Munich Security Conference: NATO secretary general defends trans-Atlantic ties

15/2/2020 14:45:00
     Munich Security Conference: NATO secretary general defends trans-Atlantic ties

Trans-Atlantic ties are taking center stage at day two of the Munich Security Conference. Mike Pompeo has rejected German criticism of the US retreat from the global stage and promised $1 billion for European energy.


The US has defended its leading role after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg touted US-EU relations in his address at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. 


"Any attempt to distance Europe from North America not only weakens the trans-Atlantic bond, but it also risks dividing Europe," he said. "I don't believe in Europe alone. I believe in Europe and America together."


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended against criticism that the US had retreated from the world stage.


"I'm happy to report that the death of the trans-Atlantic alliance is grossly exaggerated. The West is winning, and we're winning together," Pompeo said in a speech.


"We led 81 nations in the global fight to take out the ISIS caliphate," he said. "Is this an America that rejects the international community?"


Pompeo was responding in part to comments from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier who on Friday said the US rejected "even the idea of an international community" and was acting "at the expense of neighbours and partners."


Tensions with China


US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper criticized China for "seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor,"  referring to telecommunications firm Huawei.


"Over time we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea and rapidly modernize the armed forces," he said. 


He said China is increasingly trying to co-opt state and local officials in the US and around the world, and to influence other countries in the Indo-Pacific region.


"The smaller the country, the heavier the hand of Beijing," Esper said.


He also touched on fear of China's military development. "When it comes to their security gains, we should take the Chinese government at their word. They have said that by 2035, the military intends to complete its modernization, and by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the pre-eminent global military power."


US-Iran relations


Pompeo slammed Iran for "stifling young Iraqis and Lebanese who want nothing more than a clean and sovereign government."


"When so-called Iranian moderates play the victim, remember their assassination and terror campaigns against innocent Iranian civilians, and right here on European soil itself," he said. 


Afghanistan deal


Speaking on ongoing negotiations to facilitate a reduction in violence in Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said that peace must primarily be a result of efforts from within Afghanistan. 


"The only lasting solution to the crisis in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process," he said in response to questions from DW's Terri Schulz.


"We will only reduce our presence if we see the Taliban is really willing and able to deliver," he said. 




Qin Gang, China's vice minister of foreign affairs spoke confidently at the conference about his country's ability to contain the coronavirus epidemic. 


He predicted that it will be over shortly and only with "short term and temporary" effects on its economy. 


"When the epidemic is over, the subdued consumer demand will be released rapidly and the economy will rebound strongly," Qin added.


European investment 


French President Emmanuel Macron touted the need to invest more heavily in the European economy. "We need to act faster at the European level," he said. "How can we invest faster? We need European initiatives," Macron said, citing the growth of 5G and cloud computing. 


"China on the other hand invests enormous amounts of money. It's all public money that's invested. It's not necessarily clear what they're doing ... China is investing in its future and so is the United States. We are not fast enough."


"If China continues to rise and it continues to pursue policies aimed at developing its infrastructure, digital development, expansion and increasing its presence in the Atlantic and Pacific area, that will mean that the interest of the other major powers may be overtaken by China at some point, in economic terms. So we need to develop something to react to this development," Macron said.


He also encouraged investing further in Balkan countries, specifically Serbia, to include them in the European Union. Macron opened the door to EU accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, saying that if the results of an EU Commission report in March on the countries were positive, he would back opening negotiations for them to join the bloc. 


He also warned that the West is "weakening," in reference to Pompeo's comments on the trans-Atlantic trade agreement. "There's an American policy that started several years ago and not just under this administration that includes a certain kind of withdrawal, of a rethink of its relationship with Europe."


Pompeo also pledged $1 billion in aid to European countries for climate and energy development. 


Criticism of Russia


Macron criticized Russia for seeking to destabilize the west.


"Russia cannot keep blocking progress in the security council," said Macron, adding that more European coordination is needed. The strategy for Russia is not viable in a financial way. Russia has exploited our weakness and uncertainy in conflicts like Syria."


Macron also said the possibility of an alliance between China and Russia is quite low because China has "never really culturally entered into such an alliance," and China wants to be more autonomous.


"We need to build a security architeecture of mutual trust," he said.


China-Vatican progress


On the sidelines of the conference, Chinese and Vatican foreign ministers met for the first time on Friday. The talks between China's Wang Yi and Archbishop Paul Gallagher came amid improving relations between the two states with no diplomatic ties, following an agreement on the appointment of bishops in 2018.


The Vatican issued a statement saying that the talks were "cordial" and that contact between the two sides had seen "positive developments."




PUKmedia / AFP


Commemoration of 3 Kurdish activists shot in Paris

Thursday, Kurds saluted the seventh anniversary of the assassination of 3 Kurdish women activists in France.


The crime took place on January 9, 2013, targeting 3 female Kurdi...

»  3 Kurdish girls die in a fire in Norway
»  Kurdish teenager plays for several European football clubs

Quarantined citizen in Sulaymaniyah: services provided are impossible for major countries

One of the citizens inside a quarantine center in the city of Sulaymaniyah said that what the medical and administrative staff provide is not possible for major countries to provide, and that the q...

»  Susan Rice: U.S. has ‘sold out the Kurds’ with Syria move
»  INTERVIEW: Kurdish leader Ilham Ahmed on security in North and East Syria

‘Wash Our Hands? Some People Can’t Wash Their Kids for a Week.’

In northwestern Syria, where a million people who have fled the civil war are sheltering in muddy tent camps and abandoned buildings, the spread of the coronavirus could wreak untold disaster on a ...

»  Postponement of burial ceremonies for Kojo mass graves victims
»  Consultations begin to choose new Iraqi PM