Munich Security Conference 2019: the key takeaways


A widening rift between the USA and Germany, conflicts with Russia and China: The Security Conference 2019 was – once again – a conference full of tensions.

Merkel’s speech: Standing ovations for appearances at the conference are a rarity – Angela Merkel gets them. In a much-noticed speech, the Chancellor rebuked US President Donald Trump’s solo efforts in foreign and trade policy – and made a clear, almost passionate commitment to international cooperation.

Transatlantic rifts: How deep the divide between Germany and the USA is, became clear in a speech by US Vice President Mike Pence. Pence praised Trump and the US government to the heavens – and called on Germany and Europe to follow the USA virtually blindly, for example in the tough course towards Iran. Pence also criticised Germany’s participation in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The dispute over US customs duties on German cars is also a source of deepening disagreement.

Two Americas: At the security conference not only the Trump country appears, but also the other America. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, sharply distinguished himself from the current president and criticised his climate and refugee policies, among other things. Biden aasured his allies: “This will pass. We’ll be back.”

New superpowers: China has sent Yang Jiechi, the top foreign minister, to Munich – who appeared extremely self-confident, for instance by refusing to accept lessons from the USA. He and Pence openly carried out the dispute over the Chinese IT group Huawei’s participation in the development of Western 5G networks: Yang contradicted Pence – China does not need any company to work for its own secret services.

Disarmament or a new arms race: After the speeches of Pence and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, it is once again clear that the end of the INF disarmament treaty can hardly be averted – a fact that many in Europe find very unsettling. Merkel warned against a “dangerous arms race”.

Crises and conflicts: Middle East, Syria, Iran: The list of conflicts to be addressed is long, the list of presented solutions short. The main focus is on the new nuclear dispute between the USA and Iran. Pence once again accused Tehran of advocating a new Holocaust – which the Iranian Foreign Minister sharply rejected: Mohammed Dschawad Sarif accused the USA of “pathological obsession” and “ignorant hate speech”.

Climate change: There are no solutions – but drastic warnings by climate researcher Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. But the US government representative remained silent in this regard. Ex-Foreign Minister John Kerry lamented this and expressed shame that Pence did not use the word “climate change” once in his speech. Kumi Naidoo of Amnesty International warned: “Nature does not negotiate”.

More money for the military: Pence again insisted on higher defence budgets for NATO allies. Merkel and Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen suggested that a further increase for Germany is possible. Merkel also pointed out the importance of a comprehensive policy in foreign aid and development.


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