Vladimir Putin fears the US military
Putin attacks USA
At the first appearance of a Russian head of state at the security conference in Munich on Saturday (February 10th), he accused the USA of provoking a new arms race with plans to station a missile defense system in Eastern Europe. Putin threatened that Russia would take military action against the US missile defense system if necessary: "We have weapons that can overcome this system." The Russian President called for a strengthening of the United Nations in global conflict resolution: "We should not replace the UN with either NATO or the EU."
Putin, who left the conference on Saturday afternoon, met with a divided echo with his speech. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called them "disappointing and unhelpful". The new US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reacted calmly. Spies speak clearly, he said, referring to Putin's past as KGB chief. However, one cold war is enough.
Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the two-day forum with a call to solve crises around the world in security partnerships instead of going it alone. "No country in the world has enough power, money and influence to face the challenges alone," said Merkel. The current EU Council President called the relationship between Russia, NATO and the EU crucial for stability. "We can achieve a lot together with Russia." But problems must be discussed openly. "The common action of the great powers is more important than rivalries."
Afghanistan: Challenge to NATO
The critical situation in Afghanistan took up a lot of space. Merkel, de Hoop Scheffer and other politicians saw NATO as one of its greatest challenges in view of the expected spring offensive by the Taliban fighters. The NATO Secretary General was again dissatisfied with the number of soldiers in the ISAF protection force. The Republican US Senator John McCain also called for an increase in troop contingents. With a view to Germany as well, the presidential candidate demanded that national reservations be given up.
A confrontation between the West and Russia is emerging on the Kosovo issue. The Serbian province, in which almost only Kosovar Albanians live, wants independence. Merkel said it was important that the Serbs could go along with this process with dignity. Putin warned against wanting to force a solution against the Serbs and humiliate some of the conflicting parties.
Nuclear dispute with Iran
In the heated dispute over the Iranian nuclear program, Merkel called on Tehran to fulfill its international obligations "without ifs, buts, or tricks". At the conference, the Iranian nuclear chief negotiator Ali Larijani was open to finding a solution "constructively in dialogue form". His country has clearly stated that "there is no place in our defense doctrine for nuclear or chemical weapons".
3,000 people protested against the conference in downtown Munich. The conference hotel was cordoned off. Around 3500 police officers were on duty. (wga)
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