Over the past decades the Munich Security Conference has become the major security policy conference worldwide. Each year it brings together senior figures from around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges. Our aim is to maintain this high international standard and raise its profile still further.
Our intention is to ensure that the Munich Security Conference remains the most important independent forum for the exchange of views by international security policy decision-makers.
The Munich Security Conference will continue to address the main security issues of our time. We will debate and analyze the main security challenges, while at the same time constantly looking ahead so as to take up future issues at an early stage. This includes broadening the range of themes covered, in line with the concept of networked security.
The Munich Security Conference has a long tradition and, over the past decades, has become a not-to-be-missed event in the field of worldwide security policy. Founded in 1962 as the Wehrkunde Conference by the German publisher Ewald von Kleist, the Conference’s themes have developed in line with the security challenges. While at the beginning the security threats in the Euro-Atlantic area were the central themes discussed by the Cabinet Ministers, members of parliament, high-ranking representatives of the armed forces, scientists and representatives of the media who met in Munich, later Conferences extended their scope to include new issues and other regions. From 1999 onwards, the Conference hosted by Horst Teltschik increasingly involved Central and Eastern European and Asian countries, and business representatives were invited to take part. Since 2008 Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger has chaired the Munich Security Conference, which under his leadership will focus in particular on future security challenges in line with the concept of „networked security”. With the Munich Young Leaders initiative the Conference also involves the future security community in the debate.
Monthly Mind January 2011 – Towards a Post-nuclear, Comprehensive Euro-Atlantic Security Community
The transformation of Europe after the end of the East-West conflict spawned a number of noteworthy results. An important part of Europe became united in peace and liberty. The danger of a conventional or nuclear war in Europe has diminished towards zero. Yet, we have missed out on chances in the past years. Two fundamental projects have not been pursued as much as would be required for Europe’s security. The first one is the unification of all of Europe so that – as Richard von Weizsäcker put it in 1990 – Russia’s western border will not continue to be Europe’s eastern border. The second is the reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear infrastructure in Europe – a relict of the Cold War for which today there is no basis whatsoever any more.
The numbers are unequivocal: While the USA and Russia have massively reduced their arsenals since the end of the Cold War, they still possess more than 90 percent of all nuclear arms worldwide. Many of those are still kept for use in the Euro-Atlantic region. And huge quantities of these ready-to-launch nuclear missiles are in a permanent alert status. Not only is this an irresponsible and highly risky heritage of the Cold War, it is a downright absurd state of affairs which, plain and simply, has no more justification today. This especially applies to tactical nuclear arms deployed in Europe, which have no operational role any more and often are insufficiently secured, making them an attractive target for terrorists.
Therefore, a Euro-Atlantic security community that includes the United States, Europe, and Russia and which really deserves its name needs to be a post-nuclear community. „Post-nuclear” is not – yet – going to mean that nuclear weapons will completely disappear from the Euro-Atlantic region. This process on the path to Global Zero has still a long way to go. Rather, post-nuclear means that in the Euro-Atlantic region the relations between nations are de-militarized and de-nuclearized in such a way that a community will emerge in which fear and deterrence are replaced by trust and mutual understanding. Only like that will we be able to jointly promote our vision of a European security community.
During the decade that has just ended, we defended an order which has become dysfunctional, as it tried to make do largely without including Russia. But the progress achieved during the past months, especially at NATO’s Lisbon summit, offers new opportunities for the road ahead. Recently, at the Munich Security Conference’s pre-conference event held at the Bavarian Representation in Berlin, Russia’s ambassador Vladimir Grinin stressed that now we had a unique opportunity to create a common Euro-Atlantic security community. „We owe this to the generations to come,” Grinin said. At the same time, though, the recent progress is increasing the pressure that this debt be honored now. Indeed, in the foreseeable future Russia needs to become the „strategic partner” referred to in NATO’s strategic concept. And, given the recent positive developments, an early failure of efforts to develop a joint missile defense system could turn out to be a setback in the relations between NATO and Russia.
Nevertheless, the opportunities abound, and there are no alternatives. After all, any progress achieved with regard to a joint missile defense system would not only improve our common security posture and substantially improve the relations between NATO and Russia, but it would also create opportunities for taking joint action on other key disarmament issues. The most urgent tasks are, for example, to take further bilateral steps towards disarmament between the United States and Russia; to increase the warning and decision times; to ensure the highest possible security standards for nuclear weapons; to maintain a dialogue on tactical nuclear arms in Europe; and to initiate a process at the end of which the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) takes effect.
And it is even beyond these steps and beyond the Euro-Atlantic region that a comprehensive Euro-Atlantic security community will be of greatest importance with regard to nuclear disarmament. Probably the largest obstacle on the path to Global Zero will be regional conflicts that pose an incentive to the nations involved to newly develop nuclear arms or to keep their existing stocks. If we want to remove these incentives, we need to be able to solve such conflicts. However, this can be only be achieved within the framework of a stable and vital international order. Yet, at this point, this order is becoming increasingly fragmented and stressed. It can only attain the necessary stability if it has the support of a comprehensively defined Euro-Atlantic security community.
In addition, such a community would also significantly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The importance of an effective and assertive control regime will even increase during the final steps towards Global Zero, when any breach of agreement will need to be dealt with quickly and decisively. Here, too, a strong Euro-Atlantic security community is decisive for sustained joint international action.
The risks of the nuclear status quo are well-known: There is a sad but realistic possibility that a nuclear disaster may occur, whether by accident – the chances for this continuously rise due to progressing nuclear proliferation – or through intentional use by nations or terrorist groups. We need a post-nuclear and comprehensive Euro-Atlantic security community to be able to effectively counter this risk. The ultimate unification of Europe and the way to Global Zero are two sides of the same coin.
Wolfgang Ischinger was State Secretary (Deputy Foreign Minister) at the German Foreign Office and German Ambassador in Washington and London. Today, he is the Chairman of the Munich Security Conference and advisor to Allianz SE.