The Munich Security Conference is historically a place for countries to meet and discuss events, but this year the looming topic is the state of Ukraine.
The Munich Security conference met this weekend and included dozens of heads of state, generals, intelligence chiefs and top diplomats from countries all around the world, the United States sending a record number of delegates from both political parties. The conference had underlying tones of foreboding and concern, with a majority of the conference dedicated to the conflict in Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine urged for Western leaders to act, not just talk, requesting the speedy delivery of weapons and sharing the dwindling supplies on the ground.
During her speech, Vice President Kamala Harris accused Russia of committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine, after an investigation conducted by the State Department. Prior to this event, the United States had already deemed that Russian troops have been committing war crimes but now have taken the classification one step further by calling the atrocities crimes against humanity. In her speech, she described the deliberate targeting of civilians in Ukraine and evidence of “widespread and systemic” rape, torture, killing, beating, electrocution and deportation. Russia’s US ambassador Anatoly Antonov fired back by claiming that the Americans are trying to “demonize Russia.”
Russian officials did not receive an invite to the security conference for the first time since the nineties and had no voice at the conference. In their stead, Kremlin critics were offered seats instead. Iranian government officials were also not invited due to Tehran’s suppression of protests. Oftentimes, the Munich security conference wants to promote open communication between adversaries, governed by “the Munich Rule: engage and interact with each other: don’t lecture or ignore one another,” but MSC Chair Christoph Heusgen says “he draws the line at war criminals.”
Europe’s leaders committed to sending more weapons to aid Ukraine, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asking European partners to deliver battle tanks to Ukraine without delay. Scholz vowed to permanently meet NATO’s defense spending goal for individual members of two percent of gross domestic product, where in years past Germany has found excuses and explained away not meeting the spending goal. The new defense minister, Boris Pistorius, is pushing for even more, claiming that it won’t be possible to complete all of the necessary tasks that are ahead with two percent. This is a complete one-eighty from last year, where Germany’s Social Democrats were calling for the United States to remove all of their nuclear warheads from German soil.
China also wants peace in Ukraine and the world, as stated by their top diplomat Wang Yi. He stressed during his speech that he is deeply worried about the long term effects of the war and is nervous about the potential return of a “Cold War mentality.” He called for peace talks, insisting that peace is Beijing’s top foreign policy priority, while also warning against international interference in Taiwan. The United States has been concerned about Beijing invading Taiwan and the growing relationship with Moscow. The U.S. State Department said that the United States is not seeking conflict with China but warned Wang against providing support to Russia or helping Moscow evade Western sanctions.