51rst Munich Security Conference:
How to transform the present World disorder into a new more just Order

By Elisabeth Hellenbroich

400 representatives from different nations, including 20 heads of state and 60 foreign and defense ministers, gathered in Munich (February 6-8) for the 51rst Munich Security Conference. This year’s debate focused on the question: What are the conclusions and consequences that must be drawn from the collapse of the present World Order in view of the crisis in Ukraine and the implications this has for Europe’s security architecture? Where does the world stand 70 years after the end of World War II, 40 years after the signing of the CSCE Helsinki Final Act and 25 year after the fall of the Berlin wall?

Particular attention was given to the speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She had just returned from Moscow where together with French President Francois Hollande and President Vladimir Putin she had a five hours discussion in which the three statesmen tried to sort out what peace options remained for a last minute comprehensive settlement of the Russia/ Ukraine. The speech which the Chancellor gave was challenging and at a certain point quite personal. It was delivered by a person who signaled that she is ready to take leadership in Europe and define an “exit strategy” for the deadlocked Russia -Ukraine conflict. As the Chancellor underlined, this includes the attempt to revive the Minsk agreements i.e. to bring the key conflict partners Russia and Ukraine (Kiev government and Separatists) in Minsk together for negotiations about a comprehensive ceasefire and peace plan under mediation by Merkel, Hollande, Putin and Ukraine President Poroschenko.

In her speech, the Chancellor reminded the audience that the year 2015 is a particular year of commemoration: 70 year commemoration of the end of world war II and the Shoah; 40 year commemoration of the signing of the Helsinki final act at the CSCE and 25 years anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, that paved the way for a new start in relations between East and West. This “post war peace order” in Europe, the Chancellor noted, is not self- evident as the ongoing Ukraine -Russia conflict illustrates. Merkel accused Russia for having violated the CSCE principle as well as the “Budapest memorandum” which affirmed the inviolability of borders, non -interference and the nations’ sovereign right of self- determination. At the same time she underlined however that there is no “interest in confrontation with Russia. We want to shape security in Europe together with Russia.”

No delivery of weapons to Ukraine

Russia should bring its “share” into solving the Ukraine crisis, the Chancellor stated and she emphasized repeatedly that this “crisis can’t be solved militarily”. She adamantly rejected the “delivery of weapons to the Ukraine”- as defense experts in Canada and in the US are demanding. What rather counts, according to Merkel, is “to define concrete and substantial steps which help fill the Minsk agreement with new life”(..) Germany is committed to fight together with its partners for the values of the European peace order and for the cooperative Security in Europe.” Particular emphasis was given to the role which must be given to the OSCE as a forum for dialogue and confidence building.

At one point during her speech Merkel spoke about her childhood. She reminded the period when the Berlin wall was built by East Germany (August 1961). At that time she was a seven year old child. She noted that nobody intervened to help the people in the DDR. From a “realist” point of view it made no sense at that time to solve the conflict militarily; in the long run this would have been totally counterproductive, as she put it. She underlined that while she had no guarantees that Putin does what we expect him to do, the “bitter truth is, that the conflict can’t be won militarily.”

Hawkish rhetoric from US delegates

The Chancellor’s speech aroused strong counter reactions from the side of the American delegates – including Senator Bob Corker, Senator Lindsay Graham and Senator John McCain- who in a hawkish style peddled the line that Ukraine must be “given defensive weapons”. The most outspoken was US Senator John Mac Cain, who –as was also noted by some commentaries in the German mainstream press – gave a ranting speech concerning the global strategic conflicts. All of them were simplistically reduced to “Russia” being the main cause for all of the evil in the world – including the crisis in Ukraine, Iran, Syria and Libya. He presented the US as the only “exceptional” power which “leads” the world in order to defend democracy and freedom. The hype of the Senators was less transparent in the “hard cop” and “soft cop” speeches that were given by Vice President Joe Biden and State Secretary John Kerry. However also these two politicians made clear that they don’t consider Ukraine as Europe’s business but as something in which the US wants to have a major role.

What counts for Germany is its geography and history

Chancellor Merkel was positively echoed by German Foreign Minister Frank -Walter Steinmeier who emphasized that in view of Germany‘s geographical and historical neighborhood, it would be irresponsible to leave out the slightest chance to find a solution. Steinmeier reiterated that the delivery of weapons to the Ukraine would be “highly risky and counterproductive.” A permanent security for Europe could only be defined “with” Russia and not “against” Russia. Moscow in turn should understand that there cannot be a positive future of Russia if it’s against Europe, but only if it is with Europe.” He complained that “we have heard too little from Moscow to define its common interests with Europe”.

Russian Foreign Minister –sharp analysis but inflexible

In analyzing the ongoing Russia -Ukraine conflict Russian Foreign Minister Lawrov- who since years is a regular guest at the Munich Security Conference, stated that this conflict did not break out 2014 but is the “end result of a collapse which has been going on for years.” He referred to the “profound systemic problems in the organization of European security and international relations in general” and recalled that the structure of stability based on the UN Charter and the Helsinki principles has long been undermined by “those actions which the United States and its allies took in bombing Yugoslavia” followed later by actions against Iraq and Libya. He added NATO’s expansion toward the East, the Missile Defense debate and the one- sided cancellation of the INF treaty, all these being elements which from a Russian point of view were seen as signals that the “project of building a common European home failed because our western partners were guided by the illusion and the belief that they were the winners of the Cold War, rather than being guided by the interest to build an open security architecture with mutual respect of interests. (..) The obligations, solemnly undertaken as part of the OSCE and the Russia NATO Council, ‘not to ensure one’s own safety at the expense of others’ remained on paper and were ignored in practice.”
According to Lawrov, the strategic partnership of Russia and the European Union failed the test of strength. He pointed in particular to the failed opportunity “to implement Merkel’s initiative put forward in June 2010 in Meseberg (June 2010 -meeting between Chancellor Merkel and President Dmitry Medvedev, which ended in the conclusion of a Russian-German Memorandum). The focus of the memorandum was to create an EU-Russia Committee on Security and Foreign Affairs at the level of foreign ministers, Lawrov said. “Russia backed that idea, but the European Union rejected it. This constant dialogue mechanism if it were to be set up, would allow for solving problems faster and more effectively, and for resolving mutual concern in a timely manner.”

The Russian Foreign minister also strongly underlined that the Ukraine crisis cannot be settled by military force. “Russia will continue to strive for establishing peace. We are constantly calling for the cessation of military activities, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the start of direct talks between Kiev and Donetsk and Lugansk on practical steps to restore the common economic, social and political space within the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. In reference to the second state leaders’ conference in Minsk (February 11th), he said: “As soon as the main participants of the Minsk process – the Ukrainian authorities and representatives of the proclaimed republics of the DPR and LPR reach agreements on all the practical aspects of implementing each of the Minks item, I am confident that Russia will be among those to ensure such guarantees, either in the OSCE, or in the UNSC, I am convinced that Germany, France and other countries will also be ready to offer such guarantees.”

Return to the principles of the Peace of Westphalia

Further elaborating the question of “systemic mistakes in the post war order”, former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan spoke about the crisis in the Mideast from a broader “historical” point of view. According to him the Mideast was shaped by “foreign factors and an inner dynamic”. Annan identified three factors that led to the present disorder in the Mideast: These problems “date back to actions taken at the end of the first world war (1918) when Great Britain and France (a reference to the infamous Sykes Picot agreement brokered by Great Britain and France E.H.) were redrawing the map of the Mideast, by creating ‘artificial states’ with artificially drawn borders out of the ruins of the collapsing ottoman empire.” What came into being was “incongruence” in terms of borders and state structures.
A second major factor which contributed to the disorder in the Mideast was the “2003 US invasion into Iraq”. Annan reminded the audience that he at the time was ferociously “against the decision to go to war.” However more insane even were the decisions taken after the invasion ended, leading to the sudden dissolution of the army and Police forces, leaving 100.000s out of jobs on the streets. This was followed by a corrupt government which in turn became the ideal breeding ground for pushing people to rally around IS later, Annan said. As a third factor Annan referred to the so called “Arab spring” which failed. With the exception of Tunisia the entire “movement got sold and destroyed”. Annan referred to the “disillusioned youth” which is unemployed today and which was originally open for the ideas of the Arab spring. They now “have become foot soldiers for the radicals” (IS). And he finally referred to the unresolved Israel-Palestine conflict.

In order to define a viable solution for the Mideast, Kofi Annan urged to take a broad historical view and return to the principles of the Peace of Westphalia (1648- mutual forgiveness and reconciliation E.H.) After 40 years of bloody religious wars in Europe, a new peace order was defined for Europe, leading to the emergence of new regional powers and focusing attention on the principles of governance, Annan recalled. He urged that the Mideast regional powers today must recognize that they have to “stabilize” the region. That in turn also implies that they have to begin “domestic reforms”. “I hope that the era of autocratic rule comes to an end; internal and regional forces must push for a revolution based on peace and Security, inclusive development, the rule of law and human rights”, Annan stressed.

Federica Mogherini, the new envoy for foreign and security policy of the EU, a young politician who felt very much “inspired “ by Annan’s speech, took a fresh approach by stating that we must look forward constructively into the future. She described today’s world disorder as a situation which is in “transition”. The new World Order is not yet there – however this new World Order must be shaped constructively. It should be based on what she identified as “Europe’s DNA” which is “based on cooperation and partnership” and by making use of all instruments available to find diplomatic solutions to the ongoing conflicts.



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