BERLIN — The Ukraine conflict, Islamic State group jihadists and the wider “collapse of the global order” will occupy the world’s security community at an annual meeting in Germany from Friday.
Also on the agenda of the three-day Munich Security Conference (MSC) will be Iran’s nuclear talks, the Syrian war and mass refugee crisis, West Africa’s Ebola outbreak and cyber-terrorism.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among 20 heads of government and state on the guest list, along with 60-odd foreign and defense ministers including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and US Vice President Joe Biden will also join the 51st MSC, a gathering launched at the height of the Cold War that is expected to focus heavily on the new East-West standoff over Ukraine.
The event’s organizer, veteran German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, said the meeting will discuss what he called an unprecedented upsurge in global crises over the past year, and the inability of the international community to tackle them.
“The international order is collapsing right now,” he warned.
“We live in the age of the collapse of order. In this vacuum everyone is testing how far he can go: (Russian President Vladimir) Putin in Ukraine, China against Japan, Iran in the nuclear dispute, the jihadists with the horrible things they do.
“There is a massive need for ‘global governance’. Really the UN Security Council should be resolving a crisis a week — Iraq, Syria… Instead the council is blocked and so is any will to reform.”
‘World less stable’
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank, has also warned that “on a global level, increasing geopolitical competition appears, for the moment at least, to be leading to a less controlled, less predictable world”.
The ICG pointed to some “bright spots” over the past year, including the fact the Iranian talks continue, the formation of an Afghanistan government, Colombian peace talks and the start of a US-Cuban thaw.
“But for the most part, it has been a dispiriting year,” it said. “Conflict is again on the rise after a major decrease following the end of the Cold War. Today’s wars kill and displace more people and are harder to end than in years past.”
As presidents and premiers, generals and sheikhs head for the southern German city of Munich, more than 3,000 police will be on guard to safeguard the luxury hotel that hosts the event in the Bavarian state capital.
Among the 400 guests are Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the presidents of Finland, Lithuania and Estonia.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is also scheduled to attend and may meet his counterparts from international powers over the Islamic republic’s disputed nuclear program.
Also there will be former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, various corporate CEOs and representatives of non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Greenpeace.
Merkel is expected to speak on Ukraine, and perhaps to touch on her country’s growing desire to match its economic might with diplomatic muscle and greater engagement on the world stage.
After decades of treading softly in international affairs, haunted by memories of World War II, Germany sent troops to Afghanistan and haltingly started to help contain other trouble spots, though it is still more likely to send arms or aid than soldiers.
Merkel has led European diplomatic efforts, fruitless so far, to engage Russia to end the Ukraine conflict that has claimed over 5,000 lives, and in which Washington is now weighing sending weapons to Kiev forces.
Last year President Joachim Gauck told the conference that Germany would engage abroad “earlier, more determinedly and more substantially.”
However, the German people have been less enthusiastic, according to a poll conducted by TNS Infratest for the MSC. Only 34 percent said they favor stronger engagement, while 62 percent believed Germany should continue to exercise restraint.