13 February 2020


Sergiu Medar

The Munich Conference to be held between 14 and 16th of February will be the perfect occasion for leaders to exchange perspectives and come up with solutions on world’s security situation (politics, economy and military). As currently the liberal democracy principles are more and more disputed in terms of their viability, the cooperation solutions of states which are caught in the globalization process, the multilateralism which should provide dialogue, are some of the solutions whose modernization seem a necessity for peace and wealth. Why/and how will these changes happen are some of the questions that will, most likely, get an answer in Conference’s participants’ speeches.

Image source: Mediafax

Between 14 and 16th of February, Munich will host the most important security public event of this year. The 56th edition of the annual Security Conference will get more than 30 of world’s leaders’ participation, along with an impressive number of experts.  This year also, the conference is organized at the Bayerischer Hof” hotel.

The event has, as always, a title that expresses discussions’ theme. This year’s conference title has one word only „Westlessness”. The editing and publication of conference’s report, a few days before, seeks the reveal of discussions that are to be held, a direction oriented on world’s current security issues and to also match the theme the title expresses.

Conference’s chairman, starting with 2008, is Wolfgang Ischinger, former German ambassador to US and Great Britain. He managed, until now, to have a balanced stance, easily pro-European, especially during the disputes between Europe and Trump’s Administration.

Conference’s title tries to bring all the attention on the effects of great powers’ competition, questioning on whether the West is or not the model and final goal of the global population wealth and political orientation.

It is noteworthy that the world had hope when looking at the „West”, searching for models and their future there. In Romania, there is the expression „I want a country as abroad”. Indeed, this „abroad” does not meant Russia and Central Asia, China and South-East Asia, North of Africa or Middle East. It refers to North America and West of Europe only. This way, hopes’ direction towards better is the West.

Conference’s report reveals that the West is not longer the „land of possibilities” and it suffered major changes in its development, particularly in terms of stability and attitude towards immigrants.

The West was never just a cardinal point, but a symbol for developed capitalist states’ unity against the foreign or internal security threats, for democracy’s success over totalitarianism and autocracy, professionalism against fraud and, therefore, for wealth.

As for foreign threats, the West has avoided the start of a major military conflict, and for the past 70 years the world did not face loses such as the ones of the global confrontations of the first half of 20th century.

Four or five years ago, the Munich Security Conference was seen as a “family reunion” for capitalist states. As the debates of issues about global security started to be held through open and sincere dialogue, they also started to talk about what is happening inside Western states and the relations between them.

The 2019 conference called “To the brink” was a start for the approach of what’s going on in the West. Participants’ statements have pushed the American media agency The New York Times to call the 2019 conference in Munich a “requiem of the West”. The analysis of US Vice-President Mike Pence speech and of German chancellor Angela Merkel have underlined the existence of West’s division, the emergence of two different worlds, with multiple negative consequences in providing world states’ security. The most dangerous thing is that these perspectives should not be discussed. The Munich Security Conference addresses the plenary divergences but also in bilateral discussions strongly encouraged by the organizers.

The world is becoming less and less influenced by the West. What is dangerous, however, is that the West itself is becoming less and less oriented towards the West, considering the positive meaning of the word. Starting from what the Romanians want, broad may not be the West they dreamed of. That is why conference’s title is "Westlessness".

The West has never had a monolithic cohesion. The group of states, both geographically and metaphorically, each had their own traditions and culture (in a broad sense). However, what was the terrible bond that united them were: the determination for a liberal democracy and human rights, a free market economy and the cooperation through the specialized international institutions.

An important cause of West’s lack of unity is some states’ abandonment to the principles of liberal democracy, and the fall in the trap of liberalism and excessive nationalism. For them, the West is no longer a community united by liberal democratic principles and open to anyone who shares it, but is a community based on ethnic, cultural and religious criteria. These carefully analyzed criteria highlight the fact that liberalism opens the door to racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism as operating principles of the new Western society. Thus, there are no discussions regarding the acceptance or not of immigrants, and under what circumstances, placing nations at conflict. Gradually, the new West begins to be characterized by anti-immigration dividing fences or walls or even between some rich and poor states. Those who spread such ideas see the democratic world as a weak society, wherein vulnerabilities are amplified by women’s emancipation or the acceptance of immigration. Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, sees himself as a leader of the illiberal opposition in Europe, considering "new nationalism" as the only means by which states can defend their national sovereignty.

In his book "The Death of the West", Patrick J. Buchanan, mentions that the far-right terrorists, through their actions, believe that they, in fact, "are defending the West against its enemies".

Globalization and multilateralism have only increased the gaps between states and, hereof, the conflict of the poor and the rich. At the 2019 UN General Assembly, Donald Trump stated firmly: “The future does not belong to globalists. The future belongs to the patriots”.

These ideas generated nationalist formulas where they could not be understood in their liberal meaning.  Drawing states’ attention, when approaching their evolution liberally, was and is done permanently in within the Munich Security Conference. Shortly, we will see that those who foresee the death of liberal democracy do so too early because it still has many internal resources to regenerate. The successes following the Berlin Wall states show that this is a viable system that can regain its strength. For about 30 years, the world believed that it would work only by virtue of inertia. What they discovered is that the liberal democracy liberties have created vulnerabilities even within it. Taking advantage of some liberal leaders’ naivety, which was often just vulnerability, turned into a threat. These were used by nationalists and populists who, from the podium of illiberalism, began again to glorify autocratic thinking. 

The sincere, but naive supporters of liberal democracy, after the Cold War, believed that it was a natural process and its implementation would be simple. Reality has proven that the implementation of liberal principles only, without programs, is not so simple and success is not guaranteed. The transition process is the ideal period, for those who, in behalf of democracy, use the new opportunities for their own or group use.

The political, economic and military strength of states belonging to the liberal democracy is incomparably stronger than in the autocratic states and, therefore, it is obvious that this allows a new transition to a modern and consolidated liberal democratic system based on the same principles that brought it success. This process of modernizing the West must have new programs and functioning principles.

Conference’s huge value is given by the fact that the recent discussions have pushed the democratic states to be aware of the new challenges, to rely on the successes so far and plan their near future so that they return, with new leaders or even old but fully understanding the process. The generation that learned what democracy is applying or not its principles was left behind and it got to the point wherein to decide the newest democracies’ destiny, the generation that feels democracy, reacting immediately to any skids or reinterpretations of it.

The Munich Security Conference will have to convince both the public and the ones representing it that westlessness is not an option.

Translated by Andreea Soare