The global security situation is “tense,” “unusually serious,” says Wolfgang Ischinger, the head of the Munich Security Conference that starts this afternoon with the presence of 40 heads of state and government, 60 foreign ministers and 40 of Defense, in addition to another 850 guests of the highest level. The debates and interventions will be based on two facts: the world is “de-Westernized” and the world is rearmed.
In the hours prior to the opening of the first panels, the annual report of the Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) is published, which states that global military expenditures increased by 4% in 2019, the highest increase in ten years. “This is a very dangerous international situation,” says Ischinger, who underlines the underlying context, with growing rivalries between powers and loss of capacity of international organizations to mitigate conflicts. “It is important to talk and not shoot,” insists Ischinger, “but there is also a dramatic loss of ability of the entire international community to act” and a “foreign policy that often remains in rhetorical phrases.” Ischinger argues that the diplomatic toolbox must also contain military options, and the ISS report proves that some rearmament decisions have been taken for some time.
“Global military expenditures increased with the progressive exit of the economies from the financial crisis of 2008 and due to a greater perception of threats,” explains IISS Director John Chipman in the presentation of the report at Bayerischer Hof. The two countries with the largest military budgets in the world, the United States (685,000 million dollars) and China (181,000 million), continue their exponential increase, up 6.6% in 2019 compared to 2018.
The death of the treaty on medium-range nuclear forces (500 to 5,500 km) in 2019 and the possible termination of the New Start treaty on intercontinental nuclear weapons in 2021 have changed the balance between powers, the status quo in the international post-war order Cold, becoming very evident the rise of China and the impact of regional crises, from Ukraine to Libya, turned into a laboratory of confrontation of the powers.
Given the levels of rearmament and the backward movement of diplomatic activity and its influence that the report highlights, the situation could offer an alarming reading: the powers are preparing for a conflict. The new weapons developed by China and Russia, which include supersonic missiles and unmanned submarines, which are presented as “invulnerable,” allow leaders a public communication that generates national public opinions suggested by a supposed “superiority” and adds pressure to the arms race.
In this context, US military spending alone increased by $ 53.4 billion last year, behind Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and the United Kingdom, and ahead of France, Japan and Germany. “In Europe, the concern for Russia continues to fuel the growth of expenses with an increase of 4.2% compared to 2018,” says Chipman. European military budgets as a whole have been limited to recovering their 2008 level in real terms.
Oschingr especially criticizes the German military spending policy. “Germany‘s military force is too weak compared to its political weight in Europe. Given the enormous speed at which world politics is developing, Europe is going too slow. I think all the neighbors would be happy if Germany had used at least as many planes against the Islamic State as Denmark, ”criticizes the host country of the conference, referring to Denmark fighting against the Daesh in Syria and Iraq between 2014 and 2016 with airplanes F16 fighter, while the German Bundeswehr has been involved only in the international coalition against the terrorist organization with reconnaissance Tornado aircraft.
The second key to the annual report is the “loss of Westernism.” Even Western countries are not sure of their values, the text says. While some believe that the West is being threatened by a “liberal internationalism,” others are convinced that precisely “the return of nationalism threatens the West.”
This is the environment in which Emmanuel Macron will defend his nuclear offer in Munich. “If Europe does not learn the language of power, it could disappear geopolitically,” he said before arriving at the Conference. Macron, whose country is now the only one in the European Union endowed with the atomic weapon, has proposed to the rest of its partners “a strategic dialogue” on “the role of French nuclear deterrence” in the collective security of Europe.
Should the US government remain passive in the Middle East and Near East, or even abandon its missions in that region, for example, while Russia and Turkey expand their influence in countries such as Syria and Libya, Europe could design a policy New to the Middle and Middle East. .