The Munich Bubble:  A Report from the Collective West‘s (in)Security Conference

Photo: US Senator Lindsey O. Graham, a vocal spokesman for the military-industrial complex and ardent supporter of wars, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Iran, Syria and Ukraine, attends a Munich Security Conference

The annual security conference in the Bavarian capital has unintentionally become a symbol of the situation in the political West. It is a meeting of those who are of the same opinion. Other points of view can no longer be discussed. Denial of reality is the order of the day.

Speech bubbles

Berlin and Munich are the cities where the world of the political West still seems to be in order. On Friday, February 16, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodomyr Selensky signed a so-called bilateral security agreement in Berlin. In it, Germany intends to “provide Ukraine with unrestricted support for as long as necessary to help Ukraine defend itself and restore its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders”1.

What appears to be a strong signal is deceptive. Although the UK and, on the same evening, France had already concluded similar bilateral agreements with Ukraine, they do not commit them to anything. When Zelensky speaks of an “unprecedented document”, he is either unaware of this deception, which is unlikely, or he is putting on a good face. Because these bilateral agreements are nothing more than a consolation for being denied NATO membership.

Although the Ukrainians are supposed to die for the freedom of the West, for which they are also being provided with weapons and money, the NATO states themselves do not want to be dragged into a war with Russia by Ukraine. Admission to the Western alliance, which Selensky probably sees as the only chance of defeating Russia, would force NATO to stand by Ukraine. They would immediately find themselves in a state of war with Russia, which they shy away from like the devil shies away from holy water, especially their big brother on the other side of the Atlantic.

So what else should Zelensky do but take what individual NATO states are prepared to give him – bilateral agreements. Better than nothing. And in order not to show his disappointment too openly, he speaks of an “unprecedented document”. Selenskyj also knows that the agreement is only a declaration of intent and therefore not legally binding. It does not commit the Germans to anything, but gives the public the impression of unity.

But Zelensky has no other choice. The situation in Ukraine is becoming increasingly difficult. After the failed offensive, the replacement of General Salushny and the loss of Avdeyevka, which was not yet certain at the time but was foreseeable, the Ukrainian president is no longer in a position to make big demands. There is no more money coming from the USA, and he can’t take it out on the Europeans as well.

Even if the agreement promises Ukraine unlimited support, this only applies “as long as necessary”. What is necessary, however, is decided by the German and other contractual partners, not the Ukrainian president. He is already not getting what he believes is necessary: German cruise missiles, no long-range American missiles that could reach the Russian heartland, and certainly no nuclear weapons.

Moreover, both parties to the agreement should not be so unworldly as to be unaware of the seriousness of the situation in Ukraine if they are telling the public something different from what they have in mind. This is because the wording contradicts the publicly declared support: “The support therefore also applies in the event of a renewed attack by Russia after the end of the war”2. This can also be understood as: “Finally make peace with Moscow and we will make sure that they leave you alone”.

It can only be assumed that in this case, agreements are to be negotiated with Russia that largely meet Russian conditions. How else could the West protect a weakened Ukraine if it was unable to do so with a stronger one? Do they want to go to war alongside a defeated Ukraine, which they did not think they could do with an undefeated Ukrainian army?

Burst bubbles

The Security Conference took place in Munich at the same time as the signing of the German-Ukrainian agreement. It is now just a “place of self-assurance for the so-called West”3, no longer the global exchange of opinions that it once was.  Anyone who might disturb this ideal world was not even invited, and anyone who found it too harmonious did not come. For example, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Sahra Wagenknecht movement (BSW) were obviously not among the desired participants, and certainly not the representatives of Russia or Iran.

The only one who didn’t quite fit into this circle was the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. It seems that they don’t want to or can’t completely do without China now that they’ve already fallen out with the Russians. Apparently, even the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung went too far in restricting the diversity of opinion. “The fact that there were so many Democrats among the American guests was particularly regrettable for those who had hoped for talks with conservative politicians”.4 People no longer seem to have the confidence to engage with dissenting views on events in the world.

Obviously, people prefer to settle into their own bubble rather than take the risk of being unsettled by other points of view. And yet reality burst into the safe space of unified opinion and self-deception. First came the news of Navalny’s death. This was probably the last hope that Russia’s President Putin could be replaced by one of their own. With Navalny’s death, the prospects of a regime change, which had previously failed anyway due to the stability of Russian society, had finally died. Who else could be an anchor for these Western fantasies?

As if that were not enough, the news of the fall of the city of Avdeyevka, which had been hotly and bloodily fought over for months, also had to be digested. While Navalny’s death was regrettable in human terms, the fall of Avdeyevka was a serious political and military blow, which also exposed the last attempts at self-delusion about a Ukrainian victory in the war against Russia as a pipe dream. After the failure of the Ukrainian offensive in the summer of last year, the fall of Avdeyevka can be seen as the Stalingrad of the Ukrainian war.

Such news did not fit in at all with the already battered state of mind of the assembled Western leaders, who had surely hoped to find some relief for their battered souls. But one commentary could only state dejectedly: “The West wavers between determination in theory and impotence in the face of reality”.5

Bubbles of foam

Even if they were self-confident in the face of their opponents, the inner insecurity of the Munich bubble was difficult to conceal. “The motto of the conference at this time was “Loose-Loose”, which was only softened in its hopelessness by the addition of a question mark. So all is not lost after all?”.6

This artificially inserted glimmer of hope in the form of a question mark has once again been destroyed by events in Eastern Europe. Moreover, what kind of hope is it that hangs on a question mark? Once again, Russia has spoiled the festive mood of the Western rejoicing guests and made their own self-deception clear to them.

The political West is finding it increasingly difficult to close its eyes to reality. But it cannot be accused of not making every effort to continue to hide reality by every trick in the book. As a result, no sensible conclusions can be drawn from the latest events. A ceasefire in Ukraine, an end to arms deliveries and the waste of taxpayers’ money and an understanding with Russia are not an option.

Instead, US Secretary of State Kamala Harris ranted (yes, she still exists): “We will defend democratic values at home and abroad, we will oppose the rise of dictatorships. That, I am sure, will also make America strong”.7 Whether the peoples abroad want this seems to be of no importance to her. What would Ms. Harris say if Russia, China, Iran or North Korea wanted to export their own social system to America?

The strength of the USA is not far behind either. If investors and savers stop buying American government bonds, it’ll be a nightmare. The USA already has to pay almost one trillion (European) dollars in interest every year, around a third of total government revenue. Instead of baking smaller rolls in view of the USA’s financial situation, it is still living large geopolitically: “Should Congress block aid for Ukraine, it would be a “gift for Putin”.8 Harris should rather think about gifts to his own people.

Even though he was not present, Vladimir Putin was the main person at the meeting. Will it help that people are only talking about him instead of with him? Instead, another belligerent woman, Danish Prime Minister Mette Fredriksen, tried to offer a way out with appeals. For her, it is not words but deeds that should bring about a turnaround. “She insists on more and faster military aid”.9

This was not exactly new, but rather the content of every speech given in Ukraine since the war that was supposed to bring about a turnaround. But was this the “silver bullet” that organizer Christoph Heusgen had asked the conference participants to look for at the beginning? At the end of the event, he did find it and Heusgen was able to give it to the participants to take home with them. The silver tail was the “determination of the West”.10

However, even he was unable to spread any real glow, as one commentator at the event was forced to note: “These incantations lose their impact if Russia nevertheless makes no effort to ease up on its war”.11 Even if they do not want to admit it or recognize it, it is obvious that everything depends on Russia. The political West itself no longer seems to have the strength to find its own forward-looking solutions, let alone implement them.


  1. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) vom 17.2.2024: Scholz und Selenskyj schließen Abkommen ↩︎
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  4. FAZ vom 17.2.2024: Auf der Suche nach dem Silberstreifen ↩︎
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  6. FAZ vom 17.2.2024: Auf der Suche nach dem Silberstreifen ↩︎
  7. ebenda ↩︎
  8. ebenda ↩︎
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  10. ebenda ↩︎
  11. ebenda ↩︎