Munich Conference Reveals East-West Divide

In the end, the conference did disintegrate into the catfight that will dominate the rest of the century, writes Pepe Escobar. 

Munich Security Conference 2020. (Twitter)

By Pepe Escobar
The Asia Times

Few postmodern political pantomimes have been more revealing than the hundreds of “international decision-makers,” mostly Western, waxing lyrical, disgusted or nostalgic over “Westlessness” at the Munich Security Conference. 

“Westlessness” sounds like one of those constipated concepts issued from a post-party bad hangover at the Rive Gauche during the 1970s. In theory (but not French Theory) Westlessness in the age of Whatsapp should mean a deficit of multiparty action to address the most pressing threats to the “international order” – or (dis)order – as nationalism, derided as a narrow-minded populist wave, prevails.  

Yet what Munich actually unveiled was some deep – Western – longing for those effervescent days of humanitarian imperialism, with nationalism in all its strands being cast as the villain impeding the relentless advance of profitable, neocolonial Forever Wars. 

As much as the MSC organizers – a hefty Atlanticist bunch – tried to spin the discussions as emphasizing the need for multilateralism, a basket case of ills ranging from uncontrolled migration to “brain dead” NATO got billed as a direct consequence of “the rise of an illiberal and nationalist camp within the Western world.” As if this were a rampage perpetrated by an all-powerful Hydra featuring Bannon-Bolsonaro-Orban heads.  

Far from those West-is-More heads in Munich is the courage to admit that assorted nationalist counter-coups also qualify as blowback for the relentless Western plunder of the Global South via wars – hot, cold, financial, corporate-exploitative. 

For what it is worth, here’s the MSC report. Only two sentences would be enough to give away the MSC game: “In the post-Cold War era, Western-led coalitions were free to intervene almost anywhere. Most of the time, there was support in the UN Security Council, and whenever a military intervention was launched, the West enjoyed almost uncontested freedom of military movement.”

There you go. Those were the days when NATO, with full impunity, could bomb Serbia, miserably lose a war on Afghanistan, turn Libya into a militia hell and plot myriad interventions across the Global South. And of course, none of that had any connection whatsoever with the bombed and the invaded being forced into becoming refugees in Europe.

West is More

In Munich, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha got closer to the point when she said she found “Westlessness” quite insular as a theme. She made sure to stress that multilateralism is very much an Asian feature, expanding on the theme of ASEAN centrality.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with his customary finesse, was sharper, noting how “the structure of the Cold War rivalry is being recreated” in Europe. Lavrov was a prodigy of euphemism when he noted how “escalating tensions, NATO’s military infrastructure advancing to the East, exercises of unprecedented scope near the Russian borders, the pumping of defense budgets beyond measure – all this generates unpredictability.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March 2019. (

Yet it was Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi who really got to the  heart of the matter. While stressing that “strengthening global governance and international coordination is urgent right now,” Wang said, “We need to get rid of the division of the East and the West and go beyond the difference between the South and the North, in a bid to build a community with a shared future for mankind.”

“Community with a shared future” may be standard Beijing terminology, but it does carry a profound meaning as it embodies the Chinese concept of multilateralism as meaning no single state has priority and all nations share the same rights.

Wang went further: The West – with or without Westlessness – should get rid of its subconscious mentality of civilization supremacy; give up its bias against China; and “accept and welcome the development and revitalization of a nation from the East with a system different from that of the West.” Wang is a sophisticated enough diplomat to know this is not going to happen.

Wang also could not fail to raise the Westlessness crowd’s eyebrows to alarming heights when he stressed, once again, that the Russia-China strategic partnership will be deepened – alongside exploring “ways of peaceful coexistence” with the U.S. and deeper cooperation with Europe.

What to expect from the “system leader” in Munich was quite predictable. And it was delivered, true to script, by current Pentagon head Mark Esper, yet another Washington revolving door practitioner.

21st Century Threat

All Pentagon talking points were on display. China is nothing but a rising threat to the world order – as in “order” dictated by Washington. China steals Western know-how; intimidates all its smaller and weaker neighbors; seeks an “advantage by any means and at any cost.”

As if any reminder for this well-informed audience was needed, China was once again placed at the top of the Pentagon’s “threats,” followed by Russia, “rogue states” Iran and North Korea, and “extremist groups.” No one asked whether al-Qaeda in Syria is part of the list.

The “Communist Party and its associated organs, including the People’s Liberation Army,” were accused of “increasingly operating in theaters outside China’s borders, including in Europe.” Everyone knows only one “indispensable nation” is self-authorized to operate “in theaters outside its borders” to bomb others into democracy.

No wonder Wang was forced to qualify all of the above as “lies”: “The root cause of all these problems and issues is that the U.S. does not want to see the rapid development and rejuvenation of China, and still less would they want to accept the success of a socialist country.”

So, in the end Munich did disintegrate into the catfight that will dominate the rest of the century. With Europe de facto irrelevant and the EU subordinated to NATO’s designs, Westlessness is indeed just an empty, constipated concept: all reality is conditioned by the toxic dynamics of China ascension and U.S. decline.

The irrepressible Maria Zakharova once again nailed it: “They spoke about that country [China] as a threat to entire humankind. They said that China’s policy is the threat of the 21st century. I have a feeling that we are witnessing, through the speeches delivered at the Munich conference in particular, the revival of new colonial approaches, as though the West no longer thinks it shameful to reincarnate the spirit of colonialism by means of dividing people, nations and countries.”

An absolute highlight of the MSC was when diplomat Fu Ying, the chairperson on foreign affairs for the National People’s Congress, reduced U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to dust with a simple question: “Do you really think the democratic system is so fragile” that it can be threatened by Huawei?

Pepe Escobar, a veteran Brazilian journalist, is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030.” Follow him on Facebook.

This article is from The Asia Times.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Munich Conference Reveals East-West Divide

  1. February 24, 2020 at 18:52

    Mr. Pepe Escobar’s paragraph referencing the 2020 Munich Security Conference Report is well worth repeating and emphasis:

    Only two sentences would be enough to give away the MSC game: “In the post-Cold War era, Western-led coalitions were free to intervene almost anywhere. Most of the time, there was support in the UN Security Council, and whenever a military intervention was launched, the West enjoyed almost uncontested freedom of military movement.”


    Unfortunately, the report did include any concluding remarks aligning with the notion that: “War has gone away forever from the face of the Earth into extinction, here and now, in the year 2020.”


  2. Zhu
    February 23, 2020 at 22:04

    Phony democracy in the US *is* fragile. As long as ordinary Americans keep getting poorer, see homelessness get more likely, as long as governance gets more authoritarian, “democracy” in the US will keep on declining.

  3. OlyaPola
    February 23, 2020 at 05:39

    “Skip Scott
    February 21, 2020 at 15:20

    Yeltsin was a willing vassal”

    Reliance on absolutes facilitates delusion, which are amplified by replacing tested hypotheses by beliefs, encouraged/facilitated by the “preference” of spectators for “simplicity” – the macnuggetness of “data”.

    During the period of his Presidency the notion that Boris Nikolaivech Yeltsin was a vassal had utility in facilitating the continuing process of transcendence of the Soviet Union by the Russian Federation during attempts by the opponents to implement colour revoltions in Russia and elsewhere, since the appearance/perception of vassalage facilitated the avoidance and increasing transcendence of vassalageness by exposing the “narod” to an attenuated dosage/experience of the bacillus, whilst building Potemkin villages with the apparent guidance/request design/specifications of the opponents – the “Constitution of the Russian Federation” being just one example which has now passed its utility date and is being “renovated”.

    Mr. Yeltsin, like others who co-operated with him, was an experienced high apparatchik of the Soviet Union who understood that the Soviet Union was neither sustainable nor reformable and that beneficial transcendence required an assay of deception – the former head of Sverdlovsky oblast was not naive.

    Particularly from the mid 1970’s onwards the increasing assay of deception in the Soviet Union was perceived and illustrated by widespread mantra such as “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” although from inception the Bolshevik project was based on assays of coercion/deception.

    Intentions and motivations like all lateral processes interact through time, hence outcomes tend to be more valid data to consider when guided by understanding that means condition ends whilst ends don’t justify means despite what the opponents believe.

    In respect of Mr. Yeltsin, the stress of his role during that period also facilitated the deterioration of his mental and physical health and the increasing recognition of his role in the transcendence of the Soviet Union by the Russian Federation by an increasing sum of some.

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    February 21, 2020 at 11:39

    Overall, I think it is the marked Western hypocrisy that needs to be looked at a lot closer – and much of it based on racism.

  5. delia ruhe
    February 21, 2020 at 11:38

    Thank you, Pepe Escobar, for this excellent report on the Munich conference. Diana Johnstone’s report is also a zinger. I’ll quote a bit from her take, in case anyone reading this comment hasn’t read Johnstone’s report, available right here at Consortium News:

    “It is notable that, while Western powers vigorously promoted international trade-based economies, they seem unable to react to the results except in terms of power rivalry and ideological conflict. As long as Western dominance was ensured, international trade was celebrated as the necessary basis for a peaceful world. But the moment a non-Western trader is doing too well, its exports are ominously denounced as means to exert malign influence over its customers. The prime example was Russian natural gas. Chinese technology is the next. Both are decried, especially by U.S. spokespeople, as treacherous means to make other countries “dependent”. ”

    That pretty much says it all.

    • Zhu
      February 23, 2020 at 21:39

      As Lee Kwan Yu of Singapore said in his last interview, Americans and Englishmen don’t like it when they see Chinese people prospering.

  6. February 21, 2020 at 09:13

    There is little question that China’s technological leap was aided by the United States through our educational system, communication of information by other means and our willingness to provide the specifications in order to cheap goods for export to the United States. No brainer that China had organized itself to take advantage of all the information and has now reached the point where it may forge ahead of the west.

    Young America did the same thing and all developing economies pursue the same course.

    The challenge for the United States is to accept what has happened and likely to happen and seek peaceful accommodation. The current approach could end up killing a whole lot of people and wrecking the lives of the rest of us.

    We can take credit for something else, the joining of China and Russia and bringing additional “enemies” into their orbit.

    It is useful to compare the words of Lavrov and Pompeo, the first seeking accommodation, the second to confrontation.

    • Skip Scott
      February 21, 2020 at 15:20

      The western based Oligarchs have no interest in seeking accommodation. That would mean sharing a slice of the pie. They seek to rape the entire planet, so only willing vassals will do. Unrestrained global capitalism with all wealth accruing to the 1% is the only economic model they will ever accept, and they never quit. Yeltsin was a willing vassal, Putin seeks a fairer relationship for the Russian people. Thus he is the demon d’jour. Although China’s emerging middle class means more consumers, their economic model allows the wealth to be spread more than is acceptable to Empire, so they’re demons too.

    • g b
      February 22, 2020 at 01:12

      Wise words mon frere!

    • OlyaPola
      February 22, 2020 at 07:56

      “It is useful to compare the words of Lavrov and Pompeo, the first seeking accommodation, the second to confrontation.”

      Comparisons facilitate perceived connections and conflations predicated on expectations.

      Resort to what-you-get-is-what-you-seeism facilitates what -you-get-is-what-you-don’t-seeism often encouraging re-iterations/revolutions of what-you-get-is-what-you-seeism/beliefs predicated on expectations.

      Amongst expectations are – “accomodation” with whom?

      “The western based Oligarchs have no interest in seeking accommodation.” whilst some of their interlocutors realise that “accomodation” is a tactic not a purpose..

    • Zhu
      February 23, 2020 at 21:31

      Don’t overestimate the US educational system. We’ve always imported our Einsteins and Teslas. Stolen lots of inventions, too, starting with the Spinning of ng Jenny and the power loom.

  7. geeyp
    February 21, 2020 at 02:35

    Slightly off topic: The only point regarding China that irks the hell out of me is, sure we gave them the opportunity to take over our industries and they ran with it as they should have. Then why can’t they send over here goods that last? Stuff we used to make that lasted 20 plus years that we would purchase again is not happening anymore, at least not from China. I also think when I see any Chinese made metal type goods that they are comprised of World Trade Center material, seeing as the evidence was whisked away to their shores so quickly.

    • February 21, 2020 at 12:11

      You mean goods like the cars the US produced? As Lee Iaccoca put it “half finished products.” In the 50s 60s and 70s a new Ford , Chevy, or Crysler could be expected to rust through in less than 6 months. It would be in the scrap yard at the end of three years. it was easy pickens for Toyota, Volkswagon, Volvo, Mazda etc. to take over the US car industry. You were considered an idiot if you bought and American made car in the decades leading up to the 2000s. When I buy GE like a refridgerator it is an American product assembled in China. It is still junk expected to last three or four years and then nothing but problems for the rest of it`s life.

      The US dug the hole it is in. No one wants to buy American made scrap anymore. And China is where really high end products are being manufactured now, not the USA.

    • Dave Gutknecht
      February 21, 2020 at 14:13

      Yes, Chinese admission to the WTO, opposed for years because of their labor and environmental practices, was pushed through by the U.S. on September 13, 2001 — remarkable timing, indicating it was part of the overall agenda of the planners.

  8. bardamu
    February 20, 2020 at 18:34

    Western democracy is so fragile that it may not need the likes of Huawei to attack it. Huawei is likely more concerned that democracy or even socialism be taken seriously in China, much like 5 of 6 Democratic candidates in last night’s debate.

    It is not Western democracy that the Pentagon has in the recent 3/4 of a century defended, but Western power. These power struggles always involve outward lies and inward, a buttressed confusion.

    The rest of us may only work towards the possibility that something resembling balance might one day be accomplished without the fall past lunacy into a war between nuclear powers that the US in particular continually skirts. Blowback sucks, but the people who form empires have already guaranteed most of the problem.

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