February 20, 2023

Of Strategy and Schnitzel: Munich Security Conference 2023

This piece was originally published by War on the Rocks.

My first Munich Security Conference, back in 2005, was a wonky gathering of transatlantic security policymakers. All the proceedings took place in the Bayerische Hof ballroom, and a cloud hung over the largely European (and theoretically nonsmoking) audience. Delegates’ eyes lit with excitement as they debated NATO’s strategic concept, evaluated the war in Iraq, and urged each other (but not their own governments) to boost defense spending. Beer flowed liberally — brats were consumed en masse.

The West is, they all said, in this for the long haul, and will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Nein more. The beer and brats remain, but the conference has grown bigger, global in scope and participation, glitzier and replete with media and roving security details. Getting a seat for the most popular speakers means showing up well before a session begins. Side events compete with off-the-books gatherings, dinners, and (I’m not making this up) a foosball tournament. The net effect is more Zirkus than Konferenz.

Read the full article from War on the Rocks.

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