The Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2023 started on February 17, 2023, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the main subject for discussion. Since 1963, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has taken place annually in Munich, Germany. The motto of the conference, formerly known as the Munich Conference on Security Policy, is “Peace through Dialogue.”
Russia was not invited to the MSC in 2023 for the first time in two decades. The conference typically places a strong emphasis on inviting as many participants as possible, regardless of how challenging the ties may be. Russia announced earlier in February that it would not send any delegation to the MSC, claiming that it had evolved into a “trans-Atlantic conference” in recent years. Because of Tehran’s harsh repression of protesters, organizers also excluded representatives from the Iranian government.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy set the tone for the summit by pleading with Western leaders to take action rather than just talk, requesting quick delivery of weaponry, and announcing that supplies on the battlefield were running low. With a record number of delegates this year, including a sizable bipartisan and bicameral delegation from Congress, the United States made its presence at the conference felt. Yet, with delegates from every continent present in addition to those from NATO countries and Europe, more general geopolitical issues were also touched upon, both on the conference stage and off.
The 2023 Munich Security Conference was not only the first with top Chinese representation following the COVID outbreak, but it also featured Taiwanese participation for the first time in years. Like other speakers, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, devoted the majority of his speech to the situation in Ukraine, emphasizing his great concern for the “long-term effect of this war” and cautioning against the reemergence of a “Cold War mentality.”
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He demanded that there be peace negotiations and claimed that “some forces” do not want the war to end quickly because they have “bigger strategic goals than Ukraine.” He did not specify who he was referring to, but the message is consistent with Russian accusations that NATO is refusing to engage in peace negotiations.
In their first high-level meeting since the United States shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon, Blinken, and Wang sat down together on the last night of MSC. The U.S. State Department said in a statement that Blinken warned Wang against Beijing lending any kind of material support to Russia or assisting Moscow in evading Western sanctions. Blinken assured Wang that the United States is not looking to engage in military conflict with China.
In order to increase the manufacture of weapons for Ukraine, which NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claims is using them more quickly than Europe can replace them, member states must collaborate with the military sector, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“European and German defense spending has to go up,” said Christoph Heusgen, the new chairman of the MSC, adding that this message had been very strong during the event. Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, also suggested that the EU pool its resources to expedite the production and delivery of munitions to Ukraine.
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The MSC also covered other international concerns, like the humanitarian crisis and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. “You can’t solve the humanitarian problems with humanitarian aid alone, “Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said. “Afghanistan’s economy isn’t working; its funds are frozen; its banking channels are not functional; and then there are international sanctions.”
“Until these issues are resolved, it will be very difficult for Afghanistan to come out of this crisis,” he commented. While addressing the recent surge of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, he said, “In Peshawar, terrorists cost us over 100 lives, and just recently, they attacked a police office in Karachi.” He added, “The realistic scenario for us is that whoever is in charge in Afghanistan must fight these organizations.”
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The conference concluded on February 19, with most participants agreeing that the Russo-Ukrainian war is a collective concern for the international community. The majority agreed on raising military budgets and stepping up the delivery of armaments to Ukraine were required. This could only mean one thing: there is no end to the war in sight.