Feb 15-17, 2019: Planned U.S. nuclear treaty withdrawal to intrude at Munich Security Conference
GERMANY - Unease at the 2019 Munich Security Conference (MSC) about Washington’s plan to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) increases the odds that the annual Report and summary will echo last year’s concerns.
The MSC describes itself as a forum for debating international security policy, and its annual Report sets the agenda for the world leaders and security delegations at the event. It began in 2018 with the observation that “the year 2017 was marked – among others – by signs of a continued erosion of the so-called liberal international order and an increasingly unpredictable U.S. foreign policy.” It also noted that the United States’ international role is waning and that Europe must define its own future.
The title for the Report, also the slogan for the 2018 conference, was, To the Brink and Back? It ended with a prominent question mark. In his closing remarks at the conference, MSC Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger said he had hoped he could say that the question mark in the slogan could be deleted – that the world was retreating from the brink. The discussions didn’t lead to that conclusion, he said. There was agreement on what needed to be avoided – including a new arms race, protectionism and populism – but no concrete steps to avert them.
China, Russia and North Korea join the United States on the list of countries widely blamed for all three problems. U.S. delegates at the 2019 event – probably Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – point to the actions of the two main U.S. rivals as the reason for its policy decisions. Washington insists that Moscow violated the terms of the INF treaty, necessitating the withdrawal.