By Maryam Khormaei

A look at the slogan of the 2020 Munich Security Conference

February 17, 2020 - 12:10
“Westlessness” so short, so simple

The Munich Security Conference began on Friday with the opening speech by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and continued till Sunday.

Germany’s president has suggested that Russia and China, along with the United States, were stoking global instability, as he warned of the danger that the three were slipping into a new "great power" competition and nuclear arms race.

"'Great again' -- even at the expense of neighbors and partners," Steinmeier said, a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again."

But even before Steinmeier delivered his rhetoric against "three world powers", we could have realized the special atmosphere of the summit by considering the slogan the hosts of the meeting proposed.

But what is the slogan and what is its concept?

The slogan of the summit was “Westlessness” a combination of two terms “west” and “lessness”. It is a simple and short word, needless of any further explanation.

But this emerging word implies different meanings, including the West states’ anxiety due to empowerment of non-Western nations, which is largely influenced by their inadequacy in the face of global challenges.

In the past, the Munich Security Conference was often seen as a gathering of Western states, and even when they tried to make it international by involving eastern countries, their goal was to primarily meet the interest of the West. But now, given what happened at the international meeting, it can be concluded that the West has faced serious trouble, to the point that some experts have described the current situation as an “elegy for the West”.

The notion has formed last year when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave way different answers to similar questions about the future of Iran’s nuclear deal, Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines, NATO costs, and the transatlantic trade balance.

Merkel and Pence's concurrent statements gave the impression that the small but crowded room where the news conference was held belonged to two completely different worlds. In other words, the audience left the room knowing that from now on, there would be no common understanding of what the West offers.

Far-reaching power shifts in the world and rapid technological change contribute to a sense of anxiety and restlessness. The world is becoming less Western. But more importantly, the West itself may become less Western, too. This is what we call “Westlessness”.

For example, in the wake of Western disunity, the first joint Iranian, Russian and Chinese naval drill in the Indian Ocean and Oman Sea was carried out, which itself indicates the possibility of emerging coalitions.

While Western coalitions are no longer interested in directly engaging in many global developments, Russia has increased its role in Syria, Libya, and Africa. At the same time, Turkey has pursued a major strategy and is trying to turn into a global actor from a regional one. Activities in the Mediterranean region, Africa, Syria, and Iraq, collaborating with NATO, Russia, and Iran, trying to expand relations with Pakistan and Malaysia, as well as establishing ties with Qatar, communicating with Hamas, and finally increasing media and the Red Crescent activities all together reveal Turkey's ambitions in the international arena.

The U.S., while affirming this disunity, looks at it from its own point of view that will certainly meet the national interests stated by Trump. The U.S. president had already claimed earlier on July 6, 2017, “We can have the largest economies and the most lethal weapons anywhere on Earth, but if we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive”.

But a newer version of Trump's thoughts can be seen in the remarks by Pence at the 2019 Munich Security Conference, saying, “We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East”.

Does Pence’s remarks suggest that some Western allies of the U.S. behave like Eastern adversaries and can no longer be regarded as friends?

Therefore, the dangerous development of NATO, the executive arm of the West, must be considered not only as a reaction to emerging powers but as a response to the instability of the West's collective identity.

Leave a Comment

3 + 1 =