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Munich Security Conference: In Search of the Lost West – Politics

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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer starts somewhat surprisingly, it should actually be about the fight against IS. “We have a troubled domestic situation,” emphasizes the Secretary of Defense in the presence of her US colleague Mark Esper. Silence in the full hall of the Bayerischeren Hof in Munich. Does she want to say something new about the political quake in Germany this week, about the search for her successor as CDU leader and a candidate for chancellor?

However, Kramp-Karrenbauer means the domestic political situation in Iraq; after a turbulent week, she directs the focus on the fact that it is stormy out there. Kramp-Karrenbauer and Esper discussed the fight against IS with eleven other defense ministers and NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg on the sidelines of the security conference in Munich – it should be continued, even if the details are still to be clarified. Germany is involved in training Kurdish security forces in Erbil, Iraq.

In addition, the Air Force controls the air reconnaissance from Jordan with tornado jets over Syria and Iraq. It also uses tanker aircraft, but only until March 31, according to its mandate. After the United States killed the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad, there are reservations in Iraq against the use of the foreign anti-IS coalition.

IS threatens to grow again. This would also be to blame for the disunity of the West and the hasty US withdrawal from Syria, the abandonment of the Kurds, who are a support in the fight against Islamist terror.

Munich – this is the most important security policy meeting of the year, where exactly these crises are discussed. 3900 police officers secure the conference. There are 35 heads of state and government and around 100 ministers. The corona virus is seen as a completely new risk, especially economically. It is also present in Munich: Disinfection dispensers hang everywhere.

But it starts with a different virus, that of nationalism, populism and militarism. “The democracies in the West are under great pressure,” said Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble during a discussion with the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. She sees “cynical actors” at work who simply don’t care about rules. But even if Donald Trump was voted out of office in November, the status quo ante will no longer be achieved.

Experienced parliamentarians: Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble and the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

The world of 2020 is different

As President Frank-Walter Steinmeier enters the hall, he greets John Kerry. As foreign ministers, both had drawn up the nuclear deal with Iran, which was signed in 2015. It is in ruins, Iran could strive for the atomic bomb again. For some states it offers a guarantee of survival during this period of disintegrating alliances.

Military spending is at its highest in ten years, according to a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The U.S. and China alone each invested 6.6 percent more in 2019. “Today we are witnessing an increasingly destructive dynamic in world politics,” says Steinmeier.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke about the pillars of security.Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

As Foreign Minister in Munich in 2014, he said: “Germany must be prepared to contribute earlier, more decisively and substantively in terms of foreign and security policy.” At the time, he agreed with Federal President Joachim Gauck, who called for Germany to take on more responsibility, including militarily.

The world of 2020 is different. The “we” of the West from back then is no longer a matter of course today, Steinmeier says now. Unlike before, you could no longer assume that “the great powers are interested in successful European integration,” says Steinmeier.

Steinmeier: “Each of the big players is looking for their own advantages”

It also means Donald Trump’s US government. “Each of the big players is looking for their own advantages – even at the expense of European unity.” Emmanuel Macron is right when he says that it is not a question of defending himself with or without Washington. Europe’s security is based on a strong alliance with America. But: “We cannot compensate for the loss of diplomacy, the pillars of our security architecture, arms control contracts and international agreements with tanks, fighter jets and medium-range missiles.”

This is his real message: “We should leave these all too simple debate categories of the recent past behind us. On the contrary: If we don’t find ways back to respect international law, (…) then in a few years we will arm ourselves to the detriment of everyone worldwide. ”

In order to describe the “crisis of the West”, the security conference has invented its own term: “Westlessness – Westlessness”. An internal and external crisis at the same time: the rise of populist parties, the loss of trust in democratic institutions and the loss of influence in the world. This Western crisis has almost become a topos. The books of clever minds with a similar diagnosis are piled up. “The West is no longer a matter of course,” says publicist Ivan Krastev in Munich. He has written a book explaining why nationalist and anti-liberal movements are gaining influence.

Fukuyama: “People don’t like to live in authoritarian states”

In most books on the current situation, a reference to Francis Fukuyama and should not be missing. The US political scientist announced the victory of liberal democracy and the “end of history” in 1989. Fukuyama will also be attending the security conference this year. On Friday morning he is a guest at a side event of the American Council on Germany.

Coined the word “end of history”: political scientist Francis Fukuyama.Photo: dpa / EPA / Paolo Aguilar

Yes, he frankly admits, many forecasts have not come true. Nevertheless, he is still optimistic – and thus one of the few on this rather dark conference day. Fukuyama explains that liberal democracy is still very attractive. “People do not like to live in authoritarian states – and in recent years we have seen strong movements for more democracy in many countries, in Georgia, in Ukraine, in Venezuela and in Sudan.”

Fukuyama has by no means given up his own country, the USA. He advises the Democrats: “All you have to do is not nominate Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Line up a center candidate and you will defeat Donald Trump! ”

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