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The Munich Security Conference 2018

The Munich Security Conference 2018

By: Ali Ahmad

Can the world come back from the brink?

The Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2018 brought together statesmen, politicians, military chiefs, CEOs and human rights campaigners from across the world. Combatting terrorism, relations between countries and concerns over military confrontations by using nuclear weapons featured high on the agenda MSC. The participants debated for three days on the international defence and security in order to try and bring order to an uncertain world – or at least help make sense of it. This year’s motto was “To the Brink – and Back?” which was an accurate portrayal of the prevailing geopolitical situations in most regions of the world. But, after several days of senior decision-makers bickering back and forth, the negativity in the atmosphere only means one thing: A global conflict between nuclear superpowers is lingering.

“The world is about to explode, and something must be done to stop it.” This was the general impression that came out of the 54th Munich Security Conference that was held in February 2018 in Munich, a city in southwestern Germany. The MSC, a yearly meeting where world leaders meet and discuss burning issues, proceeded in a boiling atmosphere.

This year’s motto ‘To the brink – and back?’ was an apt description of the current state of international security, but also as the rhetoric question if this year will be a year when some of the issues might be solved or even escalated. But, this year’s conference proved that there has to be done a lot more in order to move away from the abovementioned brink.

In his opening remarks, the MSC chairman Wolfgang Ischinger asked, almost begged, the line-up of senior politicians, diplomats and generals to present solutions, not to embark on blame games or fear-mongering. As an experienced and shrewd diplomat, he was probably not surprised that his request fell on deaf ears. After three days of speeches and debates, the question mark in the conference’s title “To the Brink — and Back?” remains as valid, if not even more so, as it was when the delegates first arrived.

There were several key issues that dominated this year’s Conference which demonstrate that the world is not that far away from the edge. It encapsulated the profound paradoxes in our current security conditions. On the one hand, there is ample evidence that the international community is tackling poverty, disease, gender empowerment and other aspects of global development better than ever, with measures that, on the face of it, should reduce the likelihood of conflict. Yet, as Ischinger pointed out: “The warning signs are flashing in bright red… The world has moved much too close to the brink of major interstate conflict.”

There is a general agreement that the biggest threats to international security come from civil wars, terrorism, climate change, organized crime, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cyberspace and small arms (which kill up to 100,000 people every year in conflict zones). These security threats are often inter-related and exacerbate one another. A further consensus is that addressing such global security challenges requires leadership – but unfortunately this is in short supply, as is any in-depth understanding of the complexity of worldwide security issues, and how their political, economic and social aspects are inter-linked.

It was noticed and noted that this year’s Munich Conference was short on world leaders’ participation and/or demonstration of such qualities. While the absence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was mainly due to her difficulties in forming a coalition, the absence of the US and French presidents, for example, demonstrates the weakening of transatlantic security cooperation, and consequently NATO’s ability to provide adequate answers to any future threats.

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