Backgrounder: Munich Security
Special: The 45th annual Munich Security Conference
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the
Munich Conference on Security Policy gives a speech in Munich February 6,
2009. World leaders including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Afghan
President Hamid Karzai are due to participate.(Xinhua/Reuters
MUNICH, Germany, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The 45th annual
Munich Security Conference (MSC) begins Friday and will discuss a variety of
thorny global and regional issues, including the Middle East, Afghanistan,
Iran's nuclear ambitions and Russia's ties with the West.
During the meeting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden,
who is making his first trip abroad since taking office, is expected to deliver
messages to the world concerning America's foreign and security policies.
According to reports from the United States, Biden
will seek to break with "the unilateralist tilt" of the Bush administration by
emphasizing cooperation and diplomacy with the rest of the world.
He also hoped that his trip will take a step toward
improving transatlantic ties severely strained by former U.S. President George
W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 as well as his policies on climate
change and confrontational approach to Russia.
Biden was also expected to use the occasion to urge
America's European allies to send more troops to Afghanistan to better fight the
increasing insurgent violence and the Taliban remnants.
U.S. President Barack Obama has been asked to send as
many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which would nearly double the U.S.
force there now.
The annual Munich forum has become one of the most
important meetings, focusing on major thorny issues facing the world today. The
motto for this year's main plenary session is "NATO, Russia, Natural Gas and the
Middle East: The Future of European Security."
More than a dozen heads of state and government as
well as about 50 ministers, have announced their attendance at the conference.
Seventy official delegations from more than 50 countries will attend.
It remains interesting whether there will be any
contact between the Iranian and U.S. delegations although Parliament (Majlis)
Speaker Ali Larijani has announced his side would not hold talks with the
Americans in Munich.
Meanwhile, in a sign of improving ties, NATO
Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer planned to meet Russian First Deputy
Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov on Friday on the sidelines of the conference. It
would be the highest-level political contact between the two sides since the
NATO has suspended high-level political contacts with
Russia, including regular meetings of ambassadors, following the August
The conference will start Friday afternoon with
discussions under the theme of "Non-Proliferation, Arms Control and the Future
of Nuclear Weapons: Is a Zero Option Possible?" Introductory statements will be
delivered by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former U.S.
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)
between the United States and Russia expires at the end of 2009. Obama has
promised to restart discussions with Russia on START II, which was concluded in
1993 and would have reduced U.S. and Russian arsenals to 3,500 deployed
strategic warheads by 2007.
But the new treaty had never entered into force
largely due to disagreements over U.S. national missile defense efforts.
The plenary session Saturday morning will be devoted
to European security prospects amid the conflict in the Mideast, Russia's
strained ties with an enlarging NATO and energy security.
Saturday afternoon will be shared by two concurrent
panel discussions on the issues of Global Challenges and the Crisis of
International Order, and Regional Instabilities: Transcaucasus and the Balkans.
Sunday's agenda will feature the closing plenary with
the subject of the Future of the Alliance and the Mission in Afghanistan. Afghan
President Hamid Karzai will speak about the security situation in his country.
The MSC, formerly known as the Munich Conference on
Security Policy, was founded in 1962 by German publisher Ewald-Heinrich von