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Munich Security Conference and the choice of optimism

Maria Dubovikova

Published: Updated:

The much talked about Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2017 is over. It stays one of the milestones of the world politics in terms of sharing ideas on the most pressing issues on the world security agenda. It gives floor for messages and statements to eminent experts and top politicians.

It makes its audience listen and take notice of signals that must be taken into consideration. It leads to sharp debates and presents precious opportunity for top-level talks on its sidelines and making the difficult questions answered.

Ten years have passed since Vladimir Putin delivered his famous Munich speech in which he claimed Russia’s right for equal position on the world stage and came out in support of preservation and protection of the multipolar world and inadmissibility of unilateral actions performed by certain countries.

Reaction from the international community then was unanimous: “Russia is standing up on its knees”. Since then the phobias and paranoia have only been growing, depicting in the Western conscious an image of a bear getting more and more scary to the extent that the West finally has lost the understanding of cause-and-effect relations and who provokes whom.

In the past 10 years, the world has changed drastically. While challenges have grown, the world order system addressing them seems ready to collapse. The international community has jumped back to the rhetoric and philosophy of the cold war, following the deterioration of Russia-West ties.

It started with the failure of the Russia-US reset, escalation of the situation in Ukraine following the coup d’état, reportedly openly sponsored by Washington, and other developments. With a weak system of global regulation, such a confrontation is extremely risky.

Western elites are aware of the deep shift within their societies where values have become so eroded and, in some cases, so irrational vis-à-vis the rising challenges that they appear to hardly remain as unifying pillars of the West-centered world

Maria Dubovikova

Future of NATO

At the same time, the Western world focused on the challenges within the system, which made it lose the ability to respond to external challenges. MSC mulling over future of NATO and preserving the so-called “Western values” show how the West continues to live in the imaginary world.

Western elites are aware of the deep shift within their societies where values have become so eroded and, in some cases, so irrational vis-à-vis the rising challenges that they appear to hardly remain as unifying pillars of the West-centered world. The hypocrite appeal to the media, which we heard during MSC, is mostly the appeal to the last resort that can keep the Western public opinion and societies on a leash.

Another symptom of deep problems within the West is that, for the first time in history, the US senators are publicly dismantling the US president at a high-level conference. This can hardly strengthen the Western ranks or raise the authority of the states in the eyes of the global public.
US President is elected by the people of the country. Hence discrediting him publicly is the same as discrediting the nation, which has elected him. It is something that John McCain and Co can hardly understand.

In the wake of the growing problems of the West-centered world, the voices of the hawks are on the rise while doves appear to become outsiders. Furthermore, submersing in the abyss of the inner problems, the West appears to lose control of the process when the “rest” of the world is considerably bigger and more challenging that the West itself.

The most challenging region among this “rest” of the world is the Middle East. MSC found some time to devote to the Middle East during which several of its major characteristics was discussed. Owing to the relative decision-making paralysis in the West, regional powers appeared capable of taking serious decisions. They seem to be responding quicker than the West and being very susceptible to the changes in the state of affairs.

Astana format

Thus the formats of conflict settlement as Astana have emerged. The powers have appeared to be capable of forming ad-hoc alliances, to come to concrete agreements, to step forth as guarantors and all of that regardless of what the West thinks of it.

Waiting for the West to take a decision is likely to cost the Middle East far more dearly. At the same time, there are those who still rely on their Western allies, having quite shaky positions due to the numerous challenges, including subversive policies of Iran in the region and still lacking capacities to move on their own.

The MSC, at one level, was an amalgamation of problems and challenges to which the international community is incapable of find the keys to. The contradictions are high, the capability to negotiate and agree is low. However, closing panel of the last day of the conference, devoted to the Syrian conflict, was surprisingly promising and inspired optimism.

It led the way to US-Russia cooperation on counter-terrorism measures, possible concrete steps, peaceful settlement and good chances of the Geneva format resulting in a success, guaranteed by major powers of the international community.

To sum up the patient is still more alive than dead. As Adel Al-Jubeir stated, during his speech at the Conference, “If your job is to solve problems you cannot be a pessimist”. So we have no choice but to remain optimistic, despite the gloomy days we live in.
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Maria Dubovikova is a political commentator and researcher and an expert on Middle East affairs. She is President of the IMESClub (International Middle Eastern Studies Club). Her full bio is available here: https://www.politblogme.info/bio/. Maria can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.