The Russian-Ukrainian war, the main agenda at the Munich Security Conference
President Volodymyr Zelensky prepared to deliver the opening address Friday at the International Conference on Security Policy, where Russia’s occupation of Ukraine was expected to be the main topic of discussion in the aftermath of a devastating war that has had far-reaching ramifications around the world.
About 40 heads of state and government, as well as politicians and security experts from nearly 100 countries, including the United States, Europe and China, are expected to attend the three-day Munich Security Conference in Germany. Zelenskyy participates via video link.
For the first time in two decades, the conference organizers did not invite Russian officials. Western countries have sought to isolate Russia diplomatically over the invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24, 2022.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the Russian war in Ukraine would overshadow the proceedings. Western officials and analysts say the conflict is approaching a critical point as it enters its second year next week.
Pistorius said the war was “not just a European conflict” but had implications far beyond the continent. Economies around the world faltered from the war’s impact on grain supplies, energy prices, and inflation.
US Vice President Kamala Harris is set to join the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom at the Munich conference.
At the same conference last year, held just days before Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, Harris shared US warnings that Russia was about to attack its neighbour, and said: “Not since the end of the Cold War has this forum been held under such Warnings. Harsh conditions.”
The vice president will explain what is at stake in the war and why it matters, the White House said in a speech scheduled for Saturday, to advance the case for maintaining US support for Ukraine for as long as possible.
Ukraine relies on Western weapons to thwart Putin’s ambition to secure control of large swathes of the country, in what has become a test of governments’ resolve amid mounting financial costs.
Zelensky portrays Ukraine as standing up for Western values of freedom and democracy against authoritarianism, and argues that his country needs support appropriately to fend off the greater power of Russia. Western countries stood by him, but at times were slow to accede to his requests.
Kiev hopes, after receiving Western pledges to provide tanks and more ammunition, to obtain combat aircraft, but some countries have refrained from sending them.
Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president of the EU Executive Committee, said the 27-nation EU had so far maintained unity on the issue.
“I think everyone can see how important it is for Ukraine to win this war,” Timmermans said. “This is important for Europe as well, because Putin is not only attacking Ukraine, but also us in the sense that he does not support our values.”
He said it was important to make clear that Europe would support Ukraine no matter how long the war dragged on. “Putin is having difficulties,” Timmermans said, adding that the Russian president will seek to apply heavy military pressure on Ukraine in the coming weeks and months.
Timmermans also hoped that China would put pressure on Russia to end the war.