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50th Munich Security Conference:
Atlantic Community Debates Cyber Governance, Support for Ukraine, and German Foreign Policy


Sidney E. Dean, Editor


Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly
 Volume XIV, Nr. 2

The 50th meeting of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) was intended as a celebration of sorts. More than 400 “movers and shakers” attended, including 20 heads of government and 50 foreign and defense ministers as well as numerous legislators. The half-century endurance of the conference attests to the value placed upon it by Americans and Europeans alike. Since the end of the Cold War the MSC has morphed from a purely Transatlantic institution to a global one, with regular participation by Middle Eastern and Asian officials and scholars. And the Russian foreign minister is now a regular participant of this conference which began as the “Wehrkunde” or Defense Studies meeting to cement Euro-American cohesion against the threat of Soviet aggression.

The latter aspect was sorely tested during the 50th conference. While Viktor Yanukovych still held the presidency in Ukrain and Russian forces had not yet occupied the Crimea, the diplomatic standoff over the domestic crisis in Kiev had clearly begun. It was the first major security crisis in Europe since the Balkan conflict, and naturally received significant attention at the MSC.

Ironically, the other set of tensions dominating the conference played out between the United States and Europe. In the wake of the Snowden revelations the European partners called for new standards of conduct to ensure that national sovereignty and civil rights are maintained in the digital age. While firm on this issue, the European participants also stressed the need to prevent the US National Security Agency’s surveillance programs from undermining the cohesion of the Transatlantic partnership. Perhaps Russia’s bullying tactics vis-a-vis Ukraine, manifested well before the de facto occupation of the Crimea, played a role in Europe’s measured position regarding the US surveillance programs.

The third aspect dominating the conference was the call for Germany to assume greater responsibility in global affairs.