One of the most significant political events of the year many expected too much from, The Munich Security Conference, was held this weekend.

Traditionally it doesn’t provide for the sighing of any resolutions or conducting bilateral negotiations between the leaders of different countries, however, many expected 2007-like fateful statements regarding the USA and Russia, The USA and China, Russia and the EU, the US and the EU. Back then Putin’s speech about the end of the unipolar world and the start of the transition to a multipolar one became a sensation for Western society, and some compared it to Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech, which triggered the Cold War.

The 2019 conference did not just fail to meet these expectations but also disappointed most of the media representatives regarding the need for the Munich format as such. Despite the fact that politicians and diplomats from more than 40 countries used the Munich platform to declare previously heard statements, I’d rather disagree with all the critics of the conference who call it “useless”.

Such a format remains popular, for instance, because this is actually the only semi-formal event for all the major international players allowing to discuss world politics and security issues. Its main goal is to assess attitudes in relations between countries in any configurations suitable for consideration. Besides, Munich remains a “legal” platform for high-level meetings between Russia-US representatives. And, finally, the conference draws extra attention of the politically active public to the proposals of delegations, thus allowing politicians and diplomats to assess the mood regarding their actions on the scale of the world community.

All the above mentioned was noticeable on February 15-17, 2019.

It was expected that the conference would be devoted to US-EU relations. In particular, apart from the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), Europe is concerned about the White House’s withdrawal from a nuclear deal with Iran. Trump’s administration was represented by Vice President Mike Pence. His speech contradicted Angela Merkel’s statements on practically all the key issues.

Pence demanded that the EU increase NATO military spending, break off relations with Iran and block the Nord Stream 2 project. Europe has now openly advocated for the preservation of the nuclear deal, and a month ago presented a new financial instrument called INSTEX to carry out payment transactions with Iran bypassing the dollar. Merkel considers preserving relations with Russia necessary, as with a key partner on the continent, she also highlighted the importance of Nord Stream 2 implementation, despite the protests of the Ukrainian delegation. Germany and its allies realize that the war in the east of Ukraine is a factor jeopardizing gas supplies to Europe and the only right decision is to diversify gas flows, bypassing Ukraine. The tone of the American delegation proving the opposite convinced the European politicians of the inability of the Trump administration to solve issues on the current agenda and its unwillingness to take the interests of the allies into account. This thesis was eloquently reflected on the pages of European newspapers such as Le Monde and the US The New York Times.

The other part of the American delegation, from the US Congress, led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joe Biden tried to convince the Europeans to quickly normalize relations and rectify the situation. “It will pass and we will come back,” Biden said. However, the participation of the Democrats remained almost unnoticed against the background of the overall negativity and mistrust, which have become a long-term trend in the US-EU relations following the Munich Conference.


The US attitude to the conference was partly demonstrated by the fact that neither national security adviser John Bolton nor the head of the State Department, Mike Pompeo, who was in neighboring Poland, visited Munich. There was no meeting of foreign ministers in the Norman format i.e. Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine. Moscow claimed that so far it hasn’t seen the point in conducting this event, accusing Kiev of non-compliance with the Minsk agreements on Donbass.

Pence demanded that the EU increase NATO military spending, break off relations with Iran and block the Nord Stream 2 project. Europe has now openly advocated for the preservation of the nuclear deal, and a month ago presented a new financial instrument called INSTEX to carry out payment transactions with Iran bypassing the dollar. Merkel considers preserving relations with Russia necessary, as with a key partner on the continent, she also highlighted the importance of Nord Stream 2 implementation, despite the protests of the Ukrainian delegation. Germany and its allies realize that the war in the east of Ukraine is a factor jeopardizing gas supplies to Europe and the only right decision is to diversify gas flows, bypassing Ukraine. The tone of the American delegation proving the opposite convinced the European politicians of the inability of the Trump administration to solve issues on the current agenda and its unwillingness to take the interests of the allies into account. This thesis was eloquently reflected on the pages of European newspapers such as Le Monde and the US The New York Times.

The other part of the American delegation, from the US Congress, led by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President Joe Biden tried to convince the Europeans to quickly normalize relations and rectify the situation. “It will pass and we will come back,” Biden said. However, the participation of the Democrats remained almost unnoticed against the background of the overall negativity and mistrust, which have become a long-term trend in the US-EU relations following the Munich Conference.


The US attitude to the conference was partly demonstrated by the fact that neither national security adviser John Bolton nor the head of the State Department, Mike Pompeo, who was in neighboring Poland, visited Munich. There was no meeting of foreign ministers in the Norman format i.e. Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine. Moscow claimed that so far it hasn’t seen the point in conducting this event, accusing Kiev of non-compliance with the Minsk agreements on Donbass.

The second important topic was Russia and its stance on the INF Treaty. The Kremlin made it clear that it had no plans to initiate the creation of a new restrictive treaty with the participation of other countries but expressed its willingness to negotiate on the initiative of the US or the EU. However, it was the Russian delegation that twice voiced the proposal to revise the INF Treaty and to include countries possessing appropriate weapons, these are, at least, the DPRK, India, China, Israel and Palestine to the treaty.

The second important topic was Russia and its stance on the INF Treaty. The Kremlin made it clear that it had no plans to initiate the creation of a new restrictive treaty with the participation of other countries but expressed its willingness to negotiate on the initiative of the US or the EU. However, it was the Russian delegation that twice voiced the proposal to revise the INF Treaty and to include countries possessing appropriate weapons, these are, at least, the DPRK, India, China, Israel and Palestine to the treaty.

One of the major US allies in Asia, Japan, is concerned about the rivalry with China and the North Korean threat. The economic confrontation between the USA and China will become a matter of national security for many states. This will lead to the creating of new large trading blocs. Besides, China, along with Russia, is building up influence in the Western Balkans, turning Eastern Europe into an arena for “geopolitical rivalry” between Russia, the USA, and China.

The authors of the report noted that the Internet has become a new criminal sphere, and globalization results in growing crime rates. The report lays particular emphasis on non-proliferation control mechanisms. According to the authors, the previous agreement is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, in particular, this is proved by the recent US withdrawal from the INF treaty.

Alexander Minin – Vice-President of the Center for Socio-Economic and Geopolitical Studies (St. Petersburg), specially for the IAC