For an MUNer, a new IR year has not started until the news from the Davos and Munich conferences are out. Those two weeks sandwiched between January 22 and February 2 were the perfect opportunity for global political and business elites to exchange views and set the agenda for the year ahead. Definitely something for MUNers to follow and prepare to update their position papers and opening speeches early in the season.
While this year’s World Economic Forum dealt with four priority areas connecting business and global society, the 50th Munich Security Conference addressed the pressing international security concerns. Over 400 prominent international figures in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof revisited and set the agenda for “mutual security” in the world - discussing the issues such as the crisis in Ukraine, the peace process in Syria, or the rising star of cybersecurity.
However, one thing was clear in Munich this year: the Realists still dominate the policy arena, and the Idealists (Liberals, Constructivists) are left with sore faces - still unsatisfied with how the global security problems are tackled. The likes of Ban Ki-moon and Herman Van Rompuy, to Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, to John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov represented the full IR spectrum.
So, take a look at the takeaways from the Munich Security Conference which may have impact on your performance in session this year, especially if you are representing Germany:
German Foreign Policy Shift Announced
Currently underway in Germany is the national debate on foreign and security policy. In case you got to represent this country in your committee, you may want to pay attention to the U-turn announced by president Joachim Gauck: “Germany is no island. Responsibility lies not only in acting, but also in abstaining from action.” An even stronger opinion was given by the foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier who said that “Germany is too big to sit on the sidelines on world issues. Military force is not the ultima ratio it used to be, but it can be used, with care”. What does this imply? It could be a call for assuming a more prominent role in the world by upholding a European defence policy and participation of Germany in joint military missions abroad, together with a bigger responsibility the country demonstrated during the economic crisis.
“The Syrian Catastrophe”
...is the title of the panel dedicated to Syria at #MSC50. And an accurate description of the mood UN officials expressed while speaking about the prolonged civil war.
Ban Ki-moon spoke about “silent” vs “headline” crises in the world. And Syria has been, in fact, silencing down. The responsibility lays with the international community which often “fell short” of resolving the most acute crises worldwide. Lakhdar Brahimi, a UN envoy for Syria, reported no progress made in the first round of peace talks.
Germany’s MoD Ursula von der Leyen, called the war in Syria “appalling”, saying that in such situations “If we have means, we have capabilities, we have the obligation and we have the responsibility to engage.”
Image: Zwez / MSC
On Realists, Strategy and Humanitarian Intervention
One can learn a lot by reading the works of IR Realists. For example, Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard is again very much in vogue - because Russia’s great power ambitions are put to the test by the ongoing political turmoil situation in Ukraine.
Below are some of the Realist takeaways from the conference:
“The situation in Ukraine can only be resolved through a compromise: within Ukraine; between the EU and Russia; and between the United States and Russia. The West and Russia should also contribute money to jointly bail-out Ukraine”, Brzezinski told the conference in a proverbial Realist manner.
“The Ukrainian crisis is rooted in Western attempts to prevent Eurasian integration, in full accordance with Zbigniew Brzezinski's dictum that, without Ukraine, Russia cannot be an empire”, said Leonid Slutsky, a Russian parliamentarian.
“You should not go to war for the privilege of withdrawal. You need to define your objective and the outcome, and it cannot be the removal of one man”, Kissinger said, obviously having in mind recent humanitarian intervention in Libya.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov:
“What binds Europe and Russia together?”
Lavrov to Steinmeier:
“We are bound by treaties and agreements.”
What do you make of this security agenda for your MUN experience this season? In what tone are you going to tune your position papers? Share your views with us in the comments section below.Cover Image: Kleinschmidt / MSC