Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is the theme of the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC) which began on Friday.
Over the course of the next few days, representatives from 96 countries are set to discuss key issues of defense.
‘No alternative to Ukrainian victory’ — Zelenskyy
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made the opening address by videolink and urged allies to speed up support for his country, warning that lives were hanging in the balance.
“We need to hurry up. We need speed — speed of our agreements, speed of our delivery… speed of decisions to limit Russian potential. There is no alternative to speed because it is the speed that the life depends on,” Zelenskyy told those gathered.
The Ukrainian president stressed that there was “no alternative to Ukrainian victory.”
Zelenskyy likened the battle against Russia’s invasion to the biblical fight between David and Goliath and said that while Ukraine had David’s courage, it still needed the sling with which to defeat “the Russian Goliath.”
Scholz calls on allies to send tanks to Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the conference that Putin’s “revisionism” would not prevail and called on allies who were in a position to do so, to send battle tanks to Ukraine.
“Those who can send such battle tanks should really do so now,” Scholz said.
In January, Germany approved the export of Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine from its own stocks as well as from third-party allies.
The German chancellor said that his country would provide support with training, supplies and logistics.
In a sentiment shared by other speakers, Scholz was of the opinion that there war in Ukraine would not be over soon.
“I think it’s wise to prepare for a long war,” Scholz told the conference.
‘Not the time for dialogue’ — Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron took the podium after the German leader and said there needed to be readiness for “prolonged conflict” in Ukraine, while calling on EU members to invest substantially in defense spending.
“We absolutely need to intensify our support and our effort to the resistance of the Ukrainian people and its army and help
them to launch a counter-offensive which alone can allow credible negotiations, determined by Ukraine, its authorities
and its people”, Macron said
The French president also said that it was not the time to attempt dialogue with Russia as it ramped up hostilities in the east of Ukraine.
“It is not the time for dialogue because we have a Russia which has chosen war, which has chosen to intensify the war, and which has chosen to go as far as committing war crimes and to attacking civilian infrastructures,” Macron said.
The conference is being chaired for the first time this year by Christoph Heusgen — former foreign policy advisor to ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and successor of Wolfgang Ischinger who served as chair for 15 years.
Heusgen began proceedings by saying the 2022 conference had closed with the hope that Russian President Vladimir Putin “would be impressed by the unity the international community demonstrated … We all know what happened,” Huesgen said.
“Vladimir Putin committed a breach of civilization,” the MSC chair said, adding that it was the first time since World War II, that a country in Europe “denied the right of existence of another country and started an all out war.”
First conference for Pistorius as German defense minister
Ahead of the conference, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius reaffirmed the need to boost military funding by going beyond the target of 2% of gross domestic product, while highlighting the importance of the platform. The MSC “has always been a place of understanding and dialogue,” he said.
“What is new is that all this is taking place while a war is being waged on European soil by Russia against Ukraine,” Pistorius added.
It will be Pistorius’ first MSC in office, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s last as he plans to step down from his post in October.
Who is attending?
Participants at the conference include 40 heads of state and government and nearly 100 ministers.
Russia will again be a notable absence, with its leadership for the first time in two decades not being invited.
Other high-profile speakers expected on Friday include China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi and US Vice President Kamala Harris.