Over the past fifty years, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has traditionally reflected the current state of world military affairs. On 16th and 17th February, the 54th Munich Security Conference took place with 450 senior decision-makers from around the globe to discuss current and future security challenges. But this year’s motto “To the Brink – and Back?”- seems to be an accurate portrayal of the current geopolitical situations in most regions. As an example, Israel blamed Iran, Iran blamed Israel, the US blamed Russia, Turkey blamed the Kurds. All the while nuclear arsenals are being modernized and new weapons are being developed.
European defence as a solution?
At the beginning of the conference, it seemed that Europe might provide the missing leadership. Indeed, European leaders appear to agree on the need for a common EU security policy. There was broad consensus that the world’s political landscape is rapidly shifting, with authoritarianism on the rise and liberal democracy, if not in retreat, at least on the defensive.
“We must emancipate ourselves, but not from NATO and not from the U.S.” European Commission President Juncker
The contradiction between Europe’s military aspirations and reality suggest that despite the growing displeasure with the Trump administration, Europe will have little choice but to remain tethered to the U.S. As a matter of fact, after Brexit, 80 % of NATO spending will come from non-EU members.
NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg declared that European efforts must be coherent with NATO goals for equipment needed to enhance capability. European assets must be available for NATO operations and not reserved for particular European ones. Thus, there should be “the strongest possible synchronization” with NATO members who are not members of the bloc, “because the EU cannot defend Europe by itself.”
“There is no way we can delink European security or security for European allies from NATO and the North Atlantic bond” NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg
Furthermore, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Florence Parly pledged to redouble their military and foreign policy cooperation efforts, inviting other European countries to participate if they felt ready to do so. Days after U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis reiterated President Donald Trump’s demand that European countries spend more on their militaries, Von der Leyen pledged to spend more on its military and the United Nations, but called in return for other countries not to turn away from multilateralism.
Britain’s security role after Brexit in question
The leaders’ security services said close security cooperation in areas like terrorism, illegal migration, proliferation and cyber attacks, must continue after Britain’s departure.
In her Brexit speech, British prime minister Theresa May called for a security treaty between the UK and the EU, but the fundamental question of the future relationship between the union and the soon-to-be-former member remains. May also said UK would respect the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) with regard to certain security agencies, while also having its “sovereign legal order”.
In this matter, Juncker warned that “we need a security alliance between the UK and the EU, but we can’t mix that question up with other questions relating to Brexit”.
Photo credit : © NATO