Munich Security Conference
The first time I wrote about the Munich Security Conference was 15 years ago, on 11 February 2002 (“Der Weltkrieg ist geplant [The World War is planned]”). Already then US Senator John McCain was a speaker at the conference and it was clear that he was one of the hawks.
For the US Senator the war against Afghanistan, which had started only a few weeks before, was only the first front in a global war. McCain’s goal at the time was to “forge a new world”. The USA and their military allies, he told the conference, “stand now before history with this mission”.
John McCain has remained true to his old plans, also this year. He has still not realised that the US government’s old plan has become impracticable, that the world has changed since then and that the hawks, still at the height of their own power in early 2002, have left behind such a wreckage of victims and destruction in so many places of the world in the past 15 years that their global reputation has been ruined. Nevertheless, people like McCain still believe in an “ultimate victory”, maybe also by the use of “wonder weapons”.
But something has changed with Senator McCain. He, the strident voice of the hawks, had a special “praise” for the German government and its Chancellor Angela Merkel ready at hand: “Not every American understands the absolutely vital role that Germany and its honourable Chancellor Merkel are playing in defence of the idea and the conscience of the West. But for all of us who do, let me say thank you.”
Indeed, with the change of the administration in the USA and after the “briefing” by former US President Barack Obama at the end of last year, the German Chancellor is in the front row of the hawks, seconded chiefly by her [Defence] Minister Ursula von der Leyen. The SPD – this was clear from the speech of German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel – is playing only a minor role. Apparently, its task is to calm the waves. In fact, it seems to be without any power in foreign politics.
In Munich the tone was set by Ursula von der Leyen. The Minister’s hymns of praise for the German military missions all over the world, though, do not stand up to critical scrutiny. Plainly embarrassing was her praise for Lithuania and the German military mission that has just started there.
Why did the Minister not say a single word about the discrimination of the Russian minority in the country? This would have been an honest word and could have done more to the promotion of peace than complacent pretensions. Ms von der Leyen was quite presumptuous. She tried to tell the new US administration what it had to do: no foreign political decisions by the new US administration without herself (and the Chancellor), neither in the war against terrorism nor in the relations with Russia. Ms von der Leyen was not doing this on behalf of or with the backing of the Germans. Her sponsors are somewhere else.
The German Chancellor assumed a different role in Munich. Angela Merkel was playing thoughtful and soft. She pleaded for “multilateral international structures”, by which she meant the EU, NATO, the UN and the G20. But, interestingly, she did not mention the institution that most helped to surmount the East-West division before 1990, the OSCE. Instead she supported her Minister: “We will also do more in the field of defence policy”. But there could be no real European independence, she said, because “European defence capability” should “never be seen as an alternative to NATO, but must always fit in with NATO’s capabilities”. We can guess that this is what she promised Obama for the permission to “lead Europe”.
Angela Merkel addressed again the situation in Ukraine, expressing her commitment to the hawks: “NATO became even more important for what I would describe as a very sad reason that is because of the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine where, as we know, Russia is supporting the separatists.” This development caused “such a great concern” and led to “such uncertainty, because it violated the principle that brought us peace and security in Europe after the Second World War, namely the principle of territorial integrity.”
One wonders about the effrontery by which people in Europe are to be fooled – in these statements nothing is correct.
You will recall that, after 1990, borders in Europe changed several times, also with intensive German (war) participation: The violent breakup of Yugoslavia since 1990 (Germany was one of the first to recognize the “independence” of Slovenia and Croatia). Between late 1991 and early 1992 the Soviet Union also dissolved, which led to the creation of new states in Europe: the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. All this happened without any referenda, and none of those involved cared about international law; it was simply the political will of those who were in power.
For centuries, the Crimean peninsula was part of Russia until it was “given” to Ukraine in 1954 – without consulting the people living there. In a referendum after the coup in Kiev in spring 2014 the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the Crimea voted for leaving Ukraine and for joining the Russian Federation. There are divergent assessments of the events in spring 2014 with regard to international law. At any rate, experts in constitutional and international law such as Markus Merkel, Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider or Alfred de Zayas came to different conclusions than Mrs Merkel did.
The situation in eastern Ukraine is highly complex. Local OSCE experts say that each of the parties directly involved in the conflict (the Kiev government, local mercenaries and the so-called separatists) are mainly involved in propaganda, trying to achieve their “war objectives”. The Russian Foreign Minister’s very specific depictions in response to a question in Munich are worth reading and show a differentiated picture not corresponding to the “western” view. The Chancellor’s statements, however, are merely cheap propaganda, which does by no means help to achieve what would be most important: to silence the weapons and to give people the chance to make their own decisions on how they want to live.
In conclusion: It would be a great benefit and blessing for an international understanding if Mrs Merkel (and her government) would differentiate and strive for the truth. She consciously chooses not to do this, but continues to add fuel to the fire. There can be only one conclusion: Angela Merkel is one of the hawks. A German contribution at the Munich Security Conference would have been much more valuable if it had expressed a sincere quest for what all people in East and West should actually desire to achieve: a road to a just peace. •
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