2009/02/18

Munich: New security architecture ?

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We had the annual Munich Security Conference a week ago, and some articles in German newspapers made me wonder: They reported that Mr. Steinmeier (minister for foreign affairs, deputy head of government and next candidate for head of government, Germany) had called for a new security architecture, an area for common security from Vancouver to Vladiwostok (supposedly meant the eastward direction).

The articles mentioned that he followed the lead of Medvedvev (head of state, Russia) and Sarkozy (head of state, France) who had made such calls earlier in 2008.

The actual transcripts of the speeches helped just a little bit to understand:
Steinmeier mentioned
- reduction of nuclear arsenals, if possible to zero
- non-proliferation efforts
- revival of KSE (conventional arms limitations, paused by Russia in response to U.S. policies)
- common security architecture to reduce the danger of regional conflicts
- continue with NATO
He did not emphasize the role of the United Nations.

Sarkozy mentioned
- "relative powers" world instead of "unipolar" world, and therefore need for cooperation
- some distancing from GWB policies
- the enlargement of EU an NATO and how there's no right to join these clubs
- the past Eastern European crisises (gas, Georgia)
- that Russia is too occupied with domestic challenges to become a primary threat
- possible conflict over the Arctic
- Si vis pacem para bellum if you want peace prepare for war (he chose different words, arguing also against isolationism)
- France's defense efforts and that it'll remain a nuclear power
- European defence development effort together with Germany
I don't know who writes speeches for Mr. Sarkozy, but he sounds rather like someone on a blog than like a statesman; frankly.

Ivanov (Deputy head of government, Russia) mentioned
- Russian emphasis on the role of the UN
- Russia wants to ensure the effectiveness of the international legal basis for disarmament and non-proliferation
- follow-up on START I needed
- strategic BMD = tensions and directed against Russia
- "main priority" NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty)
- the need for a global non-proliferation regime regarding ballistic missiles similar to INF
- arms races are not affordable
I wonder why Russia sent only the deputy head of government.

The three transcripts (not necessarily identical to the spoken word) don't show a great, co-ordinated initiative for a new security architecture.
Sarkozy's earlier remarks a(and pretty much all he says) needs to be seen in context of his lack of 'diplomatic' tone and his erratic character anyway.

The good news; it looks as if enough common ground is available for international security cooperation.
It's also noteworthy that Ivanov didn't argue about the enlargement of NATO - which is probably frozen anyway.

Iran was a secondary, tertiary or not noteworthy case for these three Europeans, but a search for "iran" had six hits in Biden's speech (Steinmeier 3, Ivanov 1, Sarkozy 0).

Sven Ortmann

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