09.06.2021 – 17:59
The time of publication is well chosen. US President Joe Biden visits Europe on his first trip abroad. He first attends the G7 summit in England, then the NATO summit in Brussels, where the top leaders of the military alliance meet together, before Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet in Geneva. Against the background of this golden level diplomacy, the Munich Security Conference publishes the Security Report. “Between two states – competition and cooperation” a 160-page report. From the title the main dilemma is understood: Western democracies are being challenged by China. At the same time both parties need each other. Not only as economic partners, but also to overcome major global challenges. The Corona pandemic is just one concrete example, but also climate change and a threatening nuclear arms race – all calls for cooperation. How ambivalent the relationship with China is is shown in the official position of the EU, when China is mentioned as both a strategic partner and a competitor.
China as a challenge
The communists operating as capitalists succeeded where the Soviet Union failed: combining authoritarian rule with economic success and increasing the welfare of the people. That is why in Joe Biden’s speeches, the defensive phrase is heard: “We must show that democracies in this changed world can achieve something for our people.”
It is clear that a country with 1.4 billion inhabitants that for four decades in a row grows economically in double digits, at some point this economic power will translate into political influence, and finally into military power. Beijing has set itself ambitious goals: By the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic, in 2049 China will be a strong modern, socialist power, it wants to set the rules and shape, as well as be at the highest level high technological, economic and cultural. So a superpower.
The West comes together
The Munich Security Report states that liberal democracies, meanwhile, are willing to stand firm against illiberal competition. Tobias Bunde, research director of the Munich Security Conference, one of the lead authors of the study, quotes Joe Biden before the report was published. “We are at a turning point,” he said. And the democracies of the world must come together. ” And this seems to be happening. Bunde identifies a “consensus reached by transatlantic heads of state and government that cooperation between the world’s most important democracies needs to be strengthened to overcome our common challenges.”
Among these challenges, according to researcher Tobias Bunde, is the increasing questioning of the ideological hegemony of the West in international institutions. “Even a few years ago we were talking about concepts like ‘responsibility to protect’ and the ultimate triumph of human rights in the Arab countries themselves,” says Bunde. “Today China is smoothly mobilizing some countries that support China’s policy in Xinjiang or Hong Kong.”
Indo-Pacific as a hotbed
The Indo-Pacific area occupies a central place in the report. Not only because this region brings 60% of global economic volume and two thirds of economic growth. For the researcher and author of the report, Sophie Eisentraut, it is clear: “We focus on the peaceful Indian region, because in the meantime many are of the opinion that this is not just a region of stability, but also a region in which the form of the international order will be established in the coming decades. ”
This lesson is also reflected in concrete politics. In early June, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell returned from a visit to Indonesia, where he met with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabovo Subianto. Borell expressed the EU’s readiness to expand cooperation with ASEAN, an international alliance of South Asian countries based in Jakarta, especially in terms of maritime security. Borrell stressed in Jakarta that the EU has an interest in keeping the regional order open and based on rules, and that the EU can make an important contribution here. “If we want to be global actors, we must also be perceived as political and security actors in the region, not just as partners in development cooperation, trade or investment,” Josep Borrell later wrote on his blog.
The Security Council requested that in addition to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ongoing inspections in Europe, that it monitor Europe’s compliance with “the steps required by the IAEA Board”.
Berlin is taking cautious steps in this direction. In late May, German Defense Minister Anngret Kramp-Karrenbauer traveled to South Korea to prepare for the Bundeswehr mission, Fregatte Bayern, in the Pacific. Kramp-Karrenbauer also stayed in Guam, the island that holds one of the most important US bases in the Pacific region, and that would be a potential target of attack in a China-US war case. As early as April, she spoke to German media about sending the Bundeswehr frigate to the Pacific. Germany is not just talking about the freedom of sea routes, which are threatened by China. Germany is ready to do something about it.
Unity is still an open topic
The new Security Report urges Europe and North America to include more close partners in their positions. Only if liberal-democratic cooperation is perceived as broader, can it resist competition with autocratic systems, the study authors write. But first the Europeans must cooperate once and for all, writes the head of the Security Conference in Munich, Wolfgang Ischinger. “Developing a foreign security policy not only towards China and Russia, but, of course, also towards our transatlantic partners is, in my opinion, a matter of time absolutely necessary for the future. ”
This is even more difficult when the report envisages difficult bridges between the poles of cooperation and competition but also the risk of confrontation. “In order to meet the challenges of humanity, the transatlantic partners must find the right balance between these states with close states in their positions: In order to reduce global risks, they must also cooperate with autocracies, and where democratic principles are established. at risk should not be afraid of competition with illiberal competition. ”/ dw