Tuesday, February 18, 2020

"The Hour of Decision"(?)--The Munich Security Report 2020 and the Cunundrums of "Westlessness"

There has been some, but really not much, effort to report on what had become one of the great networking and narrative controlling events in the West for the "security" crowd--the Munich Security Conference, whose 56th meeting was recently held. That is a pity.  People in high positions of authority and their dependent gaggle of enterprises, political figures and administrators, tend to serve as an excellent barometer of both internal battles for the "soul" of the official narrative, and the practical consequences of the embrace of a dominating narrative on the way in which the states and enterprises which these individual mange then respond to outside stimulus (e.g., migration, foreign elements, and the construction and response to "threats"). 

There is something bracing--and perhaps even naughty--about a report produced by a civilization's leaders, framing its analysis by reference to Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes), or The Downfall of the Occident, 2 volumes 1918/1922).  It has the feel of leftist intellectuals engaging with Carl Schmitt, and perhaps toward the same ends. The West has been wringing its collective hands about  a nostalgia for its muscular and optimistic culture in the face of a matured and aimless civilization since at least the time of the establishment of the Deutsches Reich in 1871 (with a keening nostalgia for that of original (911-1806)). And, indeed, the reference reminds us not just of Spengler's amplification of the ancient tension between culture and civilization popularized for a literate and increasingly powerful administrative elite, but it ought more profoundly also recall with even greater force the more profound engagement with this sort of notion of cyclical decadence and renewal developed by the brilliant Tunisian philosopher Abd al Rahman ibn Khaldun (أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي) in the 14th century (The Muqaddimah (1377) with its notions of asabiyah (عصبيّة) or group feeling), but also now modernized for an Anglo-European elite by Ferdnand Tönnies in the late 19th century in his classic Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (Leipzig 1887). And, indeed, to some extent, the opening quote and the angst of "Westlessness" on which the 2020 Munich Security Report is grounded, reminds us that Western elites are as stuck in the 191th century (the moment of its European apotheosis) as much as certain elements of Chinese and other elites are as stuck in the same century (marking the moment of their greatest decay). The result, for the moment, may be the very directionless that both dies fear and thus the worry about security in the face of civilizations in destabilized states.

And, indeed, though it is more than a century too late, this group has, at last, come to confront the dissipation of the project their respective nations spent (and without much self reflection at the time) centuries producing.  And, of course, because one is rationalizing this confrontation from the narrative perspectives of those doing the thinking (e.g., the security crowd), then the connection between the project and threat comes to the fore.  In the Foreword to the Munich Security Report 2020: Westlessness, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, serving as the Chair of the  Munich Security Conference since 2008  declares: "In 2019, concrete security challenges seem to have become inseparable from what some would describe as the decay of the Western project: the West as we know it is contested both from within and from without."  (Munich Security Report 2020, p. 5). To some extent, what they identify as decay is measured against a now rotting baseline standard of the madness of the most effective forms of 19th and 20th century Anglo-European self destruction (a reminder of the power of societal psychosis) in which the apotheosis of greatness was to be measured by the arbitrariness of race or ethnicity rather than of culture and cultural identity. But worse, the West continues to measure itself (that is its decay and influence) against the standards of  whatever is currently defined as a species of European ethno-racial fascism (where race is understood in zoological terms). Effectively, the idea that still creaks through elite narratives is that the legitimate West must be understood as the manifestation of a liberal political civilization (with its end point stopping just short of totalitarian European Marxist Leninist theorizing) which served its highest purpose when deployed against the beastliness of cultures of fascism, and especially its Nationalist Socialist manifestations, throughout Europe and the rest of the world (some of it surviving in the rhetoric of certain elements in the Levant) .

Thus understood, a re-reading of the Munich Security Report 2020 suggests perhaps that it should not have been to Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West that the Munich Security Report ought to have framed its analysis, but rather to Spengler's much more pointed and blunt reduction--The Hour of Decision (Charles Francis Atkinson (trans) New York Alfred A Knopf, 1934) in which Spengler linked his theories of history to the state of Anglo-European civilization to the rise and fall of "white" and "colored" civilizations (but not in the banal way those notions have been debased in the 21st century but in terms of the construction of civilization denominated as or through race--as Spengler noted: "I repeat: race that one has, not a race into which one belongs. The one is ethos, the other--zoology." Ibid., 225). This is the construct that turns Fanon's notion of racial essentialism on its head (F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (Charles Markjman (trans) Pluto Press, 1967 (1952)).

Westlessness, in this sense, quite consciously references what might well be the last front in the 150 year trajectory of Anglo-European self-destruction.  That is, it moves the field of battle from the initial front (political theory, territory, and intra-dominant hierarchies grounded in the pathetic hierarchies of hyper constructed race and ethnicity to the ultimate front that a dominant culture yields last--the construction and coherence of the foundations of its civilization.  That, effectively is what the authors of the Munich Security Report 2020 fear.
We are witnessing a period of “Westlessness” – the West itself is becoming less Western, and the world is becoming less Western, too. With this observation, Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), opened this year’s MSC Kick-off event and introduced the main topic of the Munich Security Report 2020. . . The panel debate also reflected some disagreement about the utility of the idea of the West. Efforts to strengthen human rights, liberal freedoms, and the rules-based global order more generally did not need to be linked to the West, argued Christoph Heusgen. In fact, the UN Charter, which was not Western, but codified universal values, already contained all these ideas. Yet, in order to reinvigorate liberal principles and the role of the West in the world, Western countries first have to defend and promote them at home. Growing populism, participants argued, cannot be confronted without a concerted effort to restore societal cohesion and fight inequality within the West itself. (Is "Westlessness" inevitable? – MSC Kick-off 2020 in Berlin).
This fear posits two great forces--again--at war with each other for the control of the self conception of the West. The one they favor, the apotheosis of which bloomed magnificently during the two terms of the last internationalist American President, Barack Obama, the primus inter pares of a global Senate of similarly constructed leaders who oversaw the Empire constructed by the United States after 1945 and which had come ever so close to hard wiring a global weltanschauung, is what is defined as the civilization of the West worth preserving and lamenting. This is the civilization that is the "white mask," now understood in Spengler's sense of race as a proxy for civilization, without skin color. See, e.g., Bridging Across Perception: The Statements of Presidents Obama and Castro on the Normalization of Relations Between the United States and Cuba; and contrast Building a New American Global Liberal Order?--Reflections on Pompeo's Speech ("Restoring the Role of the Nation-State in the Liberal International Order") to the German Marshall Fund 4 December 2018.

Against this, and paralleling the sort of narrative warfare waged against the current American President by the intelligentsia acolytes of the ancien regime of Western, liberal democratic internationalism (and through that proxy and its global followers, also adopted by the leadership of this group), stands the internal threat of Western Neo-fascism (for that is the only language that now has power in the great battles for control of the narrative through which the masses are managed).  What makes this delightfully terrible and yet so brilliantly used in this case, is the way that this threat to the old order is remade not merely as the internal threat (and betrayal) of the greatness of Western civilization, but also its orientalization. Mr. Trump and his acolytes are dangerous (and not just to the mandarins of Europe) not only because he appears to serves as the vessel into which they pour their fear of and thus reconstruct fascism. No Mr. Trump is dangerous precisely because he becomes indistinguishable from Mr. Putin or Mr. Xi.

That is the sin--Mr. Trump has become a race-civilization traitor and in the process has brought the enemy to the gates of the New Jerusalem built with such care (and such delicacy for the historical sensibilities of the Europeans once they got done slaughtering each other and moving themselves about the continent between 1945 and 1948 (e.g., K. Lowe, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II Picador (2013)) to preserve what its leaders had come to close to destroying through their indulgence of their own monstrous collective worst natures before the current era.  In the terns of Oswald Spengler, then, what the Munich Security Report 23020 suggest, then, is that leaders like Mr. Trump (and not Mr. Obama) is the first non-white president of the United States, and he and his followers by abandoning the core structures of the civilizations of the states they lead have imperiled the security of us all. Consider in this light, "America First," "Belt and Road," "Mutually Advantageous Cooperation" and the Rise of the Global South: Preliminary Thoughts on Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (25 September 2018) .

It is this, more than anything else, that appears to spill out not just from the pages of the Report, but from the speeches made by the key actors around which the Munich Conference acquires its importance--and influence.   A study of those speeches drives home the point (for a summary of some, see, Power and Pretzels in Munich, 2020).  The conflicting visions they represent nicely fill in the context in which the future of "the West" will be determined.  The discussion of what the "West" means, not as a space, or as a race, or as an ethnicity, but as the proxy for a civilization that has exceeded the self constructed borders of these communities has really only now begun in seriousness. It will survive the 2020 American elections, and the current turmoil in the EU.  It will survive the construction of China's Belt and Road.  But it is far to early top tell how that civilization will see itself, and its role in the world. Until then, all of the verities of Western political civilization--rule of law, democracy, elections, representation, markets, and even rights--will remain highly contested terms. 

That leaves only worry to those whose job it is to preserve the space of the West while it indulges in this transformative conversation. The West is not in retreat, the conception of the West has always been a moving target, one that continues ancient intra-European divisions (Europe’s Unfinished (Western) Transformation).  At the same time it is one that commits its greatest error by the very premise that animates its 2020 discussion--the proclivity toward an eternal orthodoxy of a world view of Western markets oriented liberal democracy that was locked forever into place by the settlement imposed on Europe by the United States and its Allies after 1945 (and that settlement itself not particularly well done given the internal divisions within the United States and its own impending civil war on the cusp of the 1950s). There is no identity between the West and the expression of the politics as expiation and as prevention, mitigation and remedy of the barbarities  of a self destructive culture that nearly destroyed it. That notion of pathetic, but useful for elites that have become so invested in an immovable notion of culture and of the "End of History" that they insist on calling what may be a natural movement of a vibrant culture as decline.  What the leaders attending the Munich Security Conference 2020 may be mourning then, is not the West but themselves and the passing of their own control of the content of the civilization that is called Western. The West, like China, has, since the middle of the second decade of this century entered a new historical era. As for the rest, it is a reminder that periods of transition can produce the appearance of weakness that then invites war.   To protect against war is, of course, the business of those attending this event.  It might serve them better to remind themselves of that paramount duty to the civilization they serve.  

Available speeches to date are posted below. 


The West Is Winning
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Munich, Germany Munich Security Conference
February 15, 2020

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. It’s great to be with you all.

Foreign dignitaries, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, who are with us here today, it’s my honor to be here this morning. It’s great to be back at the Munich Security Conference. I was just talking with some of the leaders. I’ve been here many times. I came here with Senator McCain. I came here as the CIA director. I’m also not new to Munich. If you’re looking for a good bierhalle from the late ‘80s, I can find it. (Laughter.)

This is also the third trip to Germany in just the past four months. I was in Berlin in November to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an incredibly special trip for me, for me personally, because I had the incredible privilege to serve on freedom’s frontier from 1986 to 1989 patrolling the then East German-West German boundary during the Cold War as a young officer in the United States Army. I was just a little younger, not that much.

It was thrilling for me, I remember, to watch when freedom won, to watch people dancing on the Berlin Wall, as we all saw people who had been so cruelly separated for decades. It was an incredible celebration of freedom and of sovereignty. The people of East Berlin, and the people of East Germany, knew that the end of the Evil Empire’s occupation was at hand.

And our countries together have maintained our freedoms and our sovereignty for the past 30-plus years now. We should all be incredibly proud of that. We’ve done it through the challenges of radical Islamist terrorism, we’ve done it through a global financial crisis, and we’re doing it now in the face of an increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party.

But over the past few years, I’ve seen, we’ve all seen, democratic leaders questioning America’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance and America’s leadership in the world.

A few recent quotes from Western leaders. These quotes frankly surprised me.

The first was from the middle of 2017: Quote, “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.” End of quote.

The second one is from about a year ago. It said, quote: “The multilateral order is experiencing its perhaps gravest crisis since the emergence – its emergence after the Second World War.” End of quote.

The final one was from just yesterday. A quote suggested, quote, that the United States “rejects the international community.” End of quote.

I’m here this morning to tell you the facts. Those statements simply do not affect in any significant way or reflect reality. I am happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated.

The West is winning. We are collectively winning. We’re doing it together.

Let’s start with a simple fact: Free nations are simply more successful than any other model that’s been tried in the history of civilization. Our governments respect basic human rights, they foster economic prosperity, and they keep us all secure.

It’s why so many people risk a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Greece and Italy, but you don’t see the world’s vulnerable people risking their lives to skip illegally en masse to countries like Iran or to Cuba.

It’s why people clamor to study in Cambridge, and not Caracas.

It’s why they compete to start businesses in Silicon Valley, but not in Saint Petersburg.

It’s why countries in Asia went from abject poverty in the 1950s and ’60s to become world-leading economies today. You have all seen the map of the differences between South Korea, that light-studded map with North Korea in complete darkness.

Just look, too, just look at the winning westward path of other nations.

Vietnam has moved into our same direction since the 1980s.

I’ll head off from here to Africa. I’ll be in Ethiopia, a country working hard to reform its economy. It wants to be more like us.

Today, throughout the Western Hemisphere, we have only Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as redoubts of authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, the United States is thriving. Our political system is free and enormously resilient. Our economy, too, is strong.

The overall unemployment rate is the lowest in more than half a century, economic growth tripping right along. The unemployment rate for women is at the lowest level in almost 70 years. Wages are rising for all income levels in the United States, including our blue-collar workers. This is the power of the Western idea.

I saw the topic for this weekend’s gathering, this idea of “Westlessness” as the core theme for this year’s conference. And I am sure, too, there are many of you who would call yourself here realists, but let me give you an idea of what’s real.

The West is winning. Freedom and democracy are winning. And by that, I don’t mean just geographical nations. The West doesn’t define a space or a piece of real state. It’s any nation – any nation that adopts a model of respect for individual freedom, free enterprise, national sovereignty. They’re part of this idea of the West.

I want to talk for a minute this morning about how sovereignty underpins our greatness collectively.

Look, we patrol our borders to keep our people safe, so that they can continue to worship, to work, and to make our countries great without disruption.

We honor the right of every nation to carry on their affairs as they choose, so long as they don’t try to interfere with our sovereignty or do harm to our friends.

Look, we urge other nations to protect human dignity, because we believe in unalienable rights.

We support independent nations. Our signature – our signature military project together is a defensive alliance.

We respect the rule of law and we honor intellectual property rights.

We don’t interfere in other nations’ elections.

As my 29-year-old son would say, “In the West, we just don’t roll that way.”

Respect for sovereignty of nations is a secret of and central to our success. The West is winning.

But now, more than 30 years since the fall of the wall, countries that don’t respect sovereignty still threaten us. Some nations still desire empire.

Let’s talk about territorial integrity, or rather, those nations that have contempt for it.

Russia has seized Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine and Georgia.

Iran’s missiles explode on Saudi oil facilities, and its proxy forces are present in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria, and in Yemen.

China. China encroaches on the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. And on that point, China has had a border or maritime dispute with nearly every nation bordering it.

And let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity. Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence. Russia’s disinformation campaigns try to turn our citizens against one another. Iranian cyberattacks plague Middle East computer networks.

We’ve talked about physical security. We’ve talked about cybersecurity. Economic coercion is at play as well.

Russia demands fealty in Central Asia.

China demands silence on Taiwan and Hong Kong so that deals will keep flowing. It exacts pieces of national infrastructure as payment when countries can’t meet its onerous loan terms.

Let’s talk, too, about respect for other countries’ political structures.

Iran is stifling today, as we sit here, stifling young Iraqis and Lebanese who want nothing more than a clean and sovereign government.

China is increasingly trying to co-opt officials at the state and local level. Our FBI director, our Attorney General, and I have all spoken about this in just the last week. They’re trying to affect not only our federal level but our state and local officials as well. And this is happening all across Europe and, indeed, all across the world.

Look, this matters. This matters because assaults on sovereignty destabilize. Assaults on sovereignty impoverish. Assaults on sovereignty enslave. Assaults on sovereignty are, indeed, assaults on the very freedom that anchors the Western ideal.

But here’s the good news, and there’s a lot of it.

The United States has stared and will continue to stare these dangerous threats in the face, and we will not blink. We’re protecting our citizens. We’re protecting our freedoms. We’re protecting our sovereign right to choose how it is that we live.

The United States has worked diligently to deprive the Islamic Republic of Iran of diplomatic sanctuary and financial ability to fuel its campaigns of terror – both in the Middle East and right here in Europe.

The United States has woken up to the world where China’s unfair trading practices impact us, the Chinese Communist Party’s newly aggressive turn, and its military and diplomatic efforts that confront.

The United States has armed Ukraine to help that brave nation defend itself from the Russian aggression and has worked with Baltic nations on cybersecurity to defend against Moscow’s repeated cyberattacks.

And as a brand new statement today of our support for sovereignty, prosperity, and energy independence of our European friends, today I want to announce that through the International Development Finance Corporation, and with the support of our United States Congress, we intend to provide up to $1 billion in financing to Central and Eastern European countries of the Three Seas Initiative. Our aim is quite simple: It is to galvanize private sector investment in the energy sector to protect freedom and democracy around the world.

Now, I would ask you, as I go back to where I began: Are these actions, these American actions, are they consistent with the claim that America “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership?”

Consider, too, what we’ve done alongside each of you, what we’ve done to support NATO in particular.

The United States has urged NATO on to $400 billion in new pledges. We did this because our nations are safer when we work together and when we field the strongest forces and capabilities.

The United States has, too – with our Allies – undertaken the most significant reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank since the Cold War.

The United States has restored credibility to arms control when we withdrew from the INF Treaty – with unanimous NATO support – after Russia repeatedly violated its terms.

These are just a few signature efforts of American leadership with our partners. We always work to bring allies and partners on board with everything that it is that we do.

We’re leading, for example, Defender Europe 20, an exercise alongside NATO Allies – the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years.

The United States has marshalled nations to help us protect the waterways of the Straits of Hormuz and to defend freedom of navigation throughout the South China Sea.

The United States, too, has worked with international sanctions, global sanctions, to prevent North Korea from continuing to develop its nuclear weapons program, and we’ve worked to bring Pyongyang consistently back to the negotiating table.

We’ve led 81 nations in the global fight to defeat the ISIS caliphate. We took out al-Baghdadi. We took out the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula just this past month.

Is this an America that “rejects the international community?”

And – I know of particular concern in this room – we’ve pursued the mission of protecting sovereignty in the multilateral context.

A few examples:

The United States has supported the Organization of American States in its efforts to revive institutions to go back to its mandate and improve its effectiveness.

We’re leading a 59-nation coalition to oust Maduro and honor the will of the Venezuelan people.

The United States is leading on the environment as well. The International Energy Agency’s latest global emissions report from just these past few weeks found that America’s energy-related CO2 emissions declined by 2.9 percent in 2019, in spite of significant economic growth.

The United States has convinced the C5+1 to bolster Central Asian nations’ sovereignty against Russian hegemony and Chinese economic pressure.

The United States, too, has warned the Arctic Council about Russian and Chinese designs to exploit the Arctic for unfair gain – something I know we care about collectively.

So let’s be straight-up.

The United States is out there fighting alongside you for sovereignty and freedom.

We should have confidence in our alliances and our friends.

The free West has a far brighter future than illiberal alternatives.

We’re winning – and we’re doing it together.

Momentum is clearly on our side. We’ve got to do more.

Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled by those who say otherwise.

When so-called Iranian moderates play the victim, remember their assassination and terror campaigns against innocent Iranian civilians and right here on European soil itself.

When Russia suggests that Nord Stream 2 is purely a commercial endeavor, don’t be fooled. Consider the deprivations caused in the winters of 2006 and 2008 and 2009 and 2015.

When Huawei executives show up at your door, they say you’ll lose out if you don’t buy in. Don’t believe the hype.

Look, I know it’s not without cost to be courageous, to stand up for our sovereignty. I get it.

But it’s never been the case that this was free.

Name me a moment in history when the weak and the meek have prevailed.

I’m confident. I’m confident in you all. I’m confident in us together. I’m confident that the West will win.

You know, just 15 days ago I was in Kyiv, Ukraine. I visited a hospital where Ukrainian service members who had been injured in the conflict, who had been wounded in the fight against Russian-backed aggression, were being convalesced. There was a young, brave warrior there – we had a conversation – who had sustained a serious injury and he was in significant pain. We spoke for a few moments. He, through the translator, told me that he was a captain. I reminded him that several decades ago I, too, was a captain.

And as we were getting ready to leave, he got up. He grabbed his crutches. He moved across the room and he went to his wall locker, grabbed his uniform, pulled off his patch, and he handed me his unit logo. He told me to keep it; he wanted me to have it.

That moment hit home for me. It reminded me that sovereignty is worth fighting for and that it’s real, that we’re all in this fight together.

Let’s keep at it. Let’s keep winning.

May God bless you all, and may God bless the free world and the United States of America.

Thank you all for being with me this morning. (Applause.)


Secretary of Defense Speech Remarks by Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper at the Munich Security Conference
Feb. 15, 2020
Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be with you today.

I want to thank the Munich Security Conference for inviting me to speak today.

I can see that the event has grown considerably in size and scope since I was last here, which is a testament to the leadership of Ambassador Ischinger (Ish-shing-jer) and his team.

I’d like to speak to you today about the number one priority of the United States Department of Defense: implementing the National Defense Strategy.

The NDS states that we are now in an era of Great Power Competition, with our principal challengers being China, then Russia, and that we must move away from low intensity conflict and prepare once again for high-intensity warfare.

At the same time, it recognizes that our second tier priorities are rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

And finally, dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations will likely be an enduring threat for years to come.

Being in Europe, I know that there has been much discussion about the challenges from Russia, so this morning I want to focus on the Pentagon’s top concern: the People’s Republic of China.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of a decision that fundamentally altered the course of international affairs: China’s admission into the World Trade Organization.

I was working in the United States Senate at the time, and two competing arguments over China’s membership dominated the public debate.

The prevailing notion of the day was that, if we allowed the PRC into the WTO and other multilateral institutions, China would continue on its path of economic reform and eventually become a market-oriented trading partner.

More broadly, increased engagement with the liberal world order would also spur political opening and help transform the PRC into a responsible global stakeholder.

The more skeptical voices argued that, if granted membership, China would use the benefits of free trade and an open international order to grow its economy and access the technology required to build a strong military and security state capable of expanding the reach of their authoritarian rule.

These were both credible arguments, but we all know which one is winning right now.

It's not the former.

In fact, under President Xi’s rule, the Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture.

It is essential that we – as an international community – wake up to the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the long-standing international, rules-based order that has benefited all of us for many decades.

The Communist Party and its associated organs, including the People’s Liberation Army, are increasingly operating in theaters outside its borders, including Europe, and seeking advantage by any means, and at any cost.

Let me state up front, though, the United States does not seek conflict with China.

In fact, we look for areas of cooperation when our interests converge in the hope that they will choose the other path they didn’t take twenty years ago.

Just look at the nearly 18 tons of medical supplies the United States recently provided to the PRC to help fight the coronavirus.

And last week, we announced more than $100 million in assistance to China and other countries affected by that virus.

The world is too interconnected for us not to work together to solve some of our toughest problems.

However, to be a responsible member of the international community, China must be transparent and respect the sovereignty, freedom, and rights of all nations.

Unfortunately, their current behavior leaves great cause for concern.

The United States’ National Defense Strategy recognizes this critical challenge as we adapt and prepare our force to deal with China in this new era of great power competition.

The PRC’s growing economic, military, and diplomatic power often manifests itself in ways that are threatening, coercive, and counter to the rules-based international order.

Over time, we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea, and rapidly modernize their armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor ….and often at the expense of others.

I continue to stress to my friends in Europe – and just this past week again at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels – that America’s concerns about Beijing’s commercial and military expansion should be their concerns as well.

This September will mark the 75th commemoration of the end of World War II, and the birth of the international rules-based order that has supported security and prosperity across the globe.

The United States, our NATO allies, and partners across the Indo-Pacific have sacrificed blood and treasure over the decades to protect and preserve it.

Yet, the PRC seeks to undermine and subvert this system, the same one that allowed them to rise and become what they are today.

As we speak, Communist China is exerting financial and political pressure, publicly and privately, on many Indo-Pacific and European nations – large and small – while pursuing new strategic relationships worldwide.

In fact, the smaller the country, the heavier the hand of Beijing.

Through its Belt and Road Initiative, for example, the PRC is leveraging its overseas investments to force other nations into sub-optimal security decisions.

This has wide-reaching ramifications for the United States and our allies in critical areas like data security, interoperability, and military readiness.

While we often doubt the transparency and forthrightness of Beijing, when it comes to their security aims, we should take the Chinese government at its word.
By 2035, the PRC intends to complete its military modernization,
And, by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power.

Furthermore, the global community should be deeply concerned about the Party’s use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies to surveil and repress Muslim minorities, journalists, and pro-democracy protestors.

To make matters worse, the government is now exporting these tools worldwide in a manner that could bolster other authoritarian regimes.

China’s rapid ascent has stirred much debate over the primacy of the United States and the West in the 21st century.

I understand this topic is part of this year’s Munich Security Conference report.

China’s growth over the years has been remarkable, but in many ways it is fueled by theft, coercion, and exploitation of free market economies, private companies, and colleges and universities.

American and European institutions and corporations face the brunt of these malign activities, and we have seen a multitude of examples where our economies and companies have suffered as a result.

But Beijing’s bad behavior will only take them so far.

The world is increasingly aware of its motives – and responding in turn.

Regrettably, rather than change course, Party leadership continues its rampant technology theft, while resolving to eventually end its reliance on foreign innovation altogether, independently develop its own systems, and then dominate critical sectors and markets.

Huawei and 5G are today’s poster child for this nefarious activity.

History has proven time and again, though, that authoritarianism breeds corruption, promotes conformity, smothers free thinking, and suppresses freedom.

In stark contrast to this are our values, sense of fairness, and culture of opportunity, which encourage disruption and unleash the very best of human intellect, spirit, and innovation.

This is why it is critical that, together, we directly and unambiguously, address Beijing’s actions and intentions, so that we are never intimidated, duped, or pushed into bad security, economic, or political choices.

And maybe, just maybe, we can get them on the right path.

Again, make no mistake, we do not seek conflict with China.

That’s not what we want; not at all. Rather, we seek fair and open competition in the economic realm.

And in general, we simply ask of Beijing what we ask of every nation: to play by the rules, abide by international norms, and respect the rights and sovereignty of others.

To restore an equal footing, the Department of Defense is doing its share.

We are focused on deterring bad behavior, reassuring our friends and allies, and defending the global commons.

And to maintain the peace, through strength, we are implementing the United States’ National Defense Strategy.

As part of this strategy, we are doing our part to safeguard American innovation and reinvigorate our industrial base.

Thanks to our largest Research and Development budget in 70 years, we are investing in cutting-edge technologies and accelerating the modernization of our force, while at the same time, divesting from legacy systems and re-investing those savings into hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and other game-changing technologies.

Unlike China and others, we will use these advanced capabilities to help keep the peace, promote prosperity, ensure security, and protect the sovereignty of all freedom-loving countries.

For example, while Beijing uses artificial intelligence to tighten its grip over its people, the Department of Defense has established well-regarded principles for the lawful and ethical use of AI.

While the PRC develops and deploys long-range fires to intimidate and threaten its neighbors, we are investing in both conventional and advanced missile defense capabilities to protect the homeland, our interests, and our allies.

And while Communist China is weaponizing the space domain through the development of directed-energy weapons and killer satellites, the Pentagon is standing up its first new military service in over 70 years – the United States Space Force – to ensure freedom of use, commerce and navigation in, to, and through space, for all.

Simply put, the contrast between China’s malevolent actions and United States’ leadership couldn’t be more obvious.

At the same time, we are protecting these high-tech breakthroughs from theft and exploitation by strengthening our foreign investment laws, supply chains, export controls, university-based research, and cyber defenses – all of which have been longstanding attack points of the Chinese government.

We are encouraged that our allies and partners are beginning to take similar actions, as they thoroughly assess the long-term threats and challenges posed by China.

Among these concerns is a dependence on emerging technologies that could inject serious risk into our defense cooperation.

Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors, for example, could render our partners’ critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation, and espionage.

It could also jeopardize our communication and intelligence sharing capabilities, and by extension, our alliances.

To counter this, we are encouraging allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions, and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak.

In the long run, developing our own secure 5G networks will far outweigh any perceived gains from partnering with heavily subsidized Chinese providers that ultimately answer to Party leadership.

In short: let’s be smart; let’s learn from the past; and let’s get 5G right so we don’t regret our decisions later.

The reality of the 21st century is that many economic decisions are also national security decisions.

We are not asking our partners to reject engagement with China; just the opposite.

We want you to show them the right path, and nudge them down it.

In the meantime, though, we ARE asking our friends to clearly choose a global system that supports democracy, protects human rights, and safeguards our greatest asymmetric advantages: our values, our shared interests, and our unmatched network of alliances and partnerships.

We feel that the choice is clear, but recognize it may be tough; that the economic challenges may take a toll in the short run; but our collective future may hang in the balance if we fail to make the hard choices now for the long run.

The United States does not want an adversarial relationship with China.

It is a great country with an extraordinary history, a rich culture, and a wonderful people.

Rather, we want China to behave like a normal country that adheres to the international rules and order that generations before us have fought hard to protect and preserve.

And that means the Chinese government needs to change its policies and behaviors.

If the PRC will not change its ways, then defending this system must be our collective priority.

We can only do this by making greater investments in our common defense; by making the hard economic and commercial choices needed to prioritize our shared security; and by working together to maintain a ready and capable alliance network that is prepared to deter any threat, defend any Ally, and defeat any foe.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your questions.


Opening remarks by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference
15 Feb. 2020 -

Last updated: 17 Feb. 2020 18:43


(As delivered)

Thank you so much Teri and it is always a great pleasure to be here at the Munich Security Conference.

This year’s conference raises the question "has the West lost its way?"
Indeed, questions are being asked on both side of the Atlantic about the strength of our transatlantic bond.

People wonder where we are heading.
And whether we will continue to go together.
But does this mean that we are lost?
It’s true, the path is not easy.
And sometimes we stumble.
But we have not lost our way.
And more importantly,
our values have not lost their value.

Freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
They have brought unprecedented peace and prosperity.
And they remain, the values remain a beacon of hope for people around the world.
Whenever they have been threatened, we have stood up for them.
Europe and North America came together to end two bloody world wars.
Countless men and women fought oppression during the Cold War.
And today, people are standing up for their right to live in freedom.
From Hong Kong to Tehran.
And people refuse to be intimidated by terrorism and extremism.
From Paris to Christchurch. 

In many ways, NATO is the ultimate expression of the "West."
Europe and North America.
United in our vision of free and open societies.
And in our commitment to protect and defend one another.
The reality is that we are doing more together now than we have done for many, many years.
The US is investing more in European security.
With more troops, exercises and infrastructure.
With strong bipartisan support from the US Congress.
And while the US President has urged European Allies to do more,
he has also recognised the enormous progress we are making.
European Allies and Canada are investing more in our collective defence.
Adding in new capabilities.
And increasing their contributions to NATO missions and operations.
And when we met in London, NATO Leaders agreed to launch a reflection process.
To further strengthen NATO’s political dimension.
So, Europe and North America need to continue to stand together.
In the face of increased global competition.
Economically, militarily, technologically.
And more fundamentally, over our way of life and our values.

This is what is at stake in our fight against terrorism.
Freedom against oppression.
Tolerance against intolerance.
And let’s not forget that together we have made enormous progress.
ISIS no longer controls any territory in Iraq and Syria.
And millions of people have been liberated from oppression.

But the fight is not over.
We must ensure that ISIS can never return.
To threaten people in the region and our citizens at home.
So therefore NATO Defence Ministers have this week decided to step up our support to Iraq.
And to consider what more NATO can do in the Middle East and North Africa.
To support our partners and stabilise the region.

Our mission in Afghanistan is also about protecting our values, which came under attack on 9/11.
16.000 NATO troops are training the Afghan forces, so that they can fight terrorism and create the conditions for peace.
We are not leaving Afghanistan.
But we are prepared to adjust our force level if the Taliban demonstrate the will and the ability to reduce violence and make real compromises.
That could pave the way for negotiations among Afghans, sustainable peace, and ensuring the country is never again a safe haven for terrorists

We also face competition from a more assertive Russia.
Which seeks to return to a world of spheres of influence.
NATO Allies are responding.
Significantly increasing the readiness of our forces.
Upholding sanctions.
And countering Russia’s attempts to interfere in our democracies.
Allies consulted closely over many years on Russia’s breach of the INF Treaty.
And agreed on a joint response.
All Allies remain committed to arms control.
And to dialogue with Russia.
We continue to aspire for a better relationship with our biggest neighbour.

We also face competition from a shifting global balance of power.
China will soon be the world’s largest economy.
It already has the world’s second largest defence budget.
And it is investing heavily in new capabilities.
So, the rise of China presents both challenges and opportunities.
We need a common understanding of what this means for our shared security.
For freedom and democracy.

Keeping our societies open, free and resilient must be part of our response.
As is investing in new capabilities to maintain our technological edge.
We should not be tempted to trade short term economic benefits for longer-term challenges to our security.

So, there is a competition out there.
In so many areas.
And with so many different actors.
But simply lamenting that we have lost our way will not provide us with a way forward.
We must have the ability – and the confidence - to compete.
Some say that the answer is more Europe.
And I agree.
But this is only part of it.
Because more Europe cannot mean Europe alone.
Any attempt to distance Europe from North America,
not only weakens the transatlantic bond,
and our ability to compete on the global stage,
it also risks dividing Europe.
I don’t believe in Europe alone.
As I don’t believe in America alone.
I believe in Europe and America together.

So, we should not compete with ourselves.
And talk up our differences.
While talking down our strengths.
Europe and North America are indispensable partners.
Two sides of the same coin.
Together we are half of the world’s military might.
And half of the world’s economic might.
So, when we stand together,
we can compete with confidence,
protect our interests,
and defend our values.
Thank you.

TERI SCHULTZ: Let's talk about Afghanistan, with the moves towards a potential reduction in violence, if all goes well, possibly even a peace deal. This means that the US will pull out troops. That is likely followed by a withdrawal also of NATO troops, right, the troops from NATO Allies. But my question is, if we need to monitor what's happening on the ground, if these withdrawals at least on the NATO side are conditions-based, but you're no longer there, who's monitoring the far- flung provinces? How do we know if the Taliban is respecting these deals? And, over the course of this war, the longest in NATO history, you’ve now got ISIS as a complicating factor. What are you going to about that? With fewer troops, all I see is these groups rejoicing that you're going to be gone.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: So, first of all, I think we understand that we are not leaving Afghanistan and we don’t have a deal, but we are closer to a deal. And what we have said, NATO has said, the US has said, is that we are prepared to adjust our presence if Taliban demonstrates real will and capability to reduce violence. And of course we are in Afghanistan to create the conditions for peace.

The aim is not to stay in Afghanistan as long as possible, the aim for our presence in Afghanistan is to send a message to the Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield, but they have to sit down and make real compromises around the negotiating table. The only lasting solution to the crisis/conflict in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

So actually, one of the main goals we have now is to try to initiate, to facilitate a start of Afghan talks, Afghan negotiations. But again, we have said that everything we do in Afghanistan will be conditions-based. We will only reduce our presence if we see that Taliban is really able and willing to deliver and then we will do it step-by-step.

Let me also briefly add that of course the US is talking with the Taliban, but the US is consulting closely with all NATO Allies. We have 16,000 troops there, many of which are non-US troops. And of course this is also about NATO adjusting our troop levels in Afghanistan if there is a deal.

TERI SCHULTZ: But at the moment, the Taliban controls roughly half of the territory. How does that look like victory?

JENS STOLTENBERG: No, but this is about finding a compromise. I mean I think we all have to understand that we have been longer in Afghanistan than we expected when we went in.

I was Prime Minister of Norway in 2001 when they made the first decisions to send Norwegian troops to Afghanistan and if then they had told me in 2001 that we were going to be there now, I would have said that’s out of the question, impossible. But we are still in Afghanistan.

So, we need to find a way that we can, in a responsible way, reduce our presence in Afghanistan, make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for international terrorists. And the best way to do that is to train the Afghan forces, build local capacity, so they can take full responsibility for their own country. And that’s exactly what we are doing. NATO's not in a combat mission anymore, but we are training the Afghans so they can be able to stabilise their own country and have the strength to make real deals with the Taliban.

BOJAN PANCEVSKI: Secretary General, I wanted to pick up on something you said about the transatlantic bond. You appear to have succeeded where your European peers are struggling a little bit. I mean, President Macron, who is speaking here shortly, has tried everything, ranging from a candelight dinner at the top of the Eiffel Tower, to the famous white-knuckle handshake. But you seem to be the only leader who has elicited positive feedback from the President of the United States, including on Twitter. I mean, is this a lesson that you can give to your fellow leaders about preserving and sort of improving the transatlantic bond?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Well, I believe in the strength of North America and Europe working together, and we have been extremely successful and we deliver a lot when we are able to stand together.

Then of course I'm not naïve and I'm reading newspapers, so I have seen that there are some disagreements between us. We are 29 different Allies, from both sides of the Atlantic, with different political parties in government. And there are differences, there's no way to deny that.

But my message is that partly that we have seen differences before, dating back to the Suez Crisis in 1956 all the way to the Iraq War in 2003, and we have seen that also the differences we have today, we have been able to deal with them when it comes to what we do on the security and defence arena. Because the reality is that, despite the disagreements we see on trade and climate change, and these are serious disagreements, actually the United States is now delivering more when it comes to European security. More troops, more investments, more exercises. And European Allies are standing up.

So, I'm not saying that climate change, trade and the other differences we see are not important. I'm only saying that the history of NATO is that we have been able to overcome these differences again and again, because we see the importance of uniting around our core task, to protect and defend each other. And we actually make some progress, for instance in the fight against Daesh/ISIS.

BOJAN PANCEVSKI: So, would you say Article 5 is still the deterrent that it used to be? Because we’ve heard some very serious criticism from within, you know, from some of the top Allies.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Article 5 is the core of NATO and of course the importance of Article 5 is to deter conflict. NATO's task is not to fight a war, but to prevent a war. And the best way of doing that is by sending a clear message to any potential adversary that if one Ally is attacked, the whole NATO will respond. And by doing so, we have been able to preserve peace for more than 70 years. So, as long as this collective defence clause is credible, then we are safe to be in no conflict.

And then I think well, the United States and European Allies are committed to Article 5 as a treaty obligation, but not only in words, but also in deeds. For me it's hard to imagine a stronger commitment to Article 5 by North America, actually US and Canada, than the fact that they have increased their military presence in Europe.

Just as we speak, we have DEFENDER-Europe 20, where we have 20,000 US troops deployed from the United States to Europe, the largest number of US troops deployed in any European exercise for decades. For me, it's hard to imagine a stronger commitment to Article 5 than more troops.

And let me add to that that, for the first time in our history, we have combat-ready troops in the eastern part of the Alliance, the battlegroups in Poland and the Baltic countries. They are sending a very clear message that NATO is already there. So again, for me, that’s a clear demonstration of commitment to Article 5.

TERI SCHULTZ: So, we’re running really, really tight on time, but if someone would like to ask a question from the audience, otherwise we'll… there's a guy jumping to his feet, in the back. Sir, if you could introduce yourself and give us a very quick question.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm François Heisbourg and my question to Jens Stoltenberg is the following: you mentioned China as a challenge and an opportunity. What role can NATO play in helping avoid a rift between the US and Europe, in the manner in which to approach China? We already see today that there is a policy push by the United States on the 5G business. Europe is divided about how to respond. What can NATO do to avoid the China factor, over the next decades, becoming the wedge issue between the US and Europe?

JENS STOLTENBERG: What we can do is that we can bring Europe and North America together and to address and discuss the implications of the rise of China and how NATO should make sure that we also are united in dealing with those challenges.

And that’s exactly… you know, for the first time in NATO's history, we are now addressing China. At our Leaders meeting in London, we had a statement and the NATO Leaders agreed that we need now to address, to better understand the consequences of the rise of China. There are some opportunities, but also many challenges.

And I met with the Chinese Foreign Minister yesterday and of course I stated clearly that NATO is an Alliance based on some core values: democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and of course we don’t always look eye-to-eye on all issues with China. But I believe in dialogue with China and I believe in the importance of talking to them on issues like the Middle East, Afghanistan, arms control and many other issues.

And then we also have, both in the European Union and NATO, developed guidelines, or basic requirements, for instance, investment in infrastructure, including telecommunication and 5G.

So, I'm not saying that we have solved it, that everything is coordinated, but NATO is the only platform that brings together North America and Europe, on a daily basis, to address a wide range of challenges, including the challenges posed by the rise of China. So, use NATO as that platform and then we will be able to develop more common responses.

TERI SCHULTZ: Mr Secretary General, I'd like to bring in a question from our audience, from Hannah Neumann from the European Parliament, and I know this is something dear to your heart. She asks, how will you ensure that any deal in Afghanistan will continue to promote women's rights? This is something that you care about so deeply. It's something that has been one of NATO's stated goals and I mean we can argue whether that’s going so well at the moment, but if you leave, who's going to be there to continue these programmes? Who's going to protect the people who are continuing the programmes?

JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, we have not decided to leave Afghanistan. What we have decided is to be ready to adjust our force level, if Taliban delivers and demonstrate the will and capability to reduce violence.

Second, I think that one of the great achievements we have helped to take place in Afghanistan over these years is to strengthen the role of women in Afghanistan. Many more girls/women have education and we have empowered women. They are much stronger now than they were in 2001.

Thirdly, at some stage, the Afghans have to be in charge fully of their own future. And this is the message from the Afghans. I met with President Ghani yesterday. Of course at some stage it has to be Afghan-owned peace process.

And therefore, we need to find this balance between supporting/helping them, but also at some stage enabling them to fully be in charge of their own future. We will do whatever we can to make sure that the gains we made, for instance when it comes to education, women's rights, are preserved. But at the same time we have to try to find a lasting, negotiated peaceful solution, and we will do that step-by-step, conditions- based, so we make sure that we do whatever we can to preserve the gains we have made.

BOJAN PANCEVSKI: Sec Gen, thank you very much for your time. I know you need to rush. That was wonderful. We are now expecting Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to come after you. Thank you again.


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ENGLISH - Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference 2020

15 Feb. 2020 | download mp3

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FRENCH - Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference 2020

15 Feb. 2020 | download mp3

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RUSSIAN - Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Munich Security Conference 2020

15 Feb. 2020 | download mp3
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