The three-day Munich Security Conference, one of the largest international security forums, ended on Sunday. The jubilee 55th conference brought together a record number of participants. There were quite a lot of heads of state and government, ministers and leading global experts in the security sphere among the conference's guests. Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov headed the Russian delegation.
The main topics of the conference were Europe's self-determination and relations with the United States of America within the framework of Trans-Atlantic cooperation. It is not accidental that speeches of American Vice President Michael Pence and German Chancellor Angela Merkel drew attention of the forum's participants. Many international observers believe that this Munich Security Conference exposed an ever-growing rift between the USA and Germany. And it is the confrontation between Washington and Berlin that is worth be told about in detail.
Michael Pence urged NATO countries to spend more on defense. He thinks that not all NATO states make enough effort to this end and don't give the fixed sum of 2% of GDP to the alliance's "purse." Observers view this statement by the White House top official as direct criticism of primarily Germany's policy. It is expected that Berlin will be spending 1.5% of GDP for defense by 2024, to Washington's dissatisfaction.
The vice president of the USA in his speech called on EU members to support American sanctions against Iran. Pence again said that Washington was resolutely against the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline on the bottom of the Baltic Sea, which would deliver significant amount of Russian gas to Germany. He called on the European Union to follow the American example and reject the project.
Angela Merkel's call to start cooperating with Russia made Pence extremely dissatisfied. The German chancellor thinks that Europe is not interested in the complete termination of dialogue with Russia. In particular, Merkel believes allegations that Russia isn't a secure energy supplier are groundless. Moreover, she spoke in favor of protecting Russian-German trade relations.
The chancellor didn't rule out during the discussion that Russia cannot be excluded from political process. Pence said in turn that Washington was still trying to call Russia to account for Crimea's "annexation" and attempts to destabilize the West through cyberattacks and disinformation. "From the geostrategic viewpoint, Europe cannot be interested in breaking the relationship with Russia," Merkel said in reply to Pence's calls.
In the absence of President of Russia Vladimir Putin, whose 2007 speech is still well remembered, in Munich, Merkel took if not pro-Russian then at least pragmatic position and clearly described fault lines between the USA and EU. These are trade with America, nuclear deal with Iran and Nord Stream 2. And this is not about sympathizing Russia but about rigid interests of European businesses. Trump is twisting arms of his European allies, making no bones about them and using politics as a tool of solving economic disputes. And Europeans do not want to put up with this. And the German chancellor again told Washington about it.
As we can see, Europe disagrees with the diktat of the United States of America that wants to impose its vision of the world, including of Russia, on the Old World. Of course, Pence's "harsh" speech in Munich could not have failed to draw Moscow's attention. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergei Ryabkov thinks that the United States of America is seeking unrivaled leadership in many spheres, and Pence's speech proves that Washington will continue to promote its own interests despite costs and disastrous consequences.
German media showed indignation over Pence's speech. They primarily paid attention to differences in positions of Merkel and Pence on many issues, noting that both politicians spoke differently about the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Iran, and defense expenditures. "The conference arouses disagreements," Germany's ZDF TV channel said in an article. "The audience presented applause to Merkel. And silence after Pence gave regards from Trump at the award ceremony in the Bavarian parliament was a strong contrast to it," the article said.
The Speigel echoed ZDF. "Maybe there was applause. Maybe not long, but friendly so that to show the speaker at the rostrum that he is here. That he is an ally and partner. But Europeans cannot applause. How can they applause a man lauding Trump?" the Spiegel wrote. According to the article, the speaker used the rostrum to "give instructions to Europeans." Pence "described in his speech a brave parallel world," which "has little in common with the reality," the article said.
American politicians and media also criticized Michael Pence's speech in Munich.
The New York Times noted that this speech of the American vice president exposed an explicit rift between Donald Trump and Europe. And this rift "became open, angry and concrete," it said. The Washington Post, stressed that "many Europeans suspect that the Trump administration has little regard for the close alliances with Britain, France and Germany that have shaped U.S. foreign policy since World War II, preferring the autocratic ethnonationalism that has emerged in the nations of Central Europe. A bumbling series of appearances across the continent last week by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Pence will surely reinforce those conclusions."
Probably, relations between the United States of America and Europe will change for the better after the administration changes in Washington. At least, former Vice President of the USA Joe Biden voiced this idea. Speaking at the Munich conference, he said that traditionally close relations between America and Europe will renew after Donald Trump. "We must do that again," Biden promised in speech that received thunderous ovation.
We'll see if the forecast of the former vice president of the United States of American comes true…