Security in Europe and the MidEast as US move to Pacific
The 48th Munich Security Conference has a lot to debate, with top foreign and security policy names from around 70 countries, about the sensitive state of Europe and the Middle East, as the United States shifts its focus from the old continent to the Pacific area.
Many big shots in world politics are expected to be at the Conference to address critical issues in an informal setting; including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the European Union Foreign and Security Policy Commissioner Catherine Ashton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will attend the conference as a panelist on Middle East issues, among 40 ministers and 10 heads of state or government.
The conference started on Feb. 3 with a warm-up panel about Germany’s role in Europe and the world. World Bank President Robert Zoellick and German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziére were among the panelists there. This is meaningful when a German domination in the economic crisis-hit European Union is a topic of political agenda and when Germany appears as the strongest candidate to host the missiles of the U.S.-led NATO Missile Shield project - for which Turkey is hosting the early warning radars.
The following panel was on security’s twin subject and titled: “Energy, Resources, and the Environment: New Security Parameters?” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt moderated the panel in which President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukevich, and Turkey’s oil and gas producing and consuming neighbors were eminent.
There are seven more panels to be held over the weekend which summarize the world agenda on security; the panels are as follows:
- Euro-Atlantic security initiative,
- America, Europe and the rise of Asia
- Tactical nuclear weapons in Europe,
- Financial crisis and its implications for international security,
- Smart defense, The EU, the future of Trans-Atlantic Alliance
- Building the new Middle East,
- Cybersecurity - Is offence the best defense?
And there are of course topics which are not written on the program but likely to dominate the debates. Those are the tension between Russia and the West over the sanctions on Syria, the tension over Iran’s nuclear program amid continuing warnings from Israel about the possibility of military action and the future of the Arab Spring.
But the leitmotiv is actually the new U.S. military strategy to focus on the Pacific region against the rising domination of China, while changing its massive presence in Europe and the Middle East with smaller but “smarter” units (you can read that as high-tech strike capability with either missiles or special forces). The Europeans, mainly the Germany-led ones, are trying to find ways to cope with oil and gas powered Russia under a heavy dependence on Russian sources to sustain their economy, which is hit by an ongoing financial crisis.
It is going to be an interesting conference to understand what is on the table of world politics for the rest of 2012.