Munich Security Conference

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Munich Security Conference
Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz logo.svg
Motto Peace through Dialog
Predecessor Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung / Münchner Wehrkundetagung
Formation 1963 / 2011
Founder Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin
Legal status Non-profit foundation
Methods Host conferences
Wolfgang Ischinger
53rd Munich Security Conference 2017
50th Munich Security Conference 2014

The Munich Security Conference (MSC; German: Münchner Sicherheitskonferenz) is an annual conference on international security policy that has taken place in Munich, Bavaria since 1963. Former names are Wehrkundetagung and Münchner Konferenz für Sicherheitspolitik.[1] It is the world's largest gathering of its kind.

Over the past four decades the Munich Security Conference has become the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers. Each year it brings together about 350 senior figures from more than 70 countries around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.

The list of attendees includes Heads of States, Governments and International Organizations, Ministers, Members of Parliament, high-ranking representatives of Armed Forces, Science, Civil society as well as Business and Media.

The conference is held annually in February. The venue is the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich, Germany. The 54th Security Conference was held from 16 to 18 February 2018.


The conference evolved from the Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung / Münchner Wehrkundetagung,[2] which was founded in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin.[3] The resistance fighter from the Stauffenberg circle advocated to prevent military conflicts such as the Second World War in the future and brought together leaders and experts in security policy for this reason. The first meeting was limited to about 60 participants; among them were Helmut Schmidt and Henry Kissinger.[4] Von Kleist led the meetings until 1997; his successor who led them from 1999 until 2008 was politician and business manager Horst Teltschik (CDU). Since 2009, the conference is headed by the former diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger. Ischinger established the Munich Security Conference gGmbH non-profit foundation in 2011, which he has led since then.[1][5]

The Munich Security Conference was canceled twice, in 1991 due to the First Gulf War and 1997 as a result of the retirement of Kleist-Schmenzin.[1] Under the leadership of Teltschik the Security Conference opened in 1999 for political, military and business leaders from Central and Eastern Europe as well as India, Japan and the People's Republic of China.


At this conference, under the theme of peace through dialogue, senior politicians, diplomats, military and security experts from the member countries of NATO and the European Union, but also from other countries such as Russia, the People's Republic of China, Japan, Iran, and India are invited to discuss the current issues in security and defense policies.

The intention of the conference is to address the topical main security issues and to debate and analyze the main security challenges in the presence and the future in line with the concept of networked security. A focal point of the conference is the discussion and the exchange of views on the development of the transatlantic relations as well as European and global security in the 21st century.

The conference is organized privately and therefore not an official government event. It is used exclusively for discussion; an authorization for binding intergovernmental decisions does not exist. Furthermore, there is - contrary to usual conventions - no common final communiqué. The high-level meeting is also used to discrete background discussions between the participants. An exception is the presentation of global political decisions, such as the exchange of instruments of ratification for the New START disarmament agreement between the United States and Russia, which was held at the conclusion of the security conference in 2011.


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych meeting Hillary Clinton at the Munich Security Conference 2012

At the 39th Conference 2003, German Minister for Foreign Affairs Fischer doubted to the reasoning of the US government for a war against Iraq with the words "Excuse me, I am not convinced".[6]

From February 6–8, 2009, the 45th Munich Security Conference[7] was attended by over 50 ministers and more than a dozen heads of state and government from all over the world, including US-Vice-President Joe Biden, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In 2009 the MSC inaugurated the Ewald von Kleist Award.[8] The new award highlights the political life and work of Ewald von Kleist, who founded the Munich Security Conference. The award will be given to prominent individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to peace and conflict resolution. The winners of the Ewald von Kleist Award were in 2009 Dr Henry Kissinger and in 2010 Javier Solana de Madariaga. Also in 2009, the MSC initiated a new event format, called MSC Core Group Meeting.[9] This new and smaller-scale event was introduced in addition to the annual main, Munich-based meeting of the Munich Security Conference. The idea is to invite a number of distinguished and high-ranking participants to changing capitals and give them the opportunity to confidentially discuss current international security policy issues and develop sustainable solutions. Meetings took place 2009 in Washington D.C., 2010 in Moscow and 2011 in Beijing.

48th Munich Security Conference 2012: From left - Mario Monti, Josef Ackermann, Robert B. Zoellick, Peer Steinbrück, George Soros

The 47th Munich Security Conference[10] was held from February 4–6, 2011 and has again assembled top-level decision makers from all over the world, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov whilst Belarus has been excluded from the circle of MSC attendees because of the country’s human rights situation.

In 2011 two special features marked the growing role of the Munich Security Conference as center of attention of international security policy: European Union's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton called for the Quartet on the Middle East, consisting of the EU, Russia, the United States and the UN, to meet within the setting of the 2011 Munich Security Conference and during a ceremony on the sidelines of the conference Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton exchanged the instruments for ratifying the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) that entered into force in Munich New START.

The 48th Munich Security Conference was held from February 2–5, 2012.

Conference 2017[edit]

The 53rd Munich Security Conference (MSC 2017) took place from 17 to 19 February 2017 at the Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich. With a total of 680 participants,[11] including 30 heads of state and government, nearly 60 representatives of international organizations and 65 top business leaders,[12] it was the largest conference to date.[11] Prominent guests and speakers were UN Secretary General António Guterres, US Vice President Mike Pence, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Federica Mogherini, Donald Tusk and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 700 journalists were also accredited for the event. In addition to the main events of the security conference, there were 1,350 bilateral meetings among MSC participants and delegations.[13]


The German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, and the new US Defense Secretary James Mattis, opened the conference together. In her speech, the German minister also commented on the controversy between Berlin and Washington regarding the appropriate level of defense spending,[14] stating: "We Germans have understood that after a period where we reaped the benefits of a peace dividend, we must now persistently invest in a security contingency reserve." At the same time, von der Leyen stressed the importance of close transatlantic cooperation[15] and said that Germany would "bear a larger, a fairer part of the burdens for the common Atlantic security". The minister said "NATO is not self-evident - neither for America nor for the Europeans".[16] At the same time, she pointed out that burden sharing among alliance partners was not a financial question at first but one where both partners should practice mutual support for each other. "This excludes all unilateral action – both unilaterally rushing ahead as well as unilaterally ducking responsibility", continued von der Leyen.[17] This reaffirmed her call for a common position and approach by NATO against Russia and the Islamic state.[18] At the same time, the principle that Islamic terror should be fought against and not Islam itself should be applied. Von der Leyen stressed that the world needs a "globally committed, responsible America".[16]

Her US counterpart, James Mattis, in his brief address, combined his country's clear commitment to NATO's collective defense with a strong demand for Europeans to boost their collective defense spending.[15] Secretary Mattis advocated a binding plan to meet the payment commitments made in 2014 in Wales and 2016 in Warsaw.[18] Mattis stressed that the Alliance should remain "credible, capable and relevant"[19] so that Europeans and Americans could jointly resist the enemies of democracy,[18] and both sides of the Atlantic share the legacy of friendship, freedom, and a trusting alliance. "American security is permanently tied to European security," and "Security is at its highest when a team makes sure of it," said Mattis.[14]

The future of the EU[edit]

During a panel discussion on the future of the European Union entitled "Together or Separated" there was a clear disagreement between the Polish Foreign Minister, Waszczykowski and the Vice President of the European Commission Timmermans, described by observers as a "clash of civilizations on a small-scale".[20] The dispute was triggered by Timmermans' accusing the Polish government of spreading "alternative facts". "The EU is built on rights and values," Timmermans said, stressing that judges should not be subject to directives by governments. The common principles are binding on all Member States. The Polish Foreign Minister dismissed the allegations and accused the European Commission of misinterpreting Polish law.[21]

The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, urged the EU members to be united. At the same time, he reaffirmed the need for a determined protection of the external borders by the Eastern European EU countries in order to avoid border controls within the EU.[22] Schäuble and MEP Elmar Brok both stressed the need for the EU to take its own internal and external security into its own hands in order to prevent a further loss of overall stature.[23]

Development Assistance[edit]

The Irish singer Bono, a co-founder of ONE, praised the German development policy in Africa. Germany has an understanding of the economic opportunities and of the specific risks present on the continent, Bono explained. He called for a common security and development strategy to provide basic supplies, education and infrastructure for people in Africa. The singer warned of three extremes, which particularly threatened security: "Extreme ideology, extreme poverty and extreme climate." At the same time, Bono advocated making investments contingent on good governance standards.[24]

The Future of the West and NATO[edit]

In his introduction to a panel discussion on the future of the West, US Senator McCain appealed to the West: "We must not abandon ourselves and each other, otherwise it would be decadence, and that leads to the failure of world orders," adding also that the 2017 security conference was more important than ever before.[25] McCain warned Western societies not to be paralyzed[26] but to rely on the conviction of their common values and openness.[27] "We may have become self-complacent, we have made mistakes", McCain said, but also stood behind his conviction "as long as courageous people believe in the West, the West will persist". The Senator expressed his appreciation for Germany and Chancellor Merkel for the "essential role", which they play in defending the ideas of the West. According to McCain, not every American may understand the meaning of his praise, but he thanked Germany and Merkel "in the name of all those who do grasp that".[25] During the subsequent discussion, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that supporting Ukraine is the easiest way to strengthen the West.[28] According to Poroshenko, Russia not only wants to redraw Ukraine "in Russian colors" but rather all of Europe. He also warned of a premature détente policy with Moscow, as an end to the sanctions regime would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and further strengthen Russian aggression. Poroshenko appealed to the conference participants: "Do not decide without Ukraine about Ukraine".[26] He told the press that in Ukraine, all of Europe was being defended against Russian aggression” and "that it could affect other countries after Ukraine".[29] All involved parties reiterated their commitment to the Minsk Accord. Representatives of the United States, above all Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Russia's conduct during the conflict. At the same time, it became known during the security conference that Moscow would, effective immediately, recognize passports issued by the separatist so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic, a move that equals diplomatic recognition of these two entities by Russia.[30][31]

In this context, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed the importance of NATO. He interpreted the Brexit vote as a decision by the United Kingdom in favor of free trade and globalization.[32] He described Trumps election as an opportunity for positive change and asked to give the new US President an opportunity to govern before rushing to judgement.[18]

During an evening event NATO defense ministers from the UK, France, Netherlands, Canada and Turkey discussed the situation of the Western Alliance in the context of the financial dimension of providing for their collective security.[33]

British Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, pointed to the gap between public commitments to defense spending and actual military expenditure by NATO members. 19 of the 28 Alliance countries contribute less than 1.5% of their GNP, and five members spend even less than 1%. Fallon therefore welcomed Washington's push for binding commitments to document the progress of the individual Alliance partners to reach the 2% target and provide for better burden-sharing in defense matters.[34]

Fallon referred to Russia under President Putin as a reason why NATO should be strengthened. It was Russia, whose cyberattacks and propaganda war was making the world less secure, Fallon continued. "It is Putin, not Trump, who is aggressive. It is Putin and not Trump, who sets up new medium-range missile." French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian outlined current changes in the role of NATO. Traditional capabilities such as territorial defense of the Alliance or the concept of "Forward Strategy” were once again gaining in importance. At the same time, Le Drian emphasized that nuclear deterrence was an integral part of ensuring the security of the Alliance. The Dutch defense minister, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, pointed out that Europeans had been able to take a peace dividend over a long period of time, even when the security situation deteriorated.[33] Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fikri Işık, stressed that not only the eastern but also the southern flank of NATO was increasingly under pressure and called for NATO to be strengthened in the southeast.[34]

China's foreign policy[edit]

During the conference, Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, explained Beijing's position on current issues of foreign and security policy. Wang Yi discussed Chinese policies related to Russia and the US. Observers also interpreted this as an expression of a shift in international power structures, as Europe was only mentioned in the margins.[35] Wang Yi described his country as a pioneer of international cooperation.[36] In the context of North Korea, the Foreign Minister expressed his support for the resumption of the six-party talks in order to resolve the conflict with North Korea[37] and to break the "negative spiral in the nuclear issue". At the same time, Wang Yi announced in Munich, an import stop for coal from North Korea.[38]

Speech by the German Chancellor[edit]

Chancellor Angela Merkel during her speech

On the second day of the conference, Chancellor Merkel described the great changes in foreign policy in her speech[39] and called for a new global order pattern, which would have to be developed 25 years after the end of the East-West confrontation.[40] The "world has radically changed, we have no fixed order", Merkel described the situation.[41] At the same time, she promoted a liberal, worldwide multilateralism based on international structures worth fighting for.[42] The Chancellor included amongst others NATO, which has grown in importance due to Russian annexation of the Crimea and the "conflicts in the east of Ukraine, during which Russia supported the separatists". Russia had violated the crucial principle of the territorial integrity of states on which peace and security depended upon, Merkel continued. The Chancellor confirmed that the threats and challenges for the security of the West repeatedly highlighted by the American side were real. Therefore, "we need the military force of the United States of America".[41]

"We will do more for defense policy", Merkel said, supporting the target of spending two percent of GDP on defense in the future following NATO's 2014 agreement to that effect. "We will make every effort, we feel committed to this goal", she said. "Germany knows its responsibility here." In this context, Merkel conceded, however, that it would hardly be possible to increase German defense expenditure by more than 8 percent annually, which would be necessary to achieve that common NATO goal. At the same time, the Chancellor described a concept of security which, in addition to defense,[41] also included development aid and crisis prevention, and which costs would have to be taken into account as well.[43] Merkel stressed the need for fight against the root causes of the refugee crisis. "We Germans, as we have seen in the context of the refugees, always have an interest in ensuring that people elsewhere have a proper and good existence."[41]

On the current state of the EU, the Chancellor expressed herself thoughtfully. According to Merkel, the EU is in a "difficult phase". As a cause, she argued that after the introduction of the euro only later measures to secure it were introduced. Similarly, the principle of freedom of movement of persons had been implemented before measures were taken on the external borders to limit migration.[44]

Speech by the US Vice President[edit]

US Vice President Mike Pence during the 53rd MSC

US Vice President Pence reaffirmed the United States' readiness to ensure mutual security guarantees: "The US strongly supports NATO, and will remain steadfast in its commitments to the transatlantic alliance." This statement was received with applause by the conference participants. On the promise to continue to be on the side of Europe, which is linked to "the ideals of freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law", many participants in the security conference had hoped[39] that the USA would not withdraw, but also continue to shoulder the responsibility in the world, according to Pence's commitment. At the same time, the Vice President confirmed the American view that Europeans had long since ignored the principle of fair burden-sharing and warned: "This undermines the foundations of our alliance."[44] Pence warned the conference participants: "Let me say quite clearly: The President of the United States expects our allies to keep their word and fulfill their commitment. For most, this means that the time has come to do more."[45] The Vice President demanded that NATO increase its contribution to the fight against international terrorism,[44] according to Pence, currently the biggest threat to the West.[46] At the same time, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has to be stopped. Pence demanded that Moscow abide by the Minsk peace accord for Eastern Ukraine and ensure that the conflict is de-escalated. If this did not happen, the US would hold Russia responsible for its actions. In this context, Pence emphasized the US administration's openness to find new ways of cooperation with Moscow.[47]

António Guterres[edit]

UN Secretary General António Guterres during the conference

The former Portuguese Prime Minister and newly elected UN Secretary General called for the strengthening of multilateral structures to address global problems with global responses.[48] Guterres described Germany as a "very solid pillar" for the international order and praised Berlin's commitment to international organizations.[49] At the same time, the UN Secretary General stressed that the UN needs fundamental reforms that would enable the organization to develop simpler and quicker procedures for crisis management and to become more transparent.[50] With blunt words, Guterres described the UN's weaknesses and demanded far-reaching reforms: "We all feel a lack of trust in international organizations. The UN structures are dysfunctional." Guterres also criticized the lack of coordination and as well as the insufficient performance reviews in development cooperation.[51] In the context of a short-term solution to the conflict in Syria, Guterres expressed little optimism.[22] Peace in Syria is only possible if none of the conflicting parties believe in a military success, stated UN Secretary General, and he continued, without a comprehensive solution, a victory over the IS is not possible. Only in this way can the terrorists be deprived of their foundations and can be locally combated.[52]

Jens Stoltenberg, Federica Mogherini and Sigmar Gabriel[edit]

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg urged European NATO members to take on more burdens in the alliance instead of shifting responsibility to the US: "The post-war generation faced this challenge and now we have to do so." In this context, Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, noted that defense investments are an important prerequisite for security, but that they are not the only one.[46] The "European path" of security policy complements these aspects with questions of education, employment growth and responsible governance, Mogherini added.[24] German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel was skeptical about the 2 percent of GDP on defense spending target. The Europeans should not be pushed by the United States to increase defense investments, Gabriel demanded. The Foreign Minister said, he did not know where the funds would come from within a short time and did not want to "over-interpret" the common goal.[53]

Sergej Lawrow[edit]

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov described NATO as an "institution of the Cold War, both in its mind and in its heart".[42] He blamed NATO's expansion for an increase in regional tensions.[54] Lavrov's statements were in contradiction to the statement by Chancellor Merkel, who had spoken of the "sad meaning" which NATO had regained due to the Russian aggression[41] and in response to which NATO's eastern flank had to be strengthened.[55] The Russian Foreign Minister called for a reduction in the global influence of Western countries, as the world could not be ruled in the long run by an "elite club of states". In this context, he spoke of a "post-Western world order",[55] which is characterized by the fact that "each country is defined by its own sovereignty".[42] Lavrov dismissed allegations that his country was trying to manipulate elections in Western countries and called them an "incomprehensible obsession of the West with cybersecurity and cyber espionage". According to Lavrov, no evidence has been found implicating Russia.[56] The Russian Foreign Minister demanded more honesty and called for a "post-fake era" in international relations.[46] At the same time, he promised "pragmatic relations" between the United States and Russia. Lavrov said, a strengthening of the US-Russian relationship would be in the interest of both countries.[55]

Global Health Risks[edit]

Microsoft founder Bill Gates during the 53rd MSC

In a panel discussion on global health risks, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned of new forms of terrorism with biological weapons. Gates said that in a few years, according to epidemiologists, terrorists might be capable of developing genetically modified species of deadly agents on the computer screen.[57] Such highly infectious viruses could spread very quickly and kill more than 30 million people in less than a year, Gates warned, recalling the "Spanish flu", which had claimed up to 50 million victims worldwide in 1918.[58]

According to the Microsoft founder, the world is currently not prepared for such a threat in any way. In addition, the link between health issues and international security is ignored, even though constant biotechnological progress allows the development of new vaccines and medicines which would help to curb epidemics early on. Finally, the measures to protect against pandemics or targeted attacks with biological weapons are largely identical.[59]

Gates reported on the launch of a "Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations". This organization, a public-private partnership, aims to help protect against epidemics by advancing the development of vaccines immediately after a threat is identified.Gates described the need to prepare for crises triggered by epidemics, as well as for military responses in the event of a conflict. This also includes the analysis of existing epidemic risks and the testing of possible aid measures. This is the only way to gain experience on how diseases spread and how people react to such situations. According to Gates, research must be carried out on how to respond to the panic reactions of the general population and the over-congestion of transport or communication systems in order to ensure sufficient medical care at all times. The American philanthropist also highlighted what he regards as the three greatest global dangers: nuclear war, pandemics, and climate change. The world is the least prepared for pandemics, and Gates warned that this was a real problem.[60]

The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, pointed to the importance of good governance in this context. Kagame warned that if the government, the authorities, and the people do not trusted each other, essential security mechanisms, such as the health system, would fail in crisis situations such as epidemics.[24]  

Fight against Terrorism[edit]

German Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière and US Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, took part in a panel discussion on combating terrorism. The German Interior Minister spoke out against placing all of Islam under suspicion, but called for a joint fight against Islamic terrorism. De Maiziere objected to demands for a new strategy against terror, but rather demanded the implementation of what had already been decided, including in particular, a better exchange of data. The minister, on the other hand, did not think that an EU-wide intelligence organization would be feasible given the lack of political support for such an entity. At the same time, however, the European terrorist protection group in Den Haag should improve the information exchange between the EU Member States' intelligence services. The newly appointed US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spoke also about the "travel ban" issued by the Trump government to citizens from seven Muslim countries. Kelly announced that after a transitional period during which visas and work permits should already be issued, there will be a "better-defined version" of the entry stop. The Pakistani Defense Minister, Khawaja Asif, expressed his critical opinion on America's approach in the discussion and stated that such a travel ban was not helping in the fight against terrorism, but rather promotes Islamophobia, which terrorists will take advantage of.[61]  

Middle East and Iran[edit]

During a speech on the situation in the Middle East, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Jawad Sarif, explained his country's assessment of the international situation and the Middle East. He stressed that Iran would respect the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and not acquire or build nuclear weapons. At the same time however, Sarif said, that the agreement made to this point must be respected by all sides, but that this was not currently the case. Iran is not receptive to sanctions, according to the Iranian Foreign Minister, reaffirming his country's official denial on the development of nuclear weapons, calling for the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons.[62] Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in his speech accused Iran of pursuing nuclear ambitions and destabilizing the situation in the Middle East through proxy wars and the associated smuggling of weapons. In the context of the Middle East conflict, Liberman advocated for a two-State solution with the Palestinians.[63] The Turkish Foreign Minister, Çavuşoğlu, also described Iran as a source of turmoil in the region and said that the country wanted to turn Syria and Iraq into Shiite countries. An armistice should be reached with Russia and Iran, demanded Çavuşoğlu, who described the Geneva talks as the basis for a political solution. However, in order to defeat IS, a better strategy and appropriate forces were needed. According to the Turkish Foreign Minister, IS had nothing to do with Islam, which stands for peace. IS is a terrorist organization, like certain Kurdish organizations in Turkey. The minister affirmed that the country has no Kurdish problem, but a terrorism problem with the PKK.[62]

Saudi Foreign Minister, Al-Jubeir, also called Iran a problematic actor in the region, calling it the world's largest terrorist supporter. In this context, Al-Jubeir raised the question of why Shiite Iran had previously been spared from terrorist attacks. Despite this criticism of Tehran's policy, Al-Jubeir expressed his confidence that the various conflicts could be resolved, in Yemen or Syria, if all sides showed willingness to do so in the future. Al-Jubeir also expressed his confidence in cooperation with the new U.S. president, since Trump was a pragmatist and not an ideologue.[62] The UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, expressed doubts about the US commitment to Syria. He missed a clear American strategy for Syria, de Mistura deplored. At the same time, he accused the United States of not taking an active part in the search for a political peace process.[64] He called for a political solution for the conflict in Syria.[65]  

US foreign policy towards Russia[edit]

During the conference, Jane Harman, President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, discussed with US Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Lindsey Graham and Christopher Murphy the policies of the Russian Federation under Putin. Democrat Senator Murphy was convinced that Russia had tried to actively influence the 2016 US presidential elections, and demanded that this be examined by Congress and to possibly impose further sanctions. He described a new "Russian expansionism", which could not only be pushed back by an increase in the rate of defense, but at the same time required further measures.   Republican Senator Graham, confirmed the statements of his previous speaker and urged US President Trump to take decisive action against Russia, regardless of the fact that the 2016 election attacks were directed not against his party but the Democrats.[62] He advocated for a cross-party proposal to impose further sanctions against Moscow. The President, he hoped, would agree that he would have to work with Members of Congress as "defenders of the free world". The influential internal Republican party critic of Donald Trump predicated that further attempts of interference would occur, e.g. in French or German election campaigns, if there was no effective response to Moscow's cyber attacks. The Senator at the same time reaffirmed the importance of the media, which he described as indispensable in democratic societies.[66]  

Ewald von Kleist Award[edit]

During the conference, the outgoing German Federal President, Joachim Gauck, was awarded the Ewald von Kleist Award. Gauck was awarded for his keynote speech at the 50th Security Conference in which he had asked Germany to take on more international responsibility.[67] The prize was presented by the Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, who described Gauck as an "advocate of civil rights", who had already worked as pastor in the GDR to overcome seemingly insoluble problems. Gauck was not able to accept the prize personally due to illness, and was represented by his Secretary of State, David Gill, who also read the acceptance speech. In his address, the President Gauck urged German society to commit to freedom and to further realize it: "The future is the space of our possibilities - the space of our freedom."[68]  

Normandy Group[edit]

Foreign Ministers Sigmar Gabriel from Germany, Sergei Lavrov from Russia, Pavlo Klimkin from Ukraine and Jean-Marc Ayrault from France met on the sidelines of the conference to discuss developments in Ukraine as representatives of the Normandy Group.[69] In the months before, implementation of the Minsk Agreements had repeatedly stalled. German Foreign Minister Gabriel expressed his optimism and announced that "all parties will use their influence in order to implement the connections from the Contact Group".[70] The fact that the US did not object to a meeting of the Normandy Group was interpreted by observers as a sign of Washington's support for Germany’s role as a mediator in the conflict.[71] The announcement by the Russian government regarding the recognition of ID cards from separatist areas was criticized by the Ukrainian government as a "provocation".[70]  

Munich Security Report[edit]

The conference organizers published the "Munich Security Report" (MSR) shortly before the launch of the MSC. The publication was titled "Post-Truth, Post-West, Post-Order"? and described a growing uncertainty in world politics, especially after Donald Trump's election as US president.[12] The report, a collaborative effort by the MSC and various think tanks, also highlighted the challenges for international security policies and raised the spectre of an end to the current Western-dominated world order.[72] The MSR also discussed the dangers that "fake news" implies for the culture of debate in Western democracies.[73]

Conference 2016[edit]

The 52nd Munich Security Conference took place from 12 to 14 February 2016. 600 international guests attended the event, including 30 heads of state, 70 foreign and defense ministers, directors of various intelligence agencies and 700 journalists from 48 countries.[74]


The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, described in his welcoming speech the central themes of the conference. Ischinger warned that the international order was in its worst shape since the end of the Cold War, and described the outlook as "grim" and urged the international community, especially Europe, to expand their efforts to cooperate.[75]

Opening speeches[edit]

For the first time, the defense ministers of Germany and France, Ursula von der Leyen and Jean-Yves Le Drian, opened the conference together.[76] In her speech, Minister von der Leyen focused on the challenges associated with the European refugee crisis. She stressed that helping refugees was a humanitarian obligation. The defense minister reported that the Bundeswehr participated, as part of a NATO mission in the eastern Mediterranean, in the fight against people smuggling and contributed to the integration of refugees in Germany by training refugees in civilian occupations. Von der Leyen also stressed that the influx of refugees had to be reduced as a whole, in order to help focus on those people in actual need of protection.[77] In his part of the opening speech, minister Le Drian focused on the war in Syria and international terrorism. Against the backdrop of the recent terrorist attacks in France, he called for a strengthening of the fight against the ‘Islamic State’ terrorist militia. A ceasefire in Syria, he said, could only be reached if Russia put an end to its bombing attacks in the country.[78]

Conflict between NATO and the Russian Federation[edit]

Le Drian stressed the importance of the agreement that the Syria Contact Group had reached before the conference.[79] According to this accord, within one week, a ceasefire in Syria should be put into place. Special importance was placed on this agreement, since despite the tense political situation between NATO and Russia, all participants in the contact group had agreed on this goal.[80]

During a speech on the second conference day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the situation between the West and Russia from the Alliance's perspective. He called Russia's actions an attempt to destabilize and intimidate the Western security order and Russia's western-oriented neighbors. In response to this strategy, Stoltenberg reaffirmed the joint solidarity among NATO members and stressed the readiness of the Alliance for collective defense. He also called for the examination of renewed talks within the NATO-Russia Council.[81] Stoltenberg stated: "We do not want a new Cold War with Russia".[82]

The tensions between the West and Russia were the subject of much debate at the conference. An additional point of contention was the speech by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, whose remarks were understood by some participants as indicating that it was Moscow's conviction that the West and Russia had "slipped into a new Cold War".[83] Medvedev complained that "Russophobia"[84] had become "fashionable", and that from Russia's point of view, the West had stopped the dialogue with Russia and treated the country in an arbitrary way. He denounced NATO’s deterrence doctrine and interpreted the sanctions against Russia as aggressive intent.[85] Despite these allegations, the Prime Minister announced that Russia was working on a "European Peace Union" and that they also gathered in Munich for the interests of European security. He promised a constructive role of Moscow in the Syria conflict and attributed Russia's military involvement in the country to the high number of IS fighters hailing from Russia and emphasized that they "must not be allowed to return to their home country."He also stressed that there was no evidence of alleged Russian attacks on Syrian civilians. He criticized the West’s euphoria about the Arab Spring as naive and asked where the hopes for democracy had gone. Medvedev blamed political developments in the Middle East for the rise of IS. He called on the Syrian opposition to start negotiations with President Assad.[86] At the same time he rejected a distinction between the IS and other groups because all terrorist groups identified by Moscow had to be fought equally.[87]

In a debate between the Presidents of Russian neighboring countries, Polands and Latvia urged a strengthening of NATO and a greater leadership role for the Americans in the Alliance. The Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite stated that Russia had already started a “hot war”.[88] The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, who also participated in the debate, warned against attempts of the Russian Federation to drive a wedge into the EU. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko finally turned to the absent Russian President Putin, stressing that he believes that it is not a civil war in Ukraine, but the consequences of Russian aggression and Russian occupation, due to a clash of different value systems.[89] He also warned against the intention by Russia to try to destabilize and divide Europe with the support of populist parties.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated the accusation already expressed by Prime Minister Medvedev that NATO and EU refused cooperation with Russia and treated the country as an enemy. He also expressed the frustrations of his government about the Western demands for a cessation of Russian air raids on moderate rebels.[90] German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier finally expressed his belief that NATO and Russia were not in a Cold War. According to Steinmeier, it was important for the EU "to keep intact". If successful, the Foreign Minister continued, a lot would be won.

During the conference, a telephone conversation between US President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin was brought to attention, in which both parties assessed the results regarding Syria as positive.[91]

US Secretary of State John Kerry said at the security conference that the international community had never been faced with so many crises simultaneously. The Foreign Minister recalled the situation in 1963, the year of the first security conference in Munich. Back then, Kerry declared, the Cold War was “pretty hot”, yet the world had overcome the crisis. Kerry described the optimism of former US President Kennedy, who had demanded Berlin in 1963 to look beyond the current dangers "to the hopes of tomorrow". Drawing on this, Kerry continued, he finds courage for the ongoing fight against terrorism.

Syria and the fight against IS[edit]

The situation in Syria and the fight against terrorism was another important issue of the security conference. King Abdullah of Jordan reiterated in this context that the war on terror was not merely a task for the countries of the Middle East. The King pointed to the European dimension of the problem, since the Balkans had ultimately served as a save haven for IS.[92] Jordan’s King stated that the fight against terrorism was a Third World War being fought through other means.[93] Afghan President Ghani criticized Europe in his speech, saying that it had failed to grasp the rise of IS. Observers viewed the allegations from Ghani as an attempt to divert attention away from his own inadequacies.[92]

Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi mentioned the efforts by his country in the fight against IS and added that further measures by the Iraqi government would follow. In addition to positive developments such as the improved security situation in Baghdad, which he referred to as the best since 2003, the president described the existence of groups that are no longer controlled by the Iraqi state, as worrying. He was also highly critical of unauthorized troop deployments by Turkey in Iraqi territory.[92] Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attacked Syrian ruler Assad and stated that the IS consisted of "psychopaths without religion".[94]

Middle East situation[edit]

During a panel discussion on the situation in the Middle East, US Senator McCain described the global political landscape in clear terms. Because of eroding balances of power, McCain stated that the current world order was in a state of decay.[95][96] The senator accused the West of being weak vis-à-vis Russia[97] and criticized the diplomatic approach pursued by US Secretary of State Kerry. This attitude, according to McCain, would only promote the military aggression of Russia.[98] The Senator also expressed skepticism towards the Syria agreement, which he said rewarded aggression and was just another sign of Western weakness. McCain also stated that this agreement was insufficient to end the refugee crisis, which Russia would be using as a weapon against the Western community. The Secretary General of the -Gulf Cooperation Council, Al Zayani, supported the Syria agreement. Norbert Röttgen, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, said that Russia had won the upper hand in the Middle East through its violent actions in Syria.[99] He also spoke out against further concessions of the West in the Ukraine conflict in exchange for Russian concessions in Syria.[95] He called it a mistake not to have established a safe zone for Syrian refugees in 2015, thus leading to spill-over effects across the region. Röttgen called on Europe to take responsibility for its own security. Israeli Defense minister Moshe Ya'alon criticized the lack of a "grand strategy" for the West in order to deal with terrorism and the political situation in the Middle East.[99] He reiterated the Israeli strategy of "red lines" vis-à-vis Syria.[95] Finally, he added that the conflict between NATO and Russia did not constitute a new Cold War, since Moscow was acting unilaterally and no aggression on the part of the West was initiated.[99]

Future of NATO[edit]

During a panel discussion on the future of NATO, Poland’s Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski expressed general satisfaction with the increased number of NATO troops in Eastern Europe and at the same time, stated that it was necessary to deploy more Alliance forces and establish permanent military installations.[87] The Foreign Minister described the NATO-Russia Founding Act from 1997, which limited the deployment of NATO troops in former Warsaw Pact countries, to be “invalid” in the context of recent political developments and the aggressive appearance of Russia, and called for the "equal treatment" of stationing forces similar to NATO’s western states.[100] Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said during the discussion that NATO must ensure the security of all Member States, not only of those countries located on the Alliance’s eastern and southern flank.[87]

North Korean nuclear program[edit]

During a panel discussion on the role of China in the international community, Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the inadequate actions by the Chinese government against the nuclear armament of North Korea. Corker accused Beijing of refusing to solve the nuclear issue and also of providing sensitive technology to North Korea and Iran. Fu Ying, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress of China, rejected the criticism, but expressed her government’s displeasure with Pyongyang’s action. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also warned of a further nuclear armament of North Korea and called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. The Asia expert warned that should this approach fail, it would be "very, very ugly".[101]

Intelligence Services[edit]

For the first time, the heads of important Western Intelligence Services took part in a public panel discussion at the security conference. James R. Clapper, US Director of National Intelligence, Robert Hannigan, Director of the British intelligence agency GCHQ, Robert Bertholee, director of the Dutch secret service AIVD and Gerhard Conrad, Director of the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre INTCEN,[102] discussed together with Vinton G. Cerf, Internet pioneer and vice president of Google,[103] the relationship between security and civil liberty.[104] The representatives of the intelligence services talked about the global security situation and warned against the high number of potential terrorists from the ranks of the so-called Islamic State. According to Clapper, 6,900 of the 38,000 ‘Islamic State’ fighters would hail from Western countries. He described that IS was using high-tech online methods for recruitment and propaganda purposes.[92] Clapper warned against attacks by IS using chemical weapons, since they have access to some industrially produced chemical weapons and had already deployed them in the past.[105] Clapper also stated that the infrastructure in Western industrial nations was threatened by future terrorist attacks. INTCEN Director Conrad referred in this context to the new risks associated with Big Data. The Intelligence Service officials agreed with the demand for an improved data exchange between their services.[106] GCHQ Chief Hannigan also warned of IS cyberattacks,[104] but unlike Clapper, did not speak in favor of backdoors in encryption programs. In connection with the new transatlantic data agreement "Privacy Shield", Clapper announced that it should also respect the privacy rights of citizens of other countries.[106] Google vice president Cerf stated that the Internet could only preserve its advantages "if it was kept free, global, and open, ensuring the freedom of all its users".[107]

Ewald von Kleist Award 2016[edit]

The Ewald von Kleist Prize 2016 was awarded at a reception hosted by the Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer at the Munich Residenz[108] to Christiana Figueres, Secretary General of the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and Laurent Fabius, former French Foreign Minister.[109] Both received the award for their roles in the adoption of the Convention of Paris, the successor to the Kyoto Protocol in December 2015.[110] The award address was given by UN deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson.[111] The particularly small number of U.S. participants at this traditional event was interpreted by observers as an expression of criticism towards Seehofer’s trip to Moscow[112] immediately before the security conference.[113]

Situation in Africa[edit]

In a panel discussion on the situation in Africa, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan described the grim prospects of African youth as an important root cause for refugee flows and terrorism. He called for more humanitarian and social engagement in solving the crises, stressing that purely military measures will not succeed.[95] Annan also stated that Africa's economic growth in recent years had only reached a small elite, which had failed to invest resources in the development of their countries. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of Somalia, reiterated Annan's views and described that in his country many militiamen had joined the al-Shabaab terrorist group because of economic reasons.[114] Other participants including Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, accused the West of a significant involvement in the conflict.[115]

Refugee crisis[edit]

During a panel discussion on the refugee crisis, Peter Altmaier, Chief of the German Chancellery and Federal Minister for Special Affairs, stressed the importance of a ceasefire in Syria. Altmaier called for a quota of refugees in Europe and stated that accommodations should be located near their countries of origin to provide them with homes and schools there. In this context, Altmaier also emphasized the transfer of refugees to Turkey or their repatriation to safe countries of origin.[116] He stressed that the crisis could not be solved with purely national measures.[117] Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey protected Europe from “overload and criminal risks” by taking in 2.5 million Syrian refugees.[116] He also urged better coordination of international assistance.[117] Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said that besides refugees in need of protection, many people with other motivations were flocking to Europe. Therefore, the foreign minister called for protection of the EU's external borders and better controls of those who entered.[116] According to Koenders, there was no lack of a European strategy regarding the refugee issue, but he criticized weaknesses in its implementation.[117] Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni described the refugee crisis as a "permanent problem",[116] in which domestic political considerations often prevented a European solution. Gentiloni warned that this was becoming a major threat for the continent.[117]

Conference 2015[edit]

German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen during her opening speech at the 51st MSC

The 51st Munich Security Conference was held from 6 to 8 February 2015. Among the more than 400 international participants[118] from nearly 80 countries were also 20 heads of state, 70 foreign and defense ministers[119] and 30 CEOs of large companies.[120] The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen held the opening speech.[121]

In her speech, she explained Germany's willingness to assume international leadership responsibilities. It consisted of "leadership from the center", the minister explained, and not one "with Pickelhaube".[122] Which could also imply "fighting together". Based on the German history, von der Leyen derived the commitment of her country to defend human rights[123] and added however that the German population was "cautious" on this issue.[122]


In regards to the conflict in Ukraine, the minister accused Russia of leading an "undeclared war".[123] However, she spoke out against a supply of weapons to the Ukraine.[124] Also on the opening day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to relent in the conflict. "The Cold War is history, and so it should remain," Stoltenberg said.[125] He reaffirmed NATO’s dedication to repel every attack,[126] but also warned of the long-term consequences of cutbacks in defense budget upon security.[127] A meeting between Stoltenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the conference was described as "frosty".[128]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking at 51st MSC

German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Munich immediately after a joint mediation mission with French President François Hollande in Moscow, negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In her speech, Merkel rejected the idea of supplying weapons to the Ukraine and spoke in favor of a diplomatic solution, and the revitalization of the Minsk Protocol, since the conflict could not be resolved militarily.[129] She pointed out that the Russian policy had been "disillusioning" in the conclusion of the agreement,[130] and also drew on her personal experiences in East Germany during the construction and the fall of the Berlin Wall as an example of a successful non-military solution to a conflict.[131] Responding to repeated calls for supplying weapons to Ukraine, the Chancellor stated: "I am very doubtful."[132] According to Merkel, Putin could not be moved to make more concessions by more weapons and soldiers.[131] After her speech, Merkel held a trilateral meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.[132]

At the conference, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accused the West of deliberately intensifying the conflict in Ukraine.[133][134] Russia itself bears no responsibility for the conflict, Lavrov stated.[135] In his speech he specifically blamed the United States for the massive tensions in the relationship between the West and Russia.[133] Lavrov accused Washington of trying to reach global dominance[136] and of infringing on international agreements in connection with the U.S. missile defense plans in Europe. Russian Foreign Minister called the current situation a "turning point" in which the West must decide whether they want to "build a secure architecture with, without or against Russia". Lavrov spoke positively about the Franco-German peace efforts.[137]

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and US Secretary of State John Kerry

Lavrov’s speech was sharply criticized by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. He asked Moscow to show more willingness to compromise and told Lavrov that his speech had not contributed to resolving the conflict. Steinmeier ruled out a quick end to the hostilities. Like Chancellor Merkel before, Steinmeier rejected weapon supplies to the Ukraine and described them as "highly risky" and "counterproductive".[138] The German Foreign Minister also stated that the most important task ahead would be containing the conflict in order to gain scope for political solutions.[135] He also emphasized that there could only be lasting security for Europe in cooperation with Russia; at the same time, Steinmeier declared that a positive future for Russia was only possible with Europe, not against Europe.[139] US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the close cooperation between the United States and Europe and declared that there were no divisions or differences over the Ukraine issue.[140] Kerry also called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and accused Russian President Putin of "brazen efforts" to destabilize eastern Ukraine.[141]

Philip M. Breedlove, Supreme Commander of NATO in Europe, who was previously skeptical about Western weapon supplies to the Ukraine, stated at the conference that in case of a failure of negotiations and sanctions[142] "the possibility of military options should not be excluded”. At the same time, General Breedlove ruled out the deployment of ground troops.[143][144]

Nuclear negotiations with Iran and the war on terror[edit]

In connection with the negotiations about Iran's nuclear program, the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif stated at the conference that he was opposed to a further extension of the current negotiations, which had a deadline of the end of March 2015. He spoke about the support from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, for Tehran's nuclear negotiations, and called for lifting the sanctions against his country.[145] The EU High Representative for the Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, expressed optimism on the progress of negotiations with Iran and spoke in Munich of a "historical opportunity" for resolving this conflict.[146] During the security conference, Zarif and US Secretary of State Kerry, came to direct negotiations twice.[147]

Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs, Yuval Steinitz, warned at the conference of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, should Iran obtain nuclear weapons.[148]

In the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group (IS), the Israeli minister urged Western countries to provide more military and financial support for Egypt, Jordan, the Kurds and moderate rebel forces in Syria.[149] US Secretary of State Kerry reported in Munich that the international coalition against IS had already flown 2,000 air strikes against the terrorists since August 2012. The strikes had helped to liberate 700 square kilometers from IS control. In connection with the IS burning of the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh alive, Kerry spoke of a "new level of depravity" and announced that the international community should relentlessly tackle terrorist groups like IS and Boko Haram.[150]


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, warned during a panel discussion about the dangers of the global refugee crises for peace and security.[151] Guterres described the global security situation by saying: "We have no bipolar world, we have no multilateral world, we have a chaotic world."[152] Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, accused the international community of failing to protect human rights and pleaded with the decisions made by the UN Security Council on human rights violations for a limitation of the veto.[151] Shetty criticized the EU, that its 27 member states had taken in only 9,000 refugees from Syria, while the five neighboring countries of Syria needed to cope with 3.8 million war refugees. The Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam described the situation in his country - which with its population of four million had taken 1.5 million refugees from Syria - as catastrophic.[152] German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Gerd Müller agreed to supply the Lebanese government with further aid and called on the EU to take in additional refugees.[153] During the panel discussion Müller highlighted the global imbalance between military expenditure in relation to developmental assistance. He received support for his statement from the Vice President of the German Bundestag, Claudia Roth.[152]

The collapse of global order was the subject of another panel discussion, in which Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, Kumi Naidoo, international director of Greenpeace, and George Soros, investor and philanthropist, discussed the possibilities of a future new world order.[154] Beforehand, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland had presented a proposal to reform the UN Security Council.[155]

Conference 2014[edit]

German President Joachim Gauck during his opening speech at the 50th Munich Security Conference

The 50th Munich Security Conference was held from 31 January to 2 February 2014.[156] At the event, more than 400 international guests attended, including 20 Heads of State and Government,[157] 50 foreign and defense ministers and 90 government delegations.[158] Joachim Gauck was the first German Federal President to ever hold the opening speech.[159]

In his speech Gauck called for a new German foreign policy, together with a stronger foreign policy commitment from Germany, which would show a greater self-confidence and take on more responsibility.[160] The President referred to the Federal Republic as "the best Germany we have ever had".[161] The country should not hide behind its historic debt. To address the federal government, he pleaded "not to flee from threats".[162] Instead, Germany should "decisively and substantially stand up” in the defense of their own values. Finally, the President urged to correct the German self-image. The previous six decades of the Federal Republic as a free and stable nation should justify the Germans having "trust and confidence" in themselves. Gauck called it a requirement to be "reliable for their partners" in the world.[163]

Ukrainian opposition leaders meeting John Kerry at the Munich Security Conference 2014

A dominant theme of the conference was the violent clashes between government and opposition in Ukraine. At the Munich Security Conference US Secretary of State John Kerry promised the Ukrainian opposition support from the West.[164] The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the Western countries of assisting in the violent uprising in Ukraine which was getting out of control. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the other hand, accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s rights to a free choice of alliances.[165] The Ukrainian politician Vitali Klitschko accused the Ukrainian government during a panel discussion of responding with acts of terror and violence to the demands of the opposition.[166] Klitschko called for economic sanctions against those responsible for the violence. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara dismissed the allegations that his country's political policies were directed against Europe. Since Ukraine is geographically part of Europe and also carries a very close relationship with Russia, Koschara warned, it should not be faced with the decision "Europe or Russia". The Foreign Minister also declared that Ukraine had already met key demands of the opposition.[167] His claims that the violence in Ukraine started from terrorists, was countered by Klitschko by distributing a collection of images of the protests in Ukraine to panel participants and spectators.[168] During the conference Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, started a mediation initiative, inviting members of the Ukrainian parties in conflict and the Foreign Ministers of important EU countries to participate.[169] During the conference, Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter, in his capacity as OSCE Chairman, pointed out again an existing offer of mediation of the OSCE to the conflicting parties in the Ukraine.[170] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Leonid Kozhara, Vitali Klychko, Leonid Slutsky, Irakli Garibashvili, Traian Basescu and Štefan Füle participated in a discussion panel regarding the situation in Ukraine.[171]

Panel on the 50th anniversary

The panel discussion on the history of the Security Conference to mark the 50th anniversary had attendances from former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who both had participated in the first Internationale Wehrkundebegegnung in 1963. Attendances in the discussions also included the former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former German Federal Minister for Special Tasks Egon Bahr, former British Foreign Minister David Miliband and the acting Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski.[172][173] During the discussions, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing pointed out that the number of major wars has decreased while the level of violence, the risk of new threats such as terrorism or cyber-attacks and the number of refugees[172] have increased worldwide. In combination with this, the former French President justified the military interventions of his country in Africa.[174]

Henry Kissinger also shared the assessment of an increasingly complex global security situation, which hampered the development of "coherent strategies".[172] The former US Secretary of State cited Sino-Japanese territorial conflicts that could lead to military conflict. Kissinger pushed that Europe in turn was very "reluctant to military conflicts"[175] and was sometimes too "hesitant" in the fight against violence, a criticism that Giscard d'Estaing already accused Europe of and linked it to "discouragement". Recalling the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, Kissinger warned however to be cautious that the decisions of military intervention should not be influenced by a "moment of rage", if willingness is not given to such wars to "endure to the end".[174]

Egon Bahr emphasized the risks of new, hard-to-find threats such as cyber-attacks on power grids and other infrastructure facilities. These threats had even made the US vulnerable and revealed an existing inability to defend themselves against them. Bahr further demanded a policy of deterrence analogous to that of the days of the nuclear threat. Asked about the future of NATO, Bahr, Kissinger and Giscard d’Estaing all expressed their conviction that NATO would still exist in ten years’ time.[175]

Former German Chancellor Schmidt said Europe was decreasing in importance. Schmidt stated that the consequences of global population growth were crucial for the continent's future. Europe will make up only seven percent of the world population in 2050, while in 1950 more than one in five people had lived in Europe.[175] According to Schmidt, the Europeans overestimated their global significance.[176] The former Chancellor critically regarded global urbanization, which leads to the "big urban masses", who were "easily led astray" by the temptations of modern media.[175] Schmidt called the "power of the financial manager" another threat which despite the recent financial crisis was unabated.[172] The current European Union policy, Schmidt described as a future hazard: "If the EU continues the way that it is, in ten years’ time NATO will still be there, but maybe not the EU."[175] David Miliband described a decline of classical foreign policy and attributed this to the fact that the electorate increasingly placed regional and national issues at the center of importance.[172]

US-Secretary of Defense Hagel speaking at 50th MSC

No approaches were made towards the transatlantic conflict over NSA surveillance in Europe. The US Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel avoided any mention of this controversial subject.[177][178] Instead Kerry advocated a "transatlantic renaissance" based on common values.[179][180] Hagel emphasized the role of Europe as an "indispensable partner" of the United States.[181] Both ministers campaigned for the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP.[182][183] US Senator John McCain added in relation to the NSA spying on allies as a 'credibility problem', which the American government had to deal with in order to regain lost trust. Significant criticism of the NSA spying was voiced by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière. Throughout the discussion he called the carried out spying on German citizens "exorbitantly"[184] and demanded a "signal from the Americans to their closest partner in Europe".[180] De Maizière declared that the political damage caused by these surveillance measures was higher than their security benefits.[185] The Federal Minister of the Interior called the information provided by the American side completely inadequate.[186] A possible no-spy agreement with the United States provided the Minister with no great expectations. Along Kerry and Hagel, de Maizière agreed with a continuation of negotiations on TTIP. The German MEP Elmar Brok predicted a defeat in the vote on the TTIP agreement in the European Parliament in the event that an examination and reappraisal of the NSA's activities would fail. Company representatives from Deutsche Telekom, Huawei and Microsoft demanded a binding international standard of Internet security. Thus, Deutsche Telekom CEO Timothy Höttges called for an international agreement of digital basic rights. Microsoft Vice President Matt Thomlinson announced the opening of the company's own transparency centers, including one in Brussels, where governments could check the source code of Microsoft products to insure that they contain no backdoors for US intelligence agencies.[187]

EU Representative Ashton with presidents Dačić and Thaçi

During the conference, the two Prime Ministers from Serbia and Kosovo, Ivica Dacic and Hashim Thaçi, came forward[188] and discussed the rapprochement between the two countries, which in 2013 had led to the signing of the normalization Agreement, under the moderation of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Both leaders reaffirmed their intention to seek solutions, "that advance the two nations".[189] Dacic called the convergence process as a "tightrope walk" and Thaci referred to resistors in the population that had to be overcome before the agreement.[190]

The conference also housed a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in which the EU Representative Ashton put economic aid for Israelis and Palestinians in view that both parties consented to a peace agreement.[191] US Secretary of State Kerry had previously referred to a failure of the Middle East negotiations as "unacceptable".[192]

Kerry, Ban Ki-moon, Brahimi, and Lavrov before a meeting on Syria

After the previously unsuccessful negotiations in Geneva of the Syrian civil war parties, discussions at the security conference took no further approach towards the Syrian conflict. Despite his announcement of follow-up negotiations designated UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi stated the international peace efforts in Syria had failed.[193] Brahimi warned of a further escalation of the situation in Syria.[194] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the parties in conflict to lead future negotiations "serious and sincere".[195] The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif echoed the call of his country for a ceasefire in Syria, referring to the difficulties of monitoring such actions.[196]

During a debate on Iran's nuclear program Zarif insisted on his country's right to use nuclear energy. In connection with the forthcoming international negotiations were "many steps" to go, the Iranian foreign minister stated.[197] The previously reached agreements Zarif called as a significant beginning and assured the readiness of Iran to constructive negotiations.[198] The IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano spoke of positive feedback from Iran, but said that a lot of work still had to be done.[199] Amano also pointed out that the IAEA still did not have access to all nuclear facilities and could therefore "not exclude the character of some non-peaceful Iranian activities".[200] The Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon warned following the debate against too much optimism and stated that Iran will continue to develop its nuclear program throughout the course of the current negotiations.[201] The fact that Ya’alon and the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, had previously been among the audience that had followed the appearance of the Iranian foreign minister was interpreted as a public gesture of rapprochement to Iran.[202] The Iranian nuclear program was also the subject of a meeting between Sharif and US Secretary of State Kerry.[203]

Conference 2013[edit]

US Vice President Joe biden at 49th MSC

The 49th Security Conference was held from the 1 to 3 February 2013[204] More than 400 senior politicians and business executives, as well as high-ranking military officials and security experts[205] from 90 countries attended the event. This included over 90 delegations, a dozen heads of state, 70 foreign and defense ministers,[206] ten US senators, five EU Commissioners, five German federal ministers and 60 members of the German Bundestag and an equal number of CEOs.[207] Some 700 journalists were accredited for the event.[208]

The conference focused on the European debt crisis, transatlantic relations, the crisis regions of Mali and the Middle East,[206] as well as energy security and cyber terrorism.[209] Federal Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière in his opening speech emphasized the role of the United States as a guarantor of European security. De Maizière stated that Europe "might not be the best conceivable partner of the US but the best possible".[210] He also called for better cooperation in the defense realm both within the EU as well as between EU and NATO.[206]

The Euro crisis and the future of the European Union were the themes of the opening debate. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Deutsche Bank CEO Anshu Jain expressed their conviction that the height of the crisis was over. Schäuble, however, warned against reducing the rescue efforts, and criticized the continuing insufficient regulation of the banking sector.[211] Jain described the consequences of demographic change in Europe as a serious impediment to growth and called for a liberalization of the labour market and a reform of the pension system.[212] In the debate, Spain's Foreign Minister José García-Margallo y Marfil considered growth and employment as key challenges for the future of Europe. An improvement to the competitiveness of EU States was suggested by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.[213]

The second day of the conference focused on the transatlantic relations. US Vice President Joe Biden provided for the first time[214] an outlook on the future foreign policy of the recently re-elected US President Barack Obama. Speaking about the importance of Europe, Biden stated that "Europe is the cornerstone of our commitment to the world and a catalyst for global cooperation" and called the Europeans "oldest friends and closest allies" of the US.[215] In this context he strongly pushed for the creation of a transatlantic free trade zone. Biden also announced improvements in the US relations with Russia.[216] In his speech he emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries, but also noted existing differences on human rights, the Syrian conflict and the European Missile Defense System.[217] Biden urged Syrian President Bashaar al-Assad to step down[218] and called on the international community to intervene in the country. However, he refused a military intervention on the part of his country.[219] The US Vice President offered direct negotiations to Iran over its nuclear program.[220]

Moaz al-Khatib, president of Syrian opposition, at 49th MSC

Unlike Biden, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took an opposing position in regards to Syria.[218] He stated that his government continues to stand by the Syrian ruler Assad, and said that there would be future Russian support.[221] Despite the differences between the US and Russia on Syrian, a first meeting between Lavrov and the head of the Syrian opposition, Moaz al-Khatib, came as a surprise during the conference.[222] Lavrov also invited al-Khatib to visit Moscow.[223] Moaz al-Khatib offered Bashar al-Assad and his aides safe passage out of the country in exchange for their resignations.[224]

In the debates on the final day of the conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi expressed the willingness of his country to accept the US’s negotiated bid[225] on the Iranian nuclear program, but imposed certain conditions.[226] Salehi’s announcement was taken with skepticism,[225] due to previous statements that had remained without concrete consequences.[227] Unexpectedly fierce criticism of the Iranian policy was displayed throughout the conference debate by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, Ruprecht Polenz, including calling Iran a "nuclear policy wrong way driver".[227] At the security conference, outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned about "nuclear terrorism" and an end to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the event that Iran gained possession of the nuclear bomb. Barak reiterated his countries determination to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.[228]

A panel discussion on cyber security was accompanied by reports of hacker attacks against Twitter and leading American newspapers.[229] In the course of the debate, Federal Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich presented a bill on IT security stipulating operators of critical infrastructure to report hacker attacks. Friedrich stated that cyber security had become a key issue of the 21st century.[230] European Commissioner Neelie Kroes also advocated the reporting of cyber attacks and referred to a future EU directive.[231] The Commissioner stressed the responsibility of each user to contribute to the security in the internet. Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann called upon affected companies to report cyber attacks, since the disclosure of security issues contributes significantly to their resolution.[232] Obermann stated that there were an average of 300,000 to 400,000 attacks daily on his company’s networks.[231]

Further topics of the conference included the future of the responsibility to protect,[233] digital diplomacy in the age of social media,[234] European defense policy[235] as well as security and stability in Southeast Europe and the Caucasus.[236]

Other Events[edit]

In 2009 two other events were launched and have been conducted annually since then. In 2013, the Cyber Security Summit was created as a fourth conference series. Since 2013 Munich Security Conference and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung organize an annual Energy Security Summit.

Munich Young Leaders[edit]

In 2009, the Munich Young Leaders was first launched in cooperation with the Körber Foundation. Held in parallel to the Security Conference, this annual roundtable series is designed to directly involve the next generation of decision-makers into the main conference proceedings.[1][237] The Roundtable agendas as well as the participants and speakers lists are published online.[238]

Core Group Meetings[edit]

In addition to the main conference, a new series of events, the MSC Core Group Meetings, were launched in November 2009 in Washington, DC.[239] The meetings provide a select group of participants the opportunity to discuss key issues of international security policy in order to continue the work of the Security Conference and provide impulses.[240] The location of the Core Group Meetings always varies. The subsequent events took place in Moscow in 2010,[241] Beijing in 2011,[242] as well as Doha in 2013.[243] A second meeting was held for the first time in 2013 in Washington, DC. The location of the 2014 Core Group Meeting was New Delhi. The issues discussed in New Delhi were the threats of terrorism and cyber-attacks, questions of maritime security,[244] regional and global security structures and concepts for new global governance.

The Core Group Meeting 2015 was held in Vienna.[245] The crisis in Ukraine was a central theme of the meeting, which featured the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and the Russian deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov. Klimkin urged the European states to confront the Russian government head-on.[246] The Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz stated that any border changes in Europe were "unacceptable", but at the same time stressed the need for cooperation with Russia. While the Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter proposed a neutral status for Ukraine,[247] the Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić as OSCE Chairman called for a strengthening of his organization in order to prevent future conflicts.[248]

Another Core Group Meeting took place in Tehran in October 2015. Key topics of the meeting were the implementation of the Vienna Agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program and the political situation in the region. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, who opened the conference together with the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif,[249][250] emphasized the importance of transparency and trust for the successful implementation of the Vienna agreement:[251] "After the game is before the game".[250][252] Regarding the war in Syria, the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif announced the readiness of his country to cooperate with all governments involved in resolving the conflict.[253]

In April 2016, another MSC Core Group Meeting took place in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. The security situation in Africa, the fight against international terrorism, and the challenges posed by climate change and epidemics were central themes of the meeting.[254] The Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the mutual global interdependencies in all of these issues.[255] Other participants included Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, Smaїl Chergui, African Union Commissioner,[256] former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former German President Horst Köhler.[257]

Another Core Group Meeting was held in Beijing in November 2016.[258] Key topics of the meeting were China's role in the international order, conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region and the geopolitical importance of the "New Silk Road".[259] Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister, Zhang Yesui, stressed in his opening speech the importance of dialogue and cooperation for the security of the region.[260] During the core group meeting, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, reaffirmed his country's willingness to contribute to peace and security globally.[261] Other participants included Fu Ying, chairwoman of the National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Markus Ederer, secretary of state at the German Foreign Office, Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group, and several members of the Bundestag.[262]

Cyber Security Summit[edit]

In 2012, the first Cyber Security Summit was held in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom in Bonn.[263][264] The first event was conducted under Chatham House Rule. According to media reports, the supervisory board chairman of Deutsche Bank, Paul Achleitner, the head of the construction group Bilfinger Berger, Roland Koch, as well as Peter Terium, the CEO of the energy supplier RWE and Johannes Teyssen of E.ON were in attendance.[265]

During the summit several working groups analyzed existing cyber risks and dangers for the following industries:

  • Energy
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Logistic
  • Media
  • Production

On November 11, 2013 the second summit took place in Bonn. The gathering had the following four topics:[266]

  1. Rebuilding trust in the digital society
  2. New threat scenarios for the economy
  3. Gaining trust, restoring trust
  4. Cyber defense is becoming a business-critical core skill

Unlike in 2012, the list of speakers was published:

The third summit was held on 3 November 2014.[267] It was attended by 180 representatives from the fields of politics, economy, EU and NATO.[268] In his opening speech, Telekom CEO Höttges highlighted the growing number of attacks on data and digital infrastructures, where the Telekom network recorded 1 Million attacks daily. He quoted a CSIS study that estimated the global damage caused by cybercrime to be US$575 billion per year. To protect European data against access by US authorities, Höttges called for a revision of the Safe Harbor Agreement. The intelligence coordinator of the federal government, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, supported Höttges demands.[269]

MSC Chairman Ischinger described the great geopolitical importance of cyber security as a result of Ukraine conflict, which had marked the return of war as political means in Europe.[270] State Secretary Brigitte Zypries stated the planned IT Security Act in which the reporting of cyber attacks on companies from sensitive sectors was an obligation as the contribution by the German Federal Government to increase data security.[269] Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a former spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club, stressed the importance of strong encryption for data security and warned of the "back doors", like those that RSA Security installed for the NSA.[270] Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg urged to ward off cyber attacks with offensive actions and stressed the need for a deterrence component.[271][272] Ben Wizner, representative of the American Civil Liberties Union and lawyer of Edward Snowden,[270] contradicted against those needs.[273] In separate working groups, the topics of Digital Defense, Cyber governance, Promotion of Innovation in regards to data security and preventive data protection were also discussed.

The fourth Cyber Security Summit was held on 19 and 20 September 2016 Palo Alto, Silicon Valley.[274] The summit was jointly convened by MSC, Deutsche Telekom and Stanford University. 140 representatives from the fields of politics, security and business participated in the gathering.[275] A central theme of the meeting was the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its possible manipulation by cyber attacks.[276] The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger, expressed his fear that such attacks could damage confidence in democratic elections in general.[275]

Further topics were the defense against cyberterrorism, the future of warfare, the economic relevance of cybersecurity and the development of norms and rules for the Internet.[277] MSC chairman Ischinger called for closer coordination between the worlds of politics and technology,[276] in order to create the basis for an open, free and secure web.[278]

In connection with the Internet of Things, Marc Goodman from the American Think Tank Singularity University warned that "everything could be hacked". Goodman predicted the Internet would feature an "epic battle" of different interest groups.[279] Peter R. Neumann from King's College London described the hierarchical structure of law enforcement agencies as an organizational problem in combating cyber-crime, at odds with the de-centralized operating mode of the Internet.[275]

Other participants included Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CTO of CrowdStrike, Michael Chertoff, former United States Department of Homeland Security, chairman and founder of the Chertoff Group, Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University and former US Ambassador in Russia, and Iddo Moed, Coordinator of Cybersecurity for the Israeli Foreign Ministry,[280] Christopher Painter, Coordinator for Cyber Issues at the US State Department,[281] Latha Reddy, former National Security Adviser of India and currently a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance,[280] as well as, Uri Rosenthal, former Dutch foreign minister and current Special Envoy of his country for cyber politics.[281]

Energy Security Summit[edit]

Together with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the MSC has been organizing the Energy Security Summit since 2013.[282] The first meeting was held on 10 July 2013 in the ballroom of the Frankfurt Palmengarten under the auspices of Federal Economics and Technology Minister Philipp Rösler and Environment Minister Peter Altmaier. Other topics of the event were climate change, the geostrategic consequences of fracking and the German Energy transition.[283]

The second Energy Security Summit was held in Berlin on 27 and 28 May 2014. Key topics of the meeting included the "shale gas revolution" in the United States[284] and the conflict in Ukraine. In his speech, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed the important role of energy policy for foreign and security policy.[285] Steinmeier pushed for a European Energy Union and urged the EU countries to demonstrate unity with regard to the Ukraine conflict. The minister stressed the need to make compromises in the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute,[286] and warned against too high expectations of substituting American shale gas for Russian gas supplies. EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger also spoke in favor of a European Energy Union with uniform gas prices. He also described Germany’s energy policy as being in a "Romantic Valley”. The strategic issue of energy would require Germany to get involved with its technological and political competence, Oettinger stated.[287] During the meeting, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk described the Ukraine conflict as a "global security conflict" which only Russia would be responsible for. Yatsenyuk reiterated his country's refusal to pay a "political price" in exchange for gas supplies from Russia. The premier also expressed the willingness of his country to participate in a common energy policy with the EU.[288]

The third Energy Security Summit was held on 5 and 6 May 2015, again in Berlin.[289] During the meeting, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh laid out his country’s plans for the development of the energy sector after the end of sanctions. After the previously reached deal to resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Minister demanded the rapid lifting of the economic sanctions. He dashed hopes that Tehran would build a gas pipeline to Europe to weaken the dominant role of Russia in the European gas market, citing transit problems and costs.[290] At the same time, the Minister announced that his government would invest US$180 billion in the Iranian oil and gas industry by 2022.[291] Other topics at the meeting included, among others, the proposed Energy Union in Europe, which both Maroš Šefčovič,[292] Vice-President of the European Commission, and Rainer Baake, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, called for,[293] as well as the German energy transition. Bärbel Höhn, chairman of the German Bundestag’s Environment Committee, referred to it as an important contribution by Germany to the creation of a global structure of a decentralized energy supply, which reduces dependencies and contributes to security and peace.[294] Criticism came from Greenpeace head Kumi Naidoo, who stated that the high share of brown coal used for electricity generation was the “Achilles heel” of Germany’s energy policy.[295] Michael Fuchs, Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, criticized the high burden placed on German citizens due to subsidies of 480 billion Euro earmarked for the energy transition.

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