For most of the year, the Munich Security Conference focuses on crises far away, like in Afghanistan or Iraq. But for this year’s gathering, which begins Friday, the theme will be Europe itself, as one of its largest nations faces a potentially catastrophic invasion.
“Our world is in danger,” Wolfgang Ischinger, the group’s president, wrote in a Note before talking. “Traditional certainties are collapsing, threats and vulnerabilities are multiplying, and the rules-based order is increasingly under attack. The need for dialogue has never been greater.”
Here are the important things to know as it gets underway.
What is a conference?
The gathering, usually a quiet event in a peaceful Bavarian city, brings together heads of state, diplomats and business leaders from the world’s leading democracies over three days of meetings and present.
This year’s event begins as Russia appears to be preparing for a military attack on Ukraine, a country located on the eastern edge of Europe.
Western leaders said on Thursday they had detected signs of a potential “false flag” operation by Russian forces to create a pretext for a military strike. In that way, the conference can be more fruitful than in years past.
How did it start?
When the Munich Security Conference was established in 1963, it was envisioned as a way for leaders, mainly from the West, to discuss threats and dangers in the informal space.
Most of the concerns at the time were rooted in the Cold War, which had dominated world politics for nearly half a century.
Over time, the conference has evolved into a forum for airing grievances and discussing political agreements, some of which fall outside the scope of East-West relations.
In recent years, the conference has often invited leaders from authoritarian, and even rival, countries to speak.
How did Putin shape the gathering?
One of the more poignant moments of the conference came in 2007, when Russian President Putin strongly criticized the United States and blame it for undermining global stability behind the guise of democracy.
Putin said that the world order controlled by a single country, the United States, “has nothing in common with democracy” and that it is time to “rethink the whole structure of global security”.
This year, although the Russian leader is not expected to appear at the gathering, he will appear on a larger scale than ever before.
Since last year, when Russian troops began massing troops on Ukraine’s border, Western leaders have been trying to thwart a Russian attack that threatens to cripple economic sanctions. and provide Ukraine with state-of-the-art weapons.
What can we expect this year?
All eyes will be on Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who are representing the US delegation and are expected to take strong defensive measures against Western efforts. to prevent a Russian attack.
Senior leaders from America’s NATO allies, including Britain, France and Germany, are also expected to speak at the conference. In recent weeks, NATO countries, including Poland and the Baltic states, have provided reinforcements to Ukraine to defend Europe’s eastern flank.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who suggested this week that he might abandon his country’s bid to join NATO, will also attend.
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/18/world/ukraine-russia-news Russia and Ukraine News: Live Updates