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Munich Security Conference to continue East-West blame game

February 09, 2016, 17:32 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara

MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. There is no sign the Munich Security Conference may herald a positive turn in Russia-West relations. Either side will continue to blame each other for violating international law and for harboring malicious designs, polled experts have told TASS.

The Munich Security Conference has been held every year since 1962. This time the capital of Germany’s federal land Bavaria will host the event on February 12-14. Russian presidential spokesman earlier said that Vladimir Putin would be absent from the event. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will lead the Russian delegation. US Vice-President Joseph Biden may lead his country’s representatives. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to attend. All in all, the conference will bring together more than 20 heads of state and government and also 60 foreign and defense ministers.

Soaring world instability will be high on the agenda. The report timed for this year’s Munich conference points to growing Russia-West tensions. Alongside the Middle East conflict the situation in Ukraine will be scrutinized, as the anniversary of the Minsk Accords draws near.

The science doyen of the Institute of US and Canada Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Sergey Rogov, recalled that back in 2007 it was at the Munich conference that Vladimir Putin for the first time came out with harsh criticism of the mono-polar model of the world, against NATO’s approach to Russia’s borders, and against the United States’ attempts to dictate rules to other countries. "Nine years ago Putin addressed the West with a clear message Russia would be conducting an independent foreign policy. These days it is an official government position. The question is to what extent the US-led NATO countries will be prepared to agree with this," Rogov told TASS.

On the eve of the 2016 Munich Security Conference he sees two scenarios relations between the West and Russia might follow.

"Option one. The security conference will be used in order to consolidate the Western countries’ common stance against Russia, to put pressure on Moscow for its active role in the Syrian settlement and over the smoldering Ukrainian crisis. Growing military spending in the United States, France and Germany and even such small countries as Estonia are arguments in favor of this possibility," Rogov said.

The other option, he believes, might imply a fundamental discussion of what is to be done to ease confrontation and devise a way of halting it altogether. This will depend to a great extent on the ideas the Russian delegation will bring to Munich.

"Growing awareness in the West the Ukrainian authorities have no intention to comply with the Minsk Accords on a political settlement of the situation in the southeast of the country works in favor of the latter scenario. As for the Syrian crisis, which the West has used to accuse Moscow of humanitarian disaster and disruption of the Geneva talks, the parties might try to find an opportunity once again to take joint action against the terrorist Islamic State," Rogov believes.

"The Munich conference is not a negotiating site, but a place for public debate," Rogov said in conclusion. "Therefore, if one is to choose between further West-Russia confrontation and an attempt to find a common language, the former option looks more likely."

The head of the International Security Centre under the Russian Academy of Sciences, RAS member Aleksey Arbatov, too, believes that the Munich forum is a place where participating parties do not seek agreement but exchange accusations.

"Russia will be criticized for attempts at using ground forces in Syria, for propping up the Bashar Assad regime, and for continuing the Geneva negotiations from the positions gained by his army of late. When it comes to Ukraine, Moscow will be charged with reluctance to guarantee OSCE control of the Russian-Ukrainian border, which keeps the implementation of the Minsk Accords deadlocked," Arbatov told TASS.

"In 2007 Putin briefed his audience on the list of Russia’s grievances with the West and strengthened Moscow’s foreign policy foothold considerably. The Western countries will now respond with their own grievances. No positive scenario is anywhere near in sight.

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