It therefore seems that this is the stake of the current diplomatic confrontation between Russia and the West. This explains the interest with Angela Merkel’s appearance had been expected with, the intensiveness with which she was followed by the audience and equally the audience’s reaction to some of the ‘uncomfortable’ questions. In her report for “Washington Post”, Anne Applebaum is accurate about that: “This year, the normally staid audience laughed out loud at the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who seemed, at one point, to question the legality of German unification. Some of the room also applauded loudly when Angela Merkel, the German chancellor — just back from an apparently fruitless peace mission to Moscow — restated her view that ‘there is no military solution’ to the conflict in Ukraine. But when Malcolm Rifkind, the former British foreign secretary, asked her how she would stop Russia without military force, another part of the audience applauded.” As it can be seen on the numerous twitters exchanged among the participants, Angela Merkel’s address was followed with major intensiveness. According to one such exchange: “The banqueting hall of the Bayerischer Hof was packed full with leaders, defense and foreign ministers, and security experts. They all wanted to hear what German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to say.” But, after Lavrov’s speech, according to Ian Bremmer’s twitter – “Not a shred of hope for diplomacy from Lavrov speech. It’s as if he and Merkel were describing different planets” – the pessimism of the audience augmented.
The last day of the conference included on the agenda panel debates with the ‘heavy ones’ on the Ukrainian crisis and the solution. Both Vice-President J. Biden and the French and German foreign ministers or the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, F. Mogherini, or US Senator John McCain highlighted the importance of preserving the current international order and therefore not recognising territory acquisitions by military force and keeping existing borders, and avoiding a military conflict in Europe. Laurent Fabius said, without naming the state, that “There’s one country with one single leader that does not act according to the rules agreed by everyone in Europe”, and McCain “criticizes lack of resolve of Western nations (US included) to deal w/ith/ crises (Ukraine, Syria, Iran) Question of will “. Vice-President Biden sent unequivocal messages: “ 1) Russia is controlling separatists — and has to get out of Ukraine! 2) Corruption is ‘like kryptonite’ for democracy.” ; “/…/presents #Putin with choice: get out of #Ukraine or face isolation and economic costs “ ; “Europe is not just the home of our closest allies. It is the cornerstone of U.S. engagement w/ the rest of the world.“ ; “America and Europe are being tested. Need to reassert core values of no spheres of influence, right to chose own alliances.”; “Here today to talk about reassert – not reset – a Europe whole free and at peace “.
In the conclusion of the conference, as a matter of fact, the organiser, W. Ischinger, expressed his conviction that the up-going trend of the confrontation in the rest of Ukraine – “I want to repeat my concern with close military encounters. We must avoid escalation “- and that the meeting had been “at least a glimmer of hope. A meeting will take place Wednesday in Minsk” in the Capital of Belarus, to decide if there would be ‘war or peace’ in Europe.
If Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive action were the main dossier of debate during the conference, reflecting the hottest topic in international relations today, it doesn’t mean that other current international security issues were abandoned. On the contrary, there were wide debates on the security situation in the Mideast – I mention here Federica Mogherini’s announcement that ‘I convened today at @MunSecConf the Quartet for the #MiddleEast Peace Process, with @JohnKerry, Lavrov and UN’, as well as Isaac Herzog’s messages: “Let me say this clearly: #Israel will never tolerate a nuclear-armed #Iran “ and “Two-state solution is the only sustainable option for both Israelis and Palestinians “ or those of the president of the regional Kurdish government in Iraq, that “If ISIS stay in Syria, they will manage to reorganize and come back.”. Federica Mogherini decided to rewrite the EU security strategy of 2003 or, as she notes on twitter: “A process of EU strategic reflection now launched by @FedericaMog. Excellent. Coming out of our work on European Global Strategy.” Laurent Fabius warned that Africa “is obviously a key area for our common security “; Kofi Annan , former UN Secretary General, said that “Reluctant guardians is indeed an apt description of the Security Council’s inability to agree on a strategy for Syria.”, and a ‘group of wise men’ ( The Elders ) proposed for a ‘stronger UN’ “ a new category of @UN Security Council members: “permanent” as long as reelected.”; “A more transparent use of the Veto”( not applicable to genocide or related cases); “a new selection process for the #UN Secretary-General”. Naturally, part of the debate were also the global warming, the situation in Afghanistan, the energy dossier, so on and so forth. China, represented at Wehrkunde-51 by a state counsellor – the highest level of participation in the meeting so far – passed on the message that it supported “ comprehensive, sustainable global security “, therefore a predictable, rule-based global order.
However, Wehrkunde-51 was followed by Minsk a few days later, on 11 February. The crucial meeting on peace or war in Europe. But that will be the subject of our next column.