Post Munich Security Conference: Discussion at the Hertie School

Event hosted by: Hertie School

Event location: Hertie School

Event date: February 17, 2020

The restlessness of the West was a common theme held in the Post Munich Security Conference Event at the Hertie School of Governance. Various speakers discussed multiple topics concerning the western world ranging from China’s control in communication networks to Climate change while also taking questions from the audience. While questions were answered frequently with recaps of what had transpired within the Security conference, the speakers often gave their own thoughts on the subjects not discussed in Munich. Whether it was giving their perspectives on the issue or offering a solution, the diversity of the speakers’ ideas allowed the audience to gain a broader perspective on the subjects that were tackled.

Relations with the United States were thoroughly discussed, especially regarding growing tensions between the European Union and that what might be good for the United States might not be the best for Europe. Furthermore, there was a notion that the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit relations with the EU created another layer of division within the West and a new set of interests for Europe to consider regarding international security goals.

One of the most important subjects raised in this event was what even constituted the West in the first place. The speakers noted for all the talk about the West winning or declining; there was little consensus as to what the West was made of. Ideas of it being based on geography, a set of values, or even race were discussed, although thankfully no one appeared to suggest it was based on the latter. Regardless, it is evident that the European Union has to consider multiple perspectives in its challenges with International Security, as the divisions within the EU must be overcome before newer divisions such as with the USA and UK arise.

 

Munich Young Security Conference

Event hosted by:  Friedrich Naumann Foundation

Event location: University of Munich

Event date: February 15-16, 2020

On February 15-16, the Young Security Conference was held by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation parallel to the Munich Security Conference. The event gave multiple young students the ability to understand current challenges and topics drive security politics and address possible approaches and solutions. Speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and organizations and thus created a mutually beneficial environment and lively discussion for the attendees.

Topics addressed included, among others the issues of refugees, European integration and, the current developments concerning China. The discussion among panelists was especially lively around the highly salient issues of defense spending and the relationship with the Anglo countries post-Trump and Brexit.

A unique and engaging method used during the event was when the audience was divided into two groups. We, the audience, could discuss with each other our opinion on two topics, European Centralism vs. Autonomy and the creation of European Values that are worth sacrificing for. The discussion on European Centralism was especially livid. The majority, if not all, of the audience, was pro-integration. Potential drawbacks were also mentioned as European countries are not a monolith and that the security concerns of one nation are not inherently tied to another. This ought not to be forgotten as this would confound the sovereignty of individual member states.

European Centralism tied into the second discussion on the creation of European values that are worth sacrificing for. I had brought up multiple times that security policies can lead to people being sent to fight and die depending on the issue, and that remembering the human element to international security can put finding solutions into a new light. What European values even were worth fighting and dying for were discussed intensely, although a common theme was democracy and support for human rights. Some of us claimed we would gladly fight and sacrifice ourselves for another nation with shared values, but only if we were confident that said country would do the same for theirs, stressing the need for multilateralism even if it has to be forged from the ground up .The majority of the audience proclaimed they would be willing to die in a defensive war for freedom and democracy. Furthermore, nearly nobody would fight an offensive war for these values as offensive actions were seen as contradictory to European ideals of cooperation and democracy. In addition, no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests. Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values. no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests.Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values. no one sans two of us would fight and sacrifice ourselves for the European Union’s economic interests. Indeed, the sentiment was that even even the nicest ideas might apparently not be worth sacrificing lives for, or that aggression at least should be avoided in accordance with European values.

Regarding Europe, a topic brought up in these discussions was the fact that the conference had dealt entirely with a pro-European Union perspective. Nations like Russia and China were framed in antagonistic terms, and the perspectives of the EU’s allies, such as the United States, were framed only regarding how the EU would be affected by them. The few Russian students in the conference, for instance, noted that it felt odd to be hearing about a centralized European army for the sake of countering Russia as if they were attending a conference held by enemy generals. These moments stressed the need to look at the human element of international security, as seeing adversaries as a faceless mass helps us lose track of realistic solutions and the fact that we can commit unnecessary harm towards innocent people for the sake of a goal.

A potential insufficiency of the discussion is that it had the tendency to engage in a repetitive debate on specific topics. While topics like refugees, the European Integration, and China are always salient, an approach entailing different perspectives would have been even more valuable.

Overall, the event helped inform a young audience on the modern dilemmas we face in international security today, as well as the complex difficulties in finding solutions to these problems.

 

Fifth Generation Air Power in the Transatlantic Battlespace

Event hosted by : Atlantic Council

Event location : Canadian Embassy in Berlin

Event date : October 7, 2019.

Great power competition is increasingly returning to the forefront, and this was reflected in the seminar hosted by the Atlantic Council located in the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. The event deciphered the technological developments and innovations regarding air force strategies by the United States and NATO as a whole.

While the importance of land and sea units in the military is always crucial for a successful operation, it is true that airpower has dominated since the advent of the second world war. Technologies in combatting incoming missiles, space technology, and drone / cyber warfare have become the forte of modern air forces, giving them an edge in current and future forms of conflict.

I had even asked how land and sea forces would benefit from these developments, with the response that dominating the skies was generally the most effective way of protecting all other facets of a military.

The event posited that the focus on counter-terrorism that dominated the last two decades may be phased out or exist alongside a Neo Cold War approach to international security where great powers seek out advanced innovations to outbid each other. While they may not likely engage in direct warfare, the uncertainty of NATO’s relationship with Russia and China was brought up multiple times, hinting towards the necessity of a contingency plan should the impossible occur. Not to mention, even unconventional non-state actors have developed their own ways to counter modern air forces, forcing the need to innovate anyway.

Speakers of note included General Frank Gorenc, USAF (Ret.), Former commander, United States Air Forces Europe and Africa, and former commander of NATO Allied Air Command. The recounting of his experiences while in command gave a bigger picture of how International Security was evolving, especially with how he had compared the need to innovate in the modern day with the arms races of the 1980s when he had his first postings. In essence, these innovations in airpower make it evident NATO high command is anticipating a return to Cold War norms if we haven’t returned to these norms already.