The Munich Security Conference (MSC) was founded in 1963 as «Internationale Wehrkunde-Begegnung». Since that time it has become the major global forum for the discussion of security policy. Each February, it brings together more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the world to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.
This year on the February 13th, the Prime Minister of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, made a speech at the panel discussion of the Conference to offer «Russia’s assessment of the current European security situation and possible solutions to our common problems, which have been aggravated by the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West».
«…we need to launch an intensive dialogue on the future architecture of Euro-Atlantic security, global stability and regional threats more than ever before. I consider it unacceptable that this dialogue has almost ceased in many spheres. The problem of miscommunication has been widely recognized both in Western Europe and in Russia. The mechanisms that allowed us to promptly settle mutual concerns have been cut off. Moreover, we’ve lost our grasp of the culture of mutual arms control, which we used for a long time as the basis for strengthening mutual trust,» Russian premier said. «Speaking bluntly, we are rapidly rolling into a period of a new cold war. Russia has been presented as well-nigh the biggest threat to NATO, or to Europe, America and other countries (and Mr Stoltenberg has just demonstrated that). They show frightening films about Russians starting a nuclear war. I am sometimes confused: is this 2016 or 1962? … We see that economic, social and military challenges have become mutually complementary. But we continue to act randomly, inconsistently, and in many cases exclusively in our own national interests. Or a scapegoat is appointed in an arbitrary manner».
In his speech, Dmitry Medvedev offered five theses on security:
«First, the economy.
Political expediency is taking priority over simple and clear economic reason. The code of conduct is revised ad hoc to suit a specific problem or task or is bluntly ignored. I’ll just point out how the International Monetary Fund adjusted its fundamental rules on lending to countries with overdue sovereign debt when the issue concerned Ukraine’s sovereign debt to Russia.
Talks on creating economic mega-blocs could result in the erosion of the system of global economic rules.
Even a minor economic shift in one country now hits whole markets and countries almost immediately. And global regulation mechanisms cannot effectively balance national interests.
The energy market remains extremely unstable. Its volatility has affected both importers and exporters.
We regret that the practice of unilateral economic pressure in the form of sanctions is gaining momentum. Decisions are taken arbitrarily and at times in violation of international law. This is undermining the operating foundations of international economic organizations, including the World Trade Organization.
It is vitally important that we join forces to strengthen a new global system that can combine the principles of effectiveness and fairness, market openness and social protection.
Second, the crisis of the global economic development model is creating conditions for a variety of conflicts, including regional conflicts.
European politicians thought that the creation of the so-called belt of friendly countries on the outer border of the EU would reliably guarantee security. What you have is not a belt of friendly countries, but an exclusion zone with local conflicts and economic trouble.
The result is that these regions have become a common headache for all of us.
The Normandy format has helped us launch negotiations on Ukraine. We believe that there are no better instruments for a peaceful settlement than the Minsk Agreements.
It is true that all sides must comply with the Minsk Agreements. But implementation primarily depends on Kiev. Why them? Not because we are trying to shift responsibility, but because it’s their time.
What is Russia’s biggest concern?
First and most important, a comprehensive ceasefire is not being observed in southeastern Ukraine.
Second, amendments to the Ukrainian Constitution have not been approved to this day, although this should have been done by the end of 2015. And the law on a special status for Donbass has not been implemented.
Third, Kiev continues to insist that local elections be based on a new Ukrainian law. Furthermore, Kiev has not implemented its commitment on a broad amnesty… Without being amnestied, these people will be unable to participate in elections, which will make any election results questionable.
…the Minsk Agreements must be implemented in full and this is Russia’s stance on the issue.
Of course, the humanitarian situation is extremely alarming. The economy of southeastern Ukraine is deteriorating… Tens of thousands of people are living on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.
Oddly, Russia seems to be more concerned about this than Ukraine… We have been sending and will have to continue sending humanitarian convoys to southeastern Ukraine.
I must say that Russia has shown and will continue to show reasonable flexibility in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements where this doesn’t contradict their essence. But … we cannot implement the political and legal obligations of the Kiev government. But unfortunately, it appears that they don’t have the will or a desire to do it…
As for Syria, … there is no alternative to an interethnic and interreligious dialogue. We must preserve Syria as a union state and prevent its dissolution for denominational reasons… The work of the International Syria Support Group gives us a certain hope. They gathered here the day before yesterday and coordinated a list of practical measures aimed at implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians and outlining the conditions for a ceasefire, except for terrorist groups, of course. The implementation of these measures is to be led by Russia and the United States. …the daily work of the Russian and American militaries is the key here.
Of course, there should be no preliminary conditions to start the talks on the settlement between the Syrian government and opposition, and there is no need to impend anyone with a land military operation.
Third, we sincerely believe that if we fail to normalize the situation in Syria and other conflict areas, terrorism will become a new form of war that will spread around the world. It will not be just a new form of war but a method of settling ethnic and religious conflict, and a form of quasi-state governance. Imagine a group of countries that are governed by terrorists through terrorism. Is this the 21st century?
It is common knowledge that terrorism is not a problem within individual countries. Terrorism is civilization’s problem. It’s either us or them, and it’s time for everyone to realize this. There are no nuances or undertones, no justifications for terrorist actions, no dividing terrorists into ours or theirs, into moderate or extremist.
The destruction of the Russian plane over Sinai, the terrorist attacks in Paris, London, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, Iraq, Mali, Yemen and other countries, the grisly executions of hostages, thousands of victims, and endless other threats are evidence that international terrorism defies state borders. Terrorists and extremists are trying to spread their influence not only throughout the Middle East and North Africa but also to the whole of Central Asia. Unfortunately, they have so far been successful, mostly because we are unable to set our differences aside and to really join forces against them. Even cooperation at the security services level has been curtailed. Daesh should be grateful to my colleagues, the leaders of the Western countries who have suspended this cooperation.
…despite our differences, the «anti-terrorist formula» will not be effective without Russia.
Fourth, regional conflicts and terrorism are closely related to the unprecedentedly large issue of uncontrolled migration. It has affected not only Western Europe but also Russia. Over a million Ukrainian refugees have entered Russia over the past 18 months.
Unsuccessful attempts to spread Western models of democracy to a social environment that is not suited for this have resulted in the demise of entire states and have turned huge territories into zones of hostility.
The ongoing migration crisis is rapidly acquiring the features of a humanitarian catastrophe, at least in some parts of Europe. Social problems are growing too, along with mutual intolerance and xenophobia. …hundreds and thousands of extremists enter Europe under the guise of being refugees. Other migrants are people of an absolutely different culture who only want to receive monetary benefits without doing anything to earn them. This poses a very real danger to the common economic space. The next targets will be the cultural space and even the European identity. We watch with regret how invaluable mechanisms, which Russia also needs, are being destroyed. I am referring to the actual collapse of the Schengen zone.
For our part, we are willing to do our best to help address the migration issue, including by contributing to efforts to normalize the situation in the conflict regions from which the majority of refugees come, Syria among them.
And fifth… Opinions on the prospects for cooperation with Russia differ. Opinions also differ in Russia. But can we unite in order to stand up against the challenges..? Yes, I am confident that we can. Yesterday we witnessed a perfect example in the area of religion. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope of the Catholic Church Francis met in Cuba following hundreds of years when the two churches did not communicate. Of course, restoring trust is a challenging task. It’s difficult to say how long it would take. But it is necessary to launch this process. And this must be done without any preliminary conditions.
We often differ in our assessments of the events that took place over the past two years. However, I want to emphasize that they don’t differ as much as they did 40 years ago when we signed the Final Helsinki Act and when Europe was literally divided by The Wall. When old phobias prevailed, we were deadlocked. When we managed to join forces, we succeeded. There is much evidence to support this. We managed to agree on the reduction of strategic offensive weapons, which was a breakthrough achievement. We have worked out a compromise solution regarding Iran’s nuclear program. We have convinced all sides in the Syrian conflict to sit down at the negotiating table in Geneva. We have coordinated actions against pirates. And the Climate Change Conference was held in Paris last year. We should replicate these positive outcomes»/
Dmitry Medvedev concluded:
«Ladies and gentlemen,
The current architecture of European security, which was built on the ruins of World War II, allowed us to avoid global conflicts for more than 70 years. …this architecture was built on principles that were clear to everyone at that time, primarily the undeniable value of human life. We paid a high price for these values. But our shared tragedy forced us to rise above our political and ideological differences in the name of peace… do we need one more, third global tragedy to understand that what we need is cooperation rather than confrontation?
I’d like to quote from John F. Kennedy, who used very simple but the most appropriate words, «Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.» In the early 1960s the world stood at the door of a nuclear apocalypse, but the two rivalling powers found the courage to admit that no political confrontation was worth the human lives.
I believe that we have become wiser and more experienced and more responsible. And we are not divided by ideological phantoms and stereotypes. I believe that the challenges we are facing today will not lead to conflict but rather will encourage us to come together in a fair and equal union that will allow us to maintain peace for another 70 years, at least.