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4 things to know about the Munich Security Conference

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris attend the their bilateral meeting at the Munich Security Conference

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris attend the their bilateral meeting at the Munich Security Conference

Michael Probst/Pool via REUTERS

Come clean – when you first heard about the Munich Security Conference, you had to google it, right? That’s alright, it’s not the most widely watched TV event in the world, but it is something of a Super Bowl for global leaders and security folks. Here’s why MSC matters.

1. What is the Munich Security Conference?

It’s an annual meeting of major heads of state, military leaders, intelligence chiefs, and top diplomats from around the world, who gather to air grievances and discuss security policy. It began in 1963, with the Cold War in full swing, when German leaders gathered with NATO allies for a “trans-Atlantic family meeting.”

This year’s edition starts Friday and runs through the weekend in Germany’s third-largest city.

2. Why does it matter?

There are few other forums where so many political movers and shakers are together in one small space. All of the attendees stay in the same small Bavarian hotel, which encourages debate and discussion.

And it gets heated. In 2007, Vladimir Putin famously blasted the US for “hyper-use of force in international affairs.” In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a scrap of metal that he said was part of an Iranian drone that his country had shot down. Iran called the display a “cartoonish circus.”

3. Who’s going?

Some of this year’s most prominent attendees will include US Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as well as leaders from Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon.

Neither Russia nor Iran were invited to the party, even though recent intelligence has suggested that both nations are making advancements in nuclear weapons. Seems like Russia potentially putting a nuclear weapon in space could be worth a face-to-face discussion?

4. What to expect

The conference takes place as multiple wars rage globally and as the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looms.

Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to make an appearance. Two years ago, he flew to the conference to plead for help just days before Russia sent its tanks into Ukraine. At the time, support for Ukraine was strong. Two years later, with the war largely stalemated, Western powers are less enthusiastic about backing Kyiv, even as 92% of Ukrainians say their goal is still to expel Russian troops from all of Ukraine.

But the reality on the ground is stark for the Baltics. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas – who was just placed on Moscow’s wanted list – continues to sound alarm bells on Ukraine’s behalf while urging NATO to also arm its Baltic neighbors.

The war in Gaza is expected to be a big topic, with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh both planning to attend.

Finally, NATO and European defense are on the docket. The conference coincides with the beginning of Operation Steadfast Defender, the largest military exercise in Europe since the Cold War, and will test whether NATO could stave off a hypothetical Russian invasion.

Feeling ready for all the action at MSC now? Ian Bremmer and GZERO will be hosting Protecting Elections in the Age of AI in Munich this Saturday. You can watch the RSVP to the livestream here.


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