Munich dialect: what the West promised Kyiv at a conference in Germany

The 59th annual security conference ended in Munich. Quite expectedly, the main leitmotif of all speeches was calls and promises of new military assistance to Ukraine. In Moscow, whose representatives this time were not invited to the event on principle, most of the statements were ignored – only an obvious blunder of the head of the German Foreign Ministry received a comment. Another highlight of the conference was a behind-the-scenes meeting between China’s top diplomat Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. But it turned, rather, into another exchange of unkindness than into a constructive dialogue. Read more about what the Munich Conference 2023 was remembered for in the Izvestia article.

Not sparing your bins

The three-day Munich Security Conference, which ended on February 19, was held on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the Russian special operation in Ukraine. And it is logical that, as in all other international venues dominated by representatives of the West, it was about how to help Kyiv in the confrontation with Moscow.

Naturally, they decided to help with new deliveries of weapons. Since neither diplomacy nor harsh economic sanctions have changed the course of the Russian Federation, the correct response should be a show of force, said Boris Pistorius, head of the defense ministry of the host country. According to him, a victory could push Moscow to attack other countries, and therefore Germany and its allies will help Kyiv “for as long as it takes.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak apparently had no fears that the Russian Federation was encroaching on some other countries, but he deftly used this argument for the “common cause”. Declaring that true European countries have no one to defend themselves against, he urged the West to “double up” military support for Ukraine and not be afraid that the European arsenals of weapons will be depleted from this. And he even announced that London would be the first to supply Kyiv with “long-range weapons.”

The EU decided to keep up with the British. As the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said in Munich, Brussels intends to strengthen cooperation with the defense industry in order to speed up and expand the production of ammunition both for the Ukrainian military and for replenishing domestic stocks. Already on February 20, the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states will gather in Brussels to discuss the idea of ​​joint purchases of 155-mm artillery shells. According to von der Leyen, for this “now is really the time.”

Speaking on the final day of the conference, Josep Borrell, head of the EU foreign policy service, took it upon himself to say that the European Union is the army of Ukraine. According to him, this conflict is an existential threat to European security, so we need to applaud Volodymyr Zelensky less and supply more shells.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell

Photo: REUTERS/Johanna Geron

– More [генсек НАТО Йенс] Stoltenberg said that the West prefers the escalation of the conflict to Russia’s military success. Therefore, it is absolutely indisputable that they will do everything they can to help Ukraine. The Munich conference did not bring anything intellectually new in this sense – statements of this kind, quite sharp and conflicting, were made before, – Andrey Bystritsky, chairman of the Valdai discussion club, told Izvestia.

The only one who seemed not very happy about the promises to strengthen military support for Kyiv was the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “It all started with helmets … now we are sending tanks and fighter jets are on the agenda, and soon we will hear about the so-called peacekeeping troops,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Camilla Harris, who headed the American delegation in Munich, did not say anything about military assistance. But on the other hand, she boldly called what is happening in Ukraine “crimes against humanity.” However, she did not forget to refer to her rich experience in jurisprudence, reminding the audience that, as a former prosecutor and head of the California Department of Justice, she knows “how important it is to collect facts and oppose them to the law.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris and conference chairman Christoph Heusgen speak at the Munich Security Conference

Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

In Russia, which this year was not invited to Munich as a matter of principle, these words have so far been left without comment. But they already reacted to the statement made on the same day by the head of the German Foreign Ministry, Annalena Berbock. Speaking to the conference participants, she noted that Germany had turned 360 degrees, ceasing to remain neutral and starting supplying weapons to Kyiv. And she added that turning Russia 360 degrees would make the world happy.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, was the first to respond to Mrs. Burbock’s obvious blunder. “It’s really funny that such ignorant people are running Europe. Annalena Burbock said she would be happy if Moscow changed its position 360 degrees. That is, it kept everything the same. No doubt, master of geometry, it will be so. We stick to our position,” he wrote on his social media account.

The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, also pointed out the obvious stupidity of Mrs. Burbock. “If German Foreign Minister Annalena Burbock does not learn at least one school subject, then there is no way to ensure the security of Germany on a long-term basis under her rule,” she noticed.

With Chinese characteristics

Despite the fact that Munich has always served as a platform primarily for the interaction of the transatlantic community, in recent years high-ranking guests from regions far from Europe and North America have often been invited here. One of the most interesting participants of the current conference was undoubtedly the former head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, now head of the Office of the Commission of the CPC Central Committee for Foreign Affairs (that is, in fact, the chief diplomat of the PRC) Wang Yi.

Wang Yi, Director of the Office of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, speaks at the Munich Security Conference


Of course, against the backdrop of chaos in Sino-American relations, the main topic of his speech in Munich was not Ukraine, but the States. Recall that the day before the planned February 5 visit to Beijing by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Washington shot down a certain Chinese balloon over its territory. According to the Americans, it was a spy who was trying to collect sensitive information about military installations. According to the PRC, the satellite was a meteorological one, and it was carried into the sky over the United States by accident. And Wang Yi called the decision of the Americans to shoot him down “hysterical and absurd.”

“There are many hot air balloons from many countries around the world. Do you want to shoot down each of them? This did not show that the US is strong. On the contrary, it showed the opposite. We urge the United States not to do such ridiculous things in order to divert attention from its internal problems, ”Wang Yi addressed the American counterparts sitting in the hall.

The traditional Chinese reproach about internal problems in the States itself was more than timely this time. In early February, several dozen freight train cars carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in the US state of Ohio. The incident led to a major environmental disaster, but all subsequent days, American officials and the media, fascinated by the history of balloons, essentially hushed up this serious incident.

Freight train crash in Ohio

Photo: REUTERS/Handout

However, Beijing has hardly succeeded in convincing Washington. At a personal meeting between Wang Yi and Anthony Blinken, which took place in Munich on February 18, the latter said that Washington would not tolerate a violation of its sovereignty under any circumstances.

The US statements regarding the role of China in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict turned out to be rather harsh. In particular, the Secretary of State expressed “concern” that the PRC is considering the possibility of supplying the Russian Federation with weapons and ammunition. How in Washington they know what the authorities in Beijing are thinking about, of course, not a word was said. But the Chinese were traditionally threatened with retaliation. “The Secretary of State warned of the consequences if China provides material assistance to Russia (in the NWO) or support in a systemic circumvention of sanctions,” the US State Department said in a statement following the communication between diplomats of the two countries.

Wang Yi did not answer these far from new accusations – at least not in public. But he hinted that peace talks on Ukraine, which took place in the past in Belarus and Turkey, failed, because some forces did not want the conflict to end soon – “they did not care about the lives of Ukrainians, nor the growing suffering of Europe, and, apparently, they had a strategic goal outside of Ukraine.”

Wang Yi, Director of the Office of China’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, speaks at the Munich Security Conference

Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

In addition, Wang Yi announced that soon (and according to Western media, by the end of February) China will prepare its position paper on the political settlement of the conflict in Ukraine.

– It is quite possible that the Chinese may take the initiative to hold peace talks and even offer to become a platform for them. But they most likely will not play the role of an intermediary, the Chinese always evade such positions, it is risky, ”Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, told Izvestia.

According to the expert, Beijing’s desire to come up with an articulated position on the Ukrainian issue is connected with the desire to strengthen relations with Europe and weaken the Euro-American link in matters of economic and technological pressure on China, as well as slow down the process of NATO globalization. But the PRC will not be able to move far from the already declared position, the sinologist concluded.

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