The annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), which has entered its 60th year, opened on Friday, Feb. 16. Even though the focus of this year meeting has moved away Russia’s war in Ukraine to a much broader agenda on global polarization, Ukraine remains very much on the radar screen. 

This was visible during the opening day largely thanks to the message from Kamala Harris, the US Vice-Present and the running mate of President Joe Biden.

Despite the apparent spring blossoms visible on the streets of the Bavarian capital, the mood on the first day of the MSC reflected the increasingly unstable, insecure and divided global order characterized by the organizers’ as zero-sum thinking (the title of this years’ MSC report is “Lose-Lose?”).

The news on the reported death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, which emerged during the conference, added to the already gloomy picture. 

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In an emotional and very concise appeal on the MSC’s main stage, Navalny’s wife Yuliya threatened Putin and his cronies personally with paying the price for her husband’s death and for turning Russian into an authoritarian state. She also called on the international community to help Russia defeat Putin.

Yulia Navalnaya, wife of late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, attends the Munich Security Conference (MSC), on the day it was announced that Alexei Navalny died at the prison service of the Yamalo-Nenets region where he had been serving his sentence, in Munich, southern Germany on February 16, 2024. THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

‘Shipments Start in the Next Few Hours’ – US Rushes Military Aid to Ukraine
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‘Shipments Start in the Next Few Hours’ – US Rushes Military Aid to Ukraine

Immediately after President Biden’s announcement, the Pentagon revealed a $1 billion aid package for Kyiv, utilizing the fresh funding, on its way to Ukraine.

 

Her appeal fell somewhat flat among the many Ukrainians in the audience who recognize the tremendous support for the Russian dictator amongst his own population and who were skeptical about Navalny’s position regarding Ukraine.       

Despite the fact that Ukraine’s fight for survival was not as prominent on the agenda, this issue surfaced in numerous conversations and discussion on the main stage.

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Harris appealed for continued military assistance to Ukraine, without any mention of the current gridlock in Washington. “President Joe Biden and I stand with Ukraine. We will work to secure critical weapons and resources that Ukraine needs. The failure to do so would be a gift to Putin,” said Harris. 

Her address was filled with references to numerous achievements of the Biden Administration over the last four years in power - from substantial investments in domestic infrastructure to bringing the semiconductor industry back to the US to generate employment for ordinary Americans.

This clear emphasis placed on the fulfilled promises of the Biden Administration emphasized that the election year in the US is in full swing and every opportunity to capture the attention and imagination of the American electorate counts.

Harris’ speech also had strong notes of reassurance aimed at America’s NATO partners, especially in Europe. “NATO is central to our approach to global security. Our sacred commitment to the organization remains clear. It’s the greatest military alliance the world has ever known,” she stated.

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This remark was much expected following a very different message delivered by the presidential candidate Donald Trump, who essentially encouraged Russia to attack those NATO countries that have not been fulfilling their financial commitments of 2% of GDP contributions to the Alliance, insinuating that as president he would permit this.

While Harris also highlighted the need for continued American leadership “in these unsettled times,” it was not clear whether she managed to convince America’s partners in Europe who remain jittery about the outcome of the US elections later this year.

Tomorrow brings another dynamic day at the MSC, with over 60 heads of state attending the event, including President Volodymyr Zelensky and Germany’s Chancellor Scholz. Today they signed a bilateral security deal in Berlin hailed as “historic” by the German leader.

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Comments (2)

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Imokru2
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Kamala Harris a “star”?
Her biggest accomplishment so far has been that person between the much older WillyBrown and the mattress.

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Joseph Swanson
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Alexey Navalny was another communist playing pretend to be "russian opposition."
In an interview with Echo of moscow radio station in October 2014, Navalny admitted that the Crimean peninsula had been seized through “outrageous violations of all international norms”, and YET asserted that it would “remain part of russia” and would “never become part of Ukraine in the foreseeable future”.
Under a democratically elected government, “the wonderful russia of the future”, as Navalny liked to call post-putlin russia, would still keep Crimea despite the fact that the annexation was illegal. That is because their policies would have to reflect the will of the russian people and the overwhelming majority of russians wanted Crimea to be within russian borders.

Boris Nadezhdin is no better. He portrays himself as "anti war" but when it comes to Ukraine, he believes russia should be allowed to hold onto the territories currently under russian occupation.

As Volodymyr Vynnychenko, one of the central figures of the Ukrainian national liberation movement in 1917-1919, insightfully noted a century ago, “Russian democracy ends where the Ukrainian question begins”.

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