberal movements.

Bordering on the existential, conference organisers have advised guests to think about if the world, and the West itself is “becoming less Western”, and how international security will be shaped if Western powers fade in importance and influence.

” For the previous years, the answer to the question what it was that kept the West together was straightforward: a commitment to liberal democracy and human rights, to a market-based economy, and to international cooperation in international organizations,” read this year’s Munich Security Report, which was published prior to the conference.

” Today, the significance of the West is increasingly contested again.”

Platform for burning speeches

The Munich Security Conference was developed in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, a previous German army officer who took part in an unsuccessful effort to assassinate Adolf Hitler, with the aim of gathering leaders and diplomatic experts to discuss the state of NATO and relations in between powers on either side of the Atlantic.

Over the decades, the yearly conference has grown to consist of worldwide security concerns, with Munich’s grand Bayerisch Hof hotel ending up being a stage for searing political speeches.

In 2007 in Munich, Russian President Vladimir Putin excoriated the United States for “overstepping its borders in all spheres”.

Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel encountered United States Vice President Mike Pence over the Iran nuclear deal, rejecting US pressure for Europe to pull out of the arrangement and arguing that it supplied the very best path to maintaining impact over the Islamic Republic.

Merkel will not attend this year, with Foreign Minister Heiko Mass instead representing Germany, which may seek to build on its role as a facilitator in Libya’s shaky peace process.

The conference is usually a background for heated clashes over stories instead of provide an online forum to really resolve security concerns.

Andreas Krieg, assistant teacher at King’s College London

In January, a significant summit in Berlin brought all foreign backers to the conflict together for the first time.

” I would expect conversation around Libya, maybe with the EU and the EU representative taking a role there,” Sarah Bressan, a research partner at the Global Public Law Institute, told Al Jazeera.

Germany will try to continue these efforts “now that it has a seat at the table after the Berlin conference, to get celebrations to really respect the arms the UN arms embargo, which has actually currently been breached”, she included.

Iran is likewise most likely to be a centerpiece as soon as again following the US assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January, which stimulated worldwide outrage and ran the risk of a major military confrontation.

” The US-Iran crisis will be quite an agenda-setter as Munich offers a platform for both the Iranians and anti-Iran hawks from the United States and Israel to make their voices heard,” Andreas Krieg, assistant professor at King’s College London, informed Al Jazeera.

” For the many part though, the conference is normally a backdrop for heated clashes over narratives rather than offer an online forum to in fact solve security problems.

” So no one anticipates that the United States and Iran will really use the conference to open backchannels.”

Regardless of several face-to-face conferences between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year focused on cooling stress, Pyongyang has continue d to establish its ballistic and nuclear weapon programs, which will be a top priority for South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, who travels to Munich this weekend.

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North Korea conducted numerous long-range missile tests in December, as Kim threatened the US with a “Christmas surprise” unless development was made on easing sanctions.

The entrance of the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, the venue of the 56 th Munich Security Conference (MSC), is visualized in Munich, southern Germany, on February 13, 2020 [Christof Stache/AFP]

Organisers announced in late January that the North would send a delegate to Munich for the first time, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son-gyong.

But South Korean media have reported that his presence was cancelled due to prevention steps associated with the coronavirus outbreak.

In anticipation of the weekend’s conversations, the conference report highlighted Russia’s widening influence in the Middle East, Africa and South America, as well as increased links in trade and military hardware with Beijing.

The file likewise kept in mind China’s military assertiveness in the South China Sea and its growing superiority in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G networks – all indications that the balance of worldwide power is gradually tilting far from Western powers.

” There is a realisation that in the 21 st-century world, the West is simply one of lots of poles to shape the international security environment,”

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