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Navalny’s sudden death shakes 2024 Munich Security Conference

Munich Security Conference 2024

From February 16 to 18, 2024 local time, the 60th Munich Security Conference was held in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, Germany. During this Munich Security Conference, the Russia-Ukraine war still played an important role. Russian opposition leader Navalny died suddenly on the first day of the conference, triggering a strong backlash from all walks of life.

The Munich Security Conference was founded in 1963. In its early days, it was a dialogue platform between the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States, and other North Atlantic allies. It later became an important annual event for global security policy exchanges.

The “Munich Security Report,” released by the Munich Security Conference on February 12, stated that the international order dominated by economic development and globalization in the post-Cold War era is gradually fragmenting. The Russia-Ukraine war has caused serious threats to European security and increased Europe’s defense burden. The intensifying geopolitical tensions between the United States and China have brought many uncertainties to cooperation on global issues and economic integration.

The “Munich Safety Report” conducted a “Munich Safety Index” questionnaire survey on major countries in the world, asking respondents to list the most unsafe factors. A survey of U.S. respondents showed that China, Russia, and Iran ranked at the top of the list of most insecure factors, with China ranking second only to cyberattacks and political polarization as the most insecure country. Chinese respondents ranked cyberattacks, climate change, and the United States as their top insecurities. In the survey, Japan, Russia, and China ranked the top two in terms of unsafe factors.

The U.S., Europe, China, and Ukraine are competing against each other

Former U.S. President and Republican candidate for the 2024 U.S. presidential election, Trump, recently stated that if he is re-elected as president, the United States will not provide military support to NATO allies whose defense spending does not reach 2% of gross domestic product to defend against Russian invasion. Assure. The remarks triggered concerns from Western allies and criticism from U.S. President Joe Biden. US Vice President Harris attended this Munich Security Conference, and US Secretary of State Blinken also attended the meeting after concluding his visit to Albania. During the meeting, Harris and Blinken reaffirmed the global responsibilities of the United States, especially security guarantees to European allies.

Wang Yi, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee and Chinese Foreign Minister, attended the Munich Security Conference and subsequently visited Spain and France. During the meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. It is expected that US President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will have a phone call in the near future.

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Following the online participation in 2023, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy attended this meeting offline. Zelensky reiterated that the international community should not adopt an attitude of indifference to the Russia-Ukraine war. Today, in the 21st century, all parties will be negatively affected by the war. He also said, “This is not only a war in Ukraine, but also a war in Europe.” A questionnaire survey conducted by the Munich Security Conference from October to November 2023 showed that 92% of Ukrainians believe that restoring peace can only be achieved in all territories, including the Crimean Peninsula; 75% of Ukrainians believe that even if Russia withdraws its troops, Ukraine’s national borders will return to the situation before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, that is, when the Crimean Peninsula was occupied by Russia. It’s also unacceptable.

The foreign ministers of the G7 countries also met during the meeting. Yu Maochun, director of the China Center at the Hudson Institute, told the media that the transatlantic alliance between Europe and the United States will only further strengthen and expand and that “institutional confrontation” between China and Europe will intensify in the coming period, as will the fight against electric vehicle dumping There will be further conflicts on issues such as trade and market competition. The most critical reason is that China’s pro-Russian strategy has caused a strong backlash, making China the de facto enemy of all EU member states except Hungary.”

The timing of Navalny’s sudden death was strange

Russia has a close relationship with the Munich Security Conference. On February 10, 2007, Putin delivered a speech at the Munich Security Conference, fiercely criticizing NATO’s eastward expansion as a threat to Russia’s security. This was regarded as a historic watershed in the post-Cold War era when Russia’s foreign policy turned to breaking with the West.

In 2008, NATO invited Georgia and Ukraine to become NATO members. Russia immediately invaded Georgia and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

At the 2022 Munich Security Conference, Ukrainian President Zelensky called on NATO to accept the country as soon as possible. On February 24, four days after the meeting, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since then, Russian government officials have no longer been invited to the Munich Security Conference.

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At the 2024 Munich Security Conference, Russian government officials were absent. In contrast, Russian civil activists, including Yulia, the wife of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, were invited to the meeting.

On February 16, the first day of the current Munich Security Conference, Russia issued a notification stating that Navalny died in prison at the age of 47. The cause of the death is still under investigation. In August 2020, Navalny was suspected of being poisoned and assassinated and was later sent to Berlin, Germany, for treatment. The facts of the case remain unsolved, and the Kremlin denies involvement.

The sudden news of the death interrupted the planned agenda. Live broadcast footage showed that after receiving the bad news, Navalny’s widow, Yulia, held back her grief at the venue and delivered a short impromptu speech. She said that she cannot currently listen to the lies of the Moscow official, but she firmly believes that the harm caused by the Putin regime to Russia and its family will be judged by justice, and she called on the international community to jointly support the cause of resisting Putin’s tyranny. After the speech, all the attendees stood up to pay their respects, and the applause lasted for a long time.

Navalny’s death sparks backlash

U.S. President Biden said Putin was responsible. U.S. Vice President Harris, who was on her way to attend the meeting, met with Navalny’s widow, Yulia, and expressed condolences. According to the media, Harris said Navalny’s death once again revealed Putin’s “cruelty.”

Volodymyr Omelchenko, program director of the Ukrainian think tank Razumkov Center, told the media: “At a critical moment approaching the Russian presidential election, Navalny’s death is extremely important. It was not an accident, but a deliberate murder to scare the public.” He believed that “Navalny’s death will dispel the futile will of some Western politicians to sign a peace agreement with Russia. To achieve lasting peace in Europe, all necessary military assistance must be provided to Ukraine. to restore its sovereignty within internationally recognized borders.”

Alexander Etkind, a Russian historian and professor of international relations at Central European University, once nominated Navalny as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. In an interview with the media, he also said that Navalny The death was not a coincidence, but he did not think it was a premeditated result but more like a temporary decision made by Putin. He told the media that this incident “demonstrated the Kremlin leadership’s determination to fight this war to the end, no matter the cost.” He added: “Navalny returned home voluntarily and relied on the rule of law and self-sacrifice to change Russia’s political situation. The plan failed tragically.”

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Alicia Garcia-Herrero, a senior researcher at the Belgian think tank Bruegel and a Spanish economist, told the media: “At the 2023 Munich Security Conference, representatives of the Russian government were absent. China is facing tremendous pressure from the West to condemn Russia, and at this Munich Security Conference, although Russian government representatives continue to be absent, China feels more comfortable with its stance of supporting Russia.” She believes that this is because 2023 After Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia in March and Putin’s visit to China in October, Beijing judged that the current situation in Ukraine was basically under control.

After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Beijing once expressed doubts about Moscow’s movements. At the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in September of that year, Putin expressed that he understood China’s “questions and concerns.”

With recent U.S. aid bills for Ukraine and Israel stalled in Congress, Herrero said Europe was concerned about the prospect of a lack of U.S. support. At the same time, she also believes that the fundamental reason why China has made no achievements in the Russia-Ukraine peace talks is that Beijing would rather see Russia win than the West and Ukraine. Regarding Navalny’s sudden death at the Munich Security Conference, she bluntly said that this was “Putin’s revenge on Europe.”

As of now, China has not commented on Navalny’s death. The media sent requests for comment on Navalny’s death to the Chinese Embassy in Germany and the Chinese Consulate General in Munich but had not received a response as of press time.

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